Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Uruguay with Fiona

Fiona and I took the ferry out to Colonia, a small Uruguayan city on the shoreline of Rio de la Plata. Colonia looks like a town out of the early 1900´s with empty cobblestone streets and a tranquility born, in part, of a way of life in which people walk everywhere. We spent the day on the beach singing songs, soaking up sun, reading Rumi.

She turned handstands in the sand...

Some were more successful than others.

I went climbing...

and found a leafy look-out spot.

On the way back to the boat we found ourselves unexpectedly in a forest of tree, reflection, and shadow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Plaza de Mayo

This weekend I went to the Plaza de Maya, the political center of the city. The name of the plaza commemorates the May Revolution of 1810, the beginning of the Argentina´s fight for independence from Spain.

On the left is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, the current city hall. Its the most prominent Catholic church in the City of Buenos Aires--and thats quite a feat!

The pink building below is the Casa Rosada (officially known as the Casa de Gobierno) which houses the executive branch of the Argentine government. President Kirchner works out of the Casa Rosada during the day, but returns each night to the presidential compound in Olivos, Buenos Aires.

The building was originally painted pink by Domingo Faust Sarmiento. Some say Sarmiento chose the color pink as a symbol of peace and compromise, as red and white represent Argentinas two major political parties. Others say the building color is from the animal blood, commonly added to white paint to minimize damage from humidity. I thought of Sarmiento´s ¨Civilización y Barbarie¨...maybe both theories are correct.

The statue commemorating Argentine independence stands in the center of the plaza and birds flock to its base like moths to a light, (or like me to a chocolate peanutbutter pie). Birds at home in the U.S. do this too, I´ve noticed, so clearly it´s not a cultural thing. Why then, do birds flock to statues? Sitting at the foot of the statue with a napkin and a pen, I came up with some theories:

Why Birds Flock to Statues

The best perches in town
Are statues, tails down.

For what could be better
Than to deface and disgrace
What society sought to immortalize?

But the insult is transient.
Alls cleansed with the rain.
And so they return again and again
To add persistence, insistence to injury.

Why Birds Flock to Statues
(A Second Interpretation)

Birds will do anything for a bit of irony,
And since they can´t bring the legend to life,
They bring life to the legend.

(And that is clearly what´s going on in the photo above, with one bird flying up and away from the statue of independence--his irony was not lost on me!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Host Family

Buenos Aires

This is a night out in Plaza Dorrego

The first few weeks in Argentina

This is a picture of my group at a rancho in the Pampas where we went to re-coop after the trials of airplane travel and gather our creative forces.

The rancho consisted of a large square of grassy land with a cluster of low-lying white buildings where we slept. Each morning we woke up early to eat breakfast at Las Clavelinas, a restaurant just a two minute walk from our abodes. Then in the afternoon there were placement tests and hours of free time to read, hang-out or head to the gym. The gym offerred free yoga and cycling classes, and to the right of it was a soccer field where local women played pick-up soccer games. (It´s very uncommon for women to play soccer here. The game is considered a sport for men, and in our pick-up games for women, men were not allowed to play, even nice socially-aware boys like the ones in our group.)

The rancho was, we decided, a somewhat strange place--kids in my group could never quite
be sure what exactly it was. Our instructors never gave us a straight answer, and we guessed it was a fat camp because there was nothing to do but eat in a restaurant with regulated portions and work out. Fat camps, for anyone who missed this dubious development in American culture, are the newest rapid weight-loss technique, and recently they´ve even become the topic of a number of shows on reality TV. So maybe our SIT group has a chance at fame yet...

After a few days we left the rancho, busing into the city in a big rusty rental bus and arriving in time for lunch. The streets in Buenos Aires are so wide--at one point I counted at least 12 lanes of traffic going in various directions. We visited IDES, the school where we will be attending classes during our time in Buenos Aires. There I checked me e-mail and found a wonderful surprise--a message from Laurel Barkan, my old friend from choir who I´ve been out of touch with for almost five years!

In the evening we got dressed up and went out on the town for tango lessons. I was surprised how easy the basic step is, and the music is just great--serious and dramatic. One of the boys in my group, Will, is a great dancer, and one of the girls, Ali, likes to dance as much as I do, so the three of us are planning to go out dancing regularly.

We headed back to the hotel around 1 am which is just when the parties are starting in Buenos Aires. Back in their hotel rooms, kids chucked their dancing shoes, grabbed an extra sweater and headed straight back out for the bars (which I later learned meant downstairs to the bar in the hotel lobby). I almost went ¨out¨ with them, wanting to explore the city, but decided at the last moment to stay in, shower and get some sleep.