Monthly Archives: February 2011

Like I need more encouragement

The New York Times Travel Show was held this past weekend at the Javits Center. I went on Sunday and now the wheels in my head are spinning to decide where to visit next!

Iceland has been at the top of the list for some time – plus their economy tanked so it’s a bargain destination. If you eliminate the Galapagos, Ecuador is also a good bargain against the dollar. Nicaragua is up and coming. Spain and Portugal weren’t in attendance but a return to Spain has been on the list for a while. Egypt had a booth and it will be a great bargain when they stop being in the news.

And if I decide to stay in the country, Maine, Oregon, the Gulf Coast and the Carolinas all seem like good places to visit.

I could go on and on and on…there’s really no where I wouldn’t consider.


Dinnertime or bedtime?

While I loved Argentina, the hardest thing to get used to was dinner time. 9pm seemed like the early bird special.

One night we were ordering dessert just before  11pm and a family with two young children had just been seated. By the time we left, they had already ordered, and received their proper meals. And by the sound of their conversation, they were definitely locals.

I’m sure as a foreigner if you lived there, or were traveling longer, the late hour of dinner would be easier to get used to, but that was the hardest adjustment we had to make on our trip. I’m not complaining but as we did not do much sleeping in, it was definitely the hardest thing to get used to.

So much so that we ate bigger lunches when we could, and something light, like ice cream, or a cheese plate, for dinner!

I purposely scheduled this post for 9pm EST…which is 11pm local Argentina time…and the Argentines usual dinner time hour.


A Family History

I had traveled to Argentina with a copy of my great grandma’s birth certificate from 1908 as she was born in BsAs. I had hopes that I would be able to trace some of my family history as there was a number imprinted on the barely legible birth certificate. I was hoping that number would be the key to getting information.
I had told one of the guys at our B&B what I was hoping to find out and he directed us to the national office of registering people. Once in line at that government office, I was able to tell the worker in Spanish what I was looking for but I didn’t understand his response. He asked his office if anyone spoke English and a girl hesitated but came over, and in nearly perfect English, she told me where we needed to go…to another government office just a few blocks away.

This second office was a much bigger office than the last. It was a mix of City Hall, the DMV and any government office you dread going to. Crowds of people in the waiting area were waiting for their numbers to be flashed on the electronic board to determine which counter they needed to go to. Happy couples were outside taking pictures as they had just gotten married.

I explained in Spanish what I was looking for. After five minutes, he told me to talk in English. First, he told me that he could only get me a copy of the birth certificate – which I would have to come back for in two weeks. Which was great, because the original is tattered and taped together. I mean it IS over 100 years old. But I was determined, and I had the number on the birth certificate, which had to mean SOMETHING to SOMEONE and just getting a copy of the original was just not going to be good enough for me.

So he talked to another woman and they told me to go see Mercedes on the fourth floor. I was concerned about getting past security since we have no other documentation other than being told to go to the fourth floor. This was not a problem because there was NO security. We walked right to the elevator that held only three people at a time – literally. We had four and someone had to get off.

There were no nameplates on the doors so we had to knock on a few doors to find Mercedes. She spoke ZERO english, except for the word happy because thats what she made me….BECAUSE…

After 20 minutes of explaining what I wanted and her giving me a little history of immigration — NO paperwork for those that came to Argentina. NONE. There are no Ellis Island-like records, no boat they came on, country they came from, NOTHING. The only records were for babies born there, and even that has a loop hole. They only kept records in the early 1900s and only for men. Once Evita came into play and what she did for women, only then did they start keeping records for women. That was in the 1950s.

After this very informative history lesson, in Spanish, Mercedes took the birth certificate and told us to come back in one hour, at 2pm – her siesta time. We werent sure what she was going to show us but I was hopeful, boyfriend was doubtful. We went for a coffee (yes, I even drank coffee on this trip!) and we had no idea what we were going to get.

We went back to her office at 2pm. She gave us a copy of the hand written document of a verbal recount from my great grandma’s dad that must have been pulled from a book of records. He had to to come to that same government building and tell his story with two witnesses. It tells us that my great grandma was born the day before. It tells us she was born in the house, with the address, and the time of birth. It tells us my great grandma’s parents names and ages. It tells us their parents names and it tells us where they came from. And it is signed by my great grandma’s dad and the two witnesses.

The apartment building was not far from where we were so we took a walk over. It is a main street, and near the water. The building looked old. Probably refinished but it easily could have been a building from back then. The McDonald’s next door, probably was not there then 😉 From the plaques on the building it looked like a lot of law firms are in the building now. My new best friend Mercedes told me a lot of immigrants settled there because of commerce and it was near the water. Later, immigrants moved to other parts of the city, but it’s not likely there is any paperwork to know where.

So the only info they have on women before the 50s was the birth certificate and this verbal recount at the office where her dad had to explain his past and that he had a new baby in the house. Literally.

Awesome find. I told her that we didn’t have much information and I was so excited to share with my grandma, so she said the information would be ‘un regalo por su abuela’ (a gift for my grandmother). Then, I couldn’t think of the word so I said in ‘bad grammar Spanish’ that she made me very, and then I smiled and pointed to my mouth, and she uttered the only English word I think she knew – happy.


Vendors venden en el subte

People sell stuff on the subway everywhere. Here in New York, I’ve been asked to buy movies, batteries and chocolate. On the subte (subway) in Buenos Aires, we were asked to buy children’s books, flashlights, coffee, pens and pencils. I think they are more trusting there.

The children’s book seller actually handed out the childrens books to everyone in the subway car, and then came back to collect money, or take back the book. Everyone on the train that was handed a book actually thumbed through it and it looked like they had some sort of interest. The stops between stations were not long distances but people who did not make a purchase were very honest about returning the goods before disembarking the train. The seller did well in the train car we were on.

In all the time I have been in New York, I have never seen a seller hand anything out, unless money had already exchanged hands.

The pen and pencil guy did not hand anything out in advance of a sale. And yes he was selling them individually.

The coffee guy was hilarious. Literally he was walking around with a shoulder bag with cups – taped together with duct tape and he had this ‘tool belt’ contraption that held a few canisters. Some canisters were full of coffee, others held milk and sugar. It was hot, the guy next to us ordered one and you could see the steam. The coffee guy moved fast and people were buying.

In case you were wondering, the coffee guy sold a whole lot more than the pen and pencil guy.


Size 1, 2 or 3

Something I noticed in Argentina was body shape. Young or old, we saw very few heavy people.

Shopping in the stores we found out that clothes came in three sizes – 1, 2 and 3 for small, medium and large. Funny how in the States, we have several sizes for each.

It’s interesting because Argentina has by far the highest consumption of beef. And mayonnaise. Every time we sat down for a meal, something we ordered was accompanied by a side of flavored mayo. It tasted REALLY good, so I am sure it’s not healthy mayo.

Mayo

We were served breakfast in each place we stayed, which was typically, croissants, toast, yogurt and a selection of meats and cheeses. In the last place we stayed we were offered omelettes. I was nervous because I wasn’t starving as I had grown accustomed to the Argentine breakfast. I was expecting something you’d get from Denny’s so I said please make mine small, with only one egg.

He must have thought I was crazy because when they all came out, they were all made with one egg, maybe two. It was simply a scrambled egg folded over. Which was fine. Funny what we expect coming from the States.

This is why sizes 1, 2 and 3 work just fine outside of the United States.


Step away from the desk

There’s SO more to life than a desk job and 9 to 5. 

While traveling you get the chance to meet so many people who make a living doing what they love. Their offices are boats, glacier, the street and their homes.

There are guides who spend 4 days a week trekking on glaciers in El Calafate, there is a lovely couple who takes up to 6 people out on their boat on the Tigre Delta, just outside of BsAs, 5 days a week. There’s a guy who started his own walking tour business on the streets of Buenos Aires – he runs 2 tours a day, every day. Ushuaia is the world’s southern most city and it’s the embarkation point for people to leave on Antarctic cruises. Tour guides there took us on boat tours, hiking trips, and penguin tours. 

And let’s not forget the hospitality of the people who run bed and breakfasts – inviting perfect strangers into their home.

The other thing about working and living in the US of A is that we are the laughing stock of everyone due to our vacation days. Two weeks. Pathetic. One man from Italy told me it’s our own fault. He’s right. He told me we, as a country, should stand up and demand an increase in vacation days. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any pull until the economy shapes up. Isn’t it ironic that the people charged with fixing it have the most vacation days? I digress. That’s a rant for another day.

In the meantime I will be dreaming about my non-traditional office. Half vineyard, half boat perhaps?


Ding

Isn’t it funny that when the plane lands, the little ‘ding’ goes off, and everyone stands up. I mean, where are they going? Even in the first row, the doors still take a few minutes to open.

It’s like a Pavlov’s reaction to the ding. Standing up right after the ding doesn’t serve the purpose to stretch your legs, because you are still in your row. Standing isn’t comfortable at that point because of the electronics overhead. And it’s not like you can run down the aisle to get off the plane because everyone is stuck in the same place. 

So the ding goes off, and everyone stands up.

It happens without fail on every flight I have ever been on. Watch for it on your next flight.