Friday, November 30, 2007

Girls from Ipanema

Bus ride back to Rio wasn’t too bad but the local bus 128 from the Novo bus station to Ipanema always makes me nauseous because the traffic congestion and terrible air condition in central. After returning to the same cute alleyway we love so much it is time to walking on the beach again. Ipanema and Copacabana are by far the most beautiful beaches in Rio. It’s just before the tourist season so the beaches are mostly deserted with few young surfers here and there. It’s entertaining to watch them trying to catch the waves.
You have not experienced Brazil until you have made a trip to the Churrascaria. I have been to the Brazil steakhouse chain, Fogo de Chao, in Chicago few times and I still can’t stop talking about it. After failing to find anything reasonably priced in the posh Ipanema neighborhood, we decided to splurge on a big meal at Barra Brasa. This is a serious steak house in Leblon with nice but not fancy décor and lots of guys running around ready to carve you the best piece of meat you will ever have. No silly gaucho costumes here, just ungodly good food! If this is my last meal on earth I am satisfied. I have stopped having steaks all together after I left Argentina last time; now the meat is so good here I won’t even be able to have a steak in Argentina again. The crime scene tonight has over 30 different cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb, sausage, even fried cheese and stuffed shells. You name it, they’ve got it. The appetizer/salad bar also has a variety of fish dishes, sushi and sashimi. This is probably THE best meal I’ve ever had as far as food goes. Rose and I were so busy eating we barely talked other than the frequent woos and ahhs about the meats. Everything was cooked to perfection. We had to walk slowly and take a break on the roadside beach chair so we don’t throw up our dinner. We had a good laugh about the boy I ran into at the Brazilian consulate who tried to get a visa here with less than $100 in his bank account. When I left the building with him, he was surprised that he had to pay $110 to get through the process. In case you don’t know already, to get a visa to Brazil you have to provide previous three months worth of bank statements with copies of your credit cards. I have heard some people being given hard time because of insufficient funds but when I went the woman just made sure my name was on the statement. Don’t worry, the boy eventually got his visa and is now shinning shoes at the Rio international airport.
We crossed couple streets and started to walk along the beach again. It’s hard not to do that when you are in Rio de Janeiro. To watch the white waves crashing into the beach against the darkness of the night is almost meditative. Rose and I spoke about our travels and love. What is love? What does it mean when someone says “I love you”? Were all the times when I said I-love-you really meant I was in love? Or was I just going through the motions because I thought someone is crazy about me? Is it love or lust? Are we biologically programmed to be in love or just to procreate? I don’t know. I blame it on being too young but in reality who really knows? Even Rose, who is more experienced than I am, is still figuring out the same questions. Maybe love is like a ghost, everyone talks about it but few have actually seen it. If there is one thing I do know is that it is always better to love than to be loved. For some strange reason I came up with that theory long before I even had a boyfriend. Since love is a verb, I figure it’s always better to be the one doing the action. I want to be able to love someone for who they are, unconditionally, like a mother to a child. When all I do is to love and give, it’s easy to be happy without expecting anything in return. Of course, the jackpot would be to find someone who feels the same way about me. Someone who says I love you simply because he does, without any expectations. It’s difficult to explain why we fall in love or for what reasons. I like to ask but never have I heard the answers I’m looking for. Everyone tells me I’m sweet, caring and affectionate. Surely that’s true because I like to do nice things for people but that’s only a tiny part of me. Those are just things I do. I like to think that I’m adventurous, spontaneous, sincere, curious, independent, intelligent and non traditional. Not every man likes those qualities in their women and no one has ever told me that they love me because of those things.
One of those days I’m going to be ready to settle down. I’m still hopelessly romantic enough to think there is such thing as ever-lasting love. Call me naïve.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Perfect Day in Buzio

We have finally graduated from big buses to conquering small mini vans that frequently pick up and drop off passengers along the road without specific bus stops. After riding in two of those yesterday it took me less than a minute to stop one on the street this morning to take us into centro.

Our boat tour took off from Praia do Canto at half past 9 with techno club music and rounds of beer and caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, kind like a mojito. I couldn’t decide what was more strange, the boat or the group of half naked men from England. The tour took us along many beautiful beaches on the north side of Buzio peninsula as well as small islands offshore. I had forgotten how much I love been on the water. I love to feel the swell of the sea beneath the boat and the ocean breeze combing through my hair.
Rose, who’s terrible at keeping track of direction, likes to look at the map and figure out where we are. When she had problems identify the beaches she asked one of the crew members. The young man told her, “you don’t need a map, the captain is knows where we are going.” Relax, this is the place to chill.

Our lunch consisted of assorted snack-sized pockets filled meats and cheese inside. We washed them down with fresh tropical fruit and sugarcane juices. Everything was delicious.

The afternoon was spent napping on Tartaruga Beach. I have been getting pretty tired from all the traveling lately so I passed out as soon as my head hit the warm sand. Every now and then I get in the water to cool down only to fall back asleep again. Time went by quickly as the clouds and tide came in. We packed up our things and got ready for the meat man. We’ve been craving these meat-on-a-stick things ever since we had them last night. We could see the smoke from the stand couple of blocks away. It was even better than I remembered.

Buzio during the day and Buzio by night are two completely different places. The sunny afternoons calls out lazy beach town but once the sunsets it becomes romantic and intimate. We had the most pleasant evening walking along the chain of beaches near centro, passing by many nice shops and restaurants. At one point we sat for a long time on the bench facing the ocean, listening to the songs from a guitar player. When we finally pulled ourselves away from the lovely music, we cleared our wallets at Vila D’Este, a super nice boutique hotel. $15 for a virgin pina colada is a bit excessive but there is always a premium for the unbeatable view. The quiet little restaurant on top of the hill over looking the bay is perhaps the one most romantic setting ever. Forget about the men in our lives, we just have to enjoy the moment by ourselves and with each other. It was a night perfect like a dream.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To Buzio

I had a good night of sleep in our perfect little room in the perfect big empty guess house. Everything works under the honor system here. Instead of real windows and doors, we have hanging Brazilian flags for privacy. There is a list hanging on the fridge for people to mark how many beers, sodas, waters they take in order to pay upon checkout. The narrow alleyway in front of our guess house is too cute for pictures. The kitchen on the top level also has dinning tables on the patio. I made some scrambled eggs while Rose brought rolls, ham and cheese onto the table. We had a lovely breakfast with fresh fruits on the rooftop before catching bus 128 to the Novo Real bus station where a separate bus will take us to Buzio.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Things Dreams are made of



Can you say that you’re at exactly where you want to be? Well, I can and I am!!! This is happiness, being able to enjoy the moment. I can honestly say that tonight, there are no better places to be than here in Rio de Janeiro. This is the best way to start our one week trip to Rio and Buzio. With some experience under my belt I have become a more confident and savvy traveler. I got the universal outlet converter, super light weight traveling towel and sunscreen with insect repellent all neatly packed in my new red professional hiking bag. And Rose, having been to all over the world, is the perfect traveling companion. Instead of taking the taxi like most of the other tourists, we exchanged some Brazilian reals and hopped onto the Real bus for Ipanema for under $3! The nice air conditioned bus took us through the shanty towns immediately outside of the airport, the congested centro, the luscious green mountains, beautiful beaches, and finally Ipanema, the southern end of the city, where we will stay for tonight before going to Buzio in the morning. As soon as we got off the bus we were enveloped by the humid air and the gentle ocean breeze carrying with it the smell of the sea and the surrounding vegetation. We are here! We are in Brazil! We are in Rio de Janeiro! Even though we were exhausted from all day of traveling in taxi, plane and bus, our enthusiasm was higher than ever. Three blocks from the beach sets our charming hostel, Casa6Ipanema, on Barao do Torre 175. The woman who checked us in was most cordial and patient hostess. She explained everything to us in Portuguese and we communicated to her broken Spanish. Some how things all worked out great and she made a reservation for us at the Rio Scenarium for live music and dinner.


After a quick wash up and change we were once again on a bus to Lapa. We were so proud of ourselves for traveling on bus 433 like the rest of the locals. The restaurant was packed with mostly tourists. The band was already playing but it was early so only few dancers occupied the floor. We got our table in the room adjacent to the band and the dancers. Little did we know we were in for an amazing night. The food was good enough to die for. The raviolis with pear and nuts filling in a rich creams sauce was easily the best raviolis I’ve ever had. Who would have thought that pear, nuts and blue cheese would make such good filling! Rose said with enough observation perhaps I could make the same dish myself. If I ever figure that out I would have to be very careful who I cook for. I might end up with more marriage proposals than a single girl could handle. My filet mignon with mushroom sauce was better than anything I’ve ever had, even in Argentina! They really got the meats right here. My steak was cooked to the perfect medium even though I didn’t ask for it. We explored the huge three-level lounged after we devoured our delicious dinner. Each level of the club has dinning tables, lounge chairs and a balcony looking down on the band and the dance floor. The whole place is tastefully decorated with interesting antiques and old photo graphs. The music was a good mix of popular samba and salsa beats. I’m no good at either dance but we had to join the crowd just because we’re here. It’s hard to travel as a single girl sometimes, not because of the strange stares but the fact that amorous lovers are ubiquitous south of the border. Every now and then I wish I could have someone to smooch on too but I wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything. The night turned out to be perfect and surreal. When the cool mist air hit me as I stepped outside of the club, I realized that years from now all this will be a short flash of memory that I once had in a dream.


While waiting for the bus back we had few friendly encounters. A homeless guy came to bother us for some money at the bus stop. Luckily, an older lady stared him down and told him to leave us alone. She didn’t speak anymore English than we did Spanish but nevertheless she inquired about our travels and told us to be very careful here as tourists. Few minutes later a young man joined our little conversation as well. He asked nicely: “what are girls like you doing here in Lapa?” We just laughed and told him we were here for the live music. We couldn’t believe how friendly people are here in Rio. They welcomed us to visit their city and wished us best of luck on our trip to Buzio. So far we’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences. We’re spoiled rotten here! On the way back we got off the bus couple of stops early by accident and had a lovely walk along the lagoon. We laughed at our craziness to walk under the highway overpasses where the homeless people lived. We are under no false impression on how we are very lucky. The fragrant night blooming jasmine ended the night on a perfect note. Now we must rest for Buzio.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Envious

“So Jan, what are you going to do after you go back to Rochester?”

“Feel sorry for myself.”

I guess it’s almost flattering that some people would be envious of me. Although a regular member of the frequent flyer miles, Jan has a house in Rochester that grounds him from extended amount of time traveling abroad. I guess the only thing that is stopping me from traveling more is my bank account.

Jan always sound surprised when I tell him I haven’t been dancing much since coming here. The truth is that I love milongas, but I love Buenos Aires more. It’s the city that brought me back here; the milongas are just a bonus.

Rose and I picked up our visas for Brazil at the consulate this afternoon. Everything went well without surprises. We ran into few tourists who have been to the consulate seven times trying to get their visas. I guess I should be thankful for only making two separate trips. I packed my sun block and arranged taxi service for transfer to the airport. Rose will be staying with me tonight so we could leave together in the morning.

See you in Rio de Janeiro!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The day after

I went to the Coliseo for Verdi’s requiem this afternoon. Unfortunately, Theater Colon is closed yet for another year for construction. As much as I love Verdi, it was hard to stay awake since I’ve only slept for 3 hours this morning after dancing all night with Jan. Besides, I'm totally spoiled by the quality of concerts I used to hear at Eastman. Instead of going to the milonga in Belgrano with Rose I came home for a short nap. Now I’m watching America Futbol on ESPN in Spanish and cooking up some morcilla and veal steaks for dinner. If you don’t know what morcilla is, you probably won’t like it anyways (blood sausage).

Walking down 9 de Julio at 4am.

The streets near 9 d Julio are still busy with pedestrians, cars and taxis. Didn’t feel like waiting for the bus I walked back to my apartment from the milonga at 4am. I’ve walked in many places at this hour of the night, alone, never have I felt safer than here. It was a long night of dinning at Club Espanol and dancing in San Telmo. I was tired but the brisk air and the vibrant city kept me just awake enough to be in a state of bewilderment. Very often now I catch myself smiling while walking down the street, even a blind man can tell I’m in love.

Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love
Now is the time for it, while we are young
Let's fall in love

Contrary to common misconception from non-tango dancers, the ideal dance for a lady is not with a guapo young man with fancy foot works, but someone with the most sensitive musicality and non-common chivalry. Sometimes tango is a dance of trust and to gain that in the first three minutes you met someone is no small feat. Tango has spoiled me for life. Although not often, I know what it feels to be with a men of that multitude. I’m like a little kid who once discovered dessert after a meal now wants to have it all the time. Whatever happened to old-world romance like in Nat King Cole songs? I hate the whole cliché of associating tango with sex. I know parts of the dance originated in the bordel, but sex is not why real dancers are so obsessed with it nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, there are meat-markets like La Viruta and tourist filled salons with middle-aged men and Sally-Potter look-like women. I don’t go to the milonga in search of my next fling. Sure, I once or twice have started relationships from tango that I developed further outside of the milonga. But it’s not fair to credit that entirely to the dance. It’s natural that you would meet people of interest if you spend enough time at any social gatherings. Last night, while in the Buenos Aires Club at 571 Peru, I noticed a petite young girl in a teal-colored velvet dress who danced with the most upright posture and gracefulness. That’s what I want, not some crazy ganchos or twisted sacadas. I want to be able to do simple steps elegantly with musicality.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Club Espanol

Dinner with Jan at Club Espanol.
Finally, the perfect steak! Yum!
Such a big steak for a little girl!And of course, desert with extra cream!

Patience is a Virtue

I have been here for almost a week but I have only been to one milonga and not yet had a steak. I brought two pairs of tango shoes with me for a three-month stay in the Mecca of tango. Those who know me might ask, “Is everything ok?” Si, esta todo bien! I’m finally able to relax and enjoy everything around me. I have time, what is the hurry. I’m working on my patience.

Went to La Americana for pizza this afternoon. A small Calabresa with one slice of faina and a cafe con leche. On the way back I stopped by a little seafood store on Montevideo for some Merluza, a cod-like fish that is very popular here. I will use it to make dinner later this weekend.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Palermo Parks

The weather is a bit cooler today with overcastted sky and a light breeze. It was a perfect afternoon to take a walk through the parks of Palermo. The flowers are beautiful. I sat on the bench amongst the beautiful flowers for a long time pondering about different things in my life. Why worry about them when I should be enjoying Buenos Aires.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving night in BA…and it just keeps getting better

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Thanksgiving evening than to share it with my friend Rose in the city we love. We met up around 9 at 251 Riobamba right in front of Hotel Lyon to have dinner at a restaurant nearby. I know Rose have become a real Argentine now that she’s always late. You know I have become accustomed to things here for that I don’t expect anyone to be on time anymore. We wandered around for few minutes and got a table at the restaurant on the corner of Callao y Mitre, across from my favorite pizza place, La Americana. Time flew by as we conversed about life, travels, love and everything else. Some happy subjects and few not so cheery but we managed to laugh at all of them together. That’s when you know you’ve got a real special friend. Three hours later we were sharing a fruit salad in a restaurant without interruptions by the waiter or expectations to leave. The light rain had abated by the time we left at half past midnight. The air was cool and fresh. Something I missed living in the desert for the last two months. As we crossed Callao I couldn’t help it but to say, “God, I love this place!”

It’s my third night here and each one keeps toping off the other. I still can’t believe how perfect the first night went with all the dancing and best seating at Canning for Narcotango. The band started playing just as we putted on our tango shoes. I’ve never danced so much in one night, not even on my last trip. The second night was lovelier than ever and now the best Thanksgiving eve. Having stopped enjoying holidays since I moved away from my big family in China 11 years ago, I have finally found the best way to avoid them: come to Buenos Aires.

Keeping faith

Halleluiah! After four attempts at the Consulado General del Brasil, three months of bank statements, two applications forms and a trip to the bank to submit $331.25 pesos, Rose and I finally got the receipts to pick our visas on Monday afternoon between 4-5pm. It’s a short window of opportunity but I think we’ll make it. While waiting for Rose to print out her statements at the locutorio I also got my cell phone to work! And the day is only half over! I guess the key here is don’t expect things to work on the first or even the forth try, but as long as you keep your faith, things will eventually work out.

The days are starting to get very warm here in Buenos Aires. I don’t know how the flower stands survive under the hot sun. It’s always pleasant to walk by them and get a whiff of the fragrant lilies. Oh, I love lilies. It’s also common for this time of the year to see people selling small bouquets jasmine along the streets. 3 pesos for one and 5 for two. They smell just as lovely. Perhaps I should get some for my apartment next time.

When I was walking to the Consulado General del Brasil this morning I ran into Monica near her home on Cordoba. She is the lady with whom I stayed with towards the end of my last trip. Monica has been a long time friend with Rose. Although a bit aristocratic at times, Monica is very educated and well traveled despite the fact that she has been paralyzed from the waist down since her early teens. Nowadays Monica lives with her maid and stays busy teaching religion lessons, participating social gatherings and attending various shows in the city. She speaks fluent English and has a good collection of books at home. I saw some old photographs that were taken in her youth during my stay. She was a very pretty girl and now a fashionable lady. I truly admire her strength and knowledge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nothing but good food

Did I mention I love Buenos Aires?! I can’t believe I’m here again. It must not be a mistake; where else do you find men whistling at anything with legs? Besides, I had two things on my agenda for today and neither one of them got done.

Rose and I needed to get visas for Brazil and I had to get a new SIM card for my cell phone. The visa problem was partially our fault for not bringing the reservation for the hotel and making up fake address on the form. Honestly, I’ve been doing that for all of my entry cards at customs and never had any issues before. Last time when I flew into London I wrote “airport” as my local address. At least I was truthful that time and the custom officer had to check my plane ticket to make sure I didn’t make that up. The lady behind the counter today wasn’t very happy with our fake address. Now we have to go back tomorrow to try again and keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get everything done before next Tuesday. I also had to get my passport photo taken this morning for no reason because I left mine at the apartment.

After the visa fiasco I stopped by CTI mobile to buy a new SIM card. It took half hour to get the thing even though I was the only one in the store. The guy who spoke English told me I have to wait for an hour for the SIM card to activate. I was famished. Having been craving good food since I left in March, I took a brisk walk down Ave. de Mayo to one of my favorite restaurants, Status, for lunch. Located on Virrey Cerallos 178, near Congresso, Status is a family owned Peruvian restaurant with great food and one friendly waiter. Yes, it must be family owned because I can’t imagine them finding anyone else to do the job for 5 waiters: taking care 20-25 tables at a time during lunch hour. I have never seen a harder working guy anywhere. Since I went there religiously on a weekly basis during my last stay, the waiter immediately recognized me today. As always, he was either too busy or shy to smile, so he gave me a quick friendly nod and signaled me to a small table at center of the room. This is like my favorite Thai restaurant, Mamasans, in Rochester, where I have ordered the same dish, Basil Beef, since high school, except the dish here is Picante de Marisco. The ceviche and lamb dishes are also very good along with the tasty starter: papas a la huancaina, spuds cooked with a yellow cheese and chili sauce. The food was wonderful as usual and I washed it down with chicha morada, a slightly sour drink made from purple corn mixed with sugar and lemon. I also ordered chaufa mixto to go, which brought the final bill to $32 pesos, what a bargain. I remember there was a time when I felt a little awkward eating by myself at a restaurant, but after traveling around solo, I’m starting to really enjoy it. I no longer feel the need to preoccupy myself with reading materials. Now I simply sit back to enjoy the constant murmuring of incomprehensible Spanish interrupted occasionally by clattering dishes. Did I mention I love this place?

To top off great Peruvian food for lunch I had equally scrumptious Chinese takeout for dinner. Sometimes I think the Chinese food here is even better than the ones you actually get in China! Another exciting thing for today: while I was on the 37 going along Las Heras, the street was blocked from Billinghurst to Las Heras Park for a police helicopter to land near the intersection at Ortiz de Ocampo. Nobody seemed to know what was going on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First night in BA

It all came back to me as the taxi drove by Casa Rosada, Oblisco and Tribunales. It is late spring here Buenos Aires, you can still see streets lined with purple flowers like it was in Sevilla in May. I shared the ride from the airport with a nice man from Atlanta, who’s here visiting a friend for the week. Everything went smoothly on this trip from getting to the airport just in time to meeting with the rental people to get into my apartment. My guitar and luggage arrived in perfect condition. I slept as well as one possible could in my spacious exit roll seat on the 11-hour flight here. After signing rental agreements and exchange payments I took a quick shower and crawled into bed in preparation for a long night of dancing!

The apartment is very charming and cozy (that’s code word for small). It is conveniently located near downtown on Viamonte and Rodriguez Pena. There is a small Dia grocery store and a locutorio, where I can make long distance phone calls, across the street. The big COTO supermarket is only one block away. There are few restaurants close by for a quick meal. The apartment owners recommended Parrilla Pena around the corner, which offers the popular Argentine grilled meats I’m dying to try! Best of all, I get free wifi here so I can update my blog often and stay connected with the rest of the world. It’s amazing how much I depend on the internet nowadays. I feel completely lost without it.

After two naps and a short trip to the grocery store I was more than ready to hit my first dance at Practica X, a young and hip joint with black and while tiled floor and almost no ceiling or any kind of ventilation system. It is not listed on any guide books and seems to be under constant construction. Tonight it appeared to be in even worse condition than I remembered back in March. Still, this is the place where the best neuvo dancers in town gather to practice their techniques and showing off new moves. The practica is filled with energy and good mix of music. I have been there before but not often since it’s not the most dancing-friendly place for new comers. Dancers of certain level often get increasingly picky on their partners so average dancers are less likely to be asked to dance. Still, I was excited to give it a try and to meet up with Rose. I took the red line subway to Carlos Gardel and arrived at the practica just before 10pm. It’s still early so the floor was half empty. I unhurriedly putted on my tango shoes and sat back to check out the dancers on the floor. I was surprised when a young man in white shirt signaled me to join him as he walked towards me from the opposite end of the room. Robert turned out to be a very good dancer from Cordoba (I think). Nobody really talks during the dance, especially to me, since I don’t speak any Spanish. It’s better that way. The dances are very causal and relaxed here. Unlike milongas where songs are grouped in sets of four, there are no breaks for a pratica. People dance together song after song until one of them eventually says thank you.

As the night went on I met up with Rose and ran into Ian from Rochester by chance. He is the guy who’s responsible for getting me started on my obsession with tango over a year ago. Consequently, now I’m obsessed with everything Argentine including soccer. We haven’t seen each other since I “moved” to Las Vegas so it was nice to dance together again. Ian updated me with all sorts of tango gossip (Sebastian Arce married a Russian girl and is now in Moscow?) and informed me of Narcotango’s performance at Salon Canning later tonight. I didn’t plan to stay out too late but Carlos Libedinsky simply can’t be missed. I’m a big fan of Narcotango, kind of a cross between tango rhythm and electronic music. It’s what the cool kids are listening nowadays. Rose and I were lucky enough to get the best front roll seats at Salon Canning even with a full house already there at 1am. After dancing with Gert from Amsterdam and another guy from Belgium, I finally left with Ian around 3. Now it’s 5am here, the birds are singing outside and I’m just getting ready to go to bed. ‘Tis the life of a tanguera!

Oh, almost forgot. I saw Willem Dafoe at Practica X tonight! What the heck, I didn’t see anyone famous while in Vegas for two months and the first night in BA I run into Willem Dafoe. I just saw him in Mr. Bean’s Holiday on the plane. How funny. He was dressed in all black with a some what plain looking woman with dark hair. Neither one of them danced.

Monday, November 19, 2007

So Long Vegas


AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune--I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

Walt Whitman. Song of the Open Road, 1856

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One the Road Again

The problem with staying in one place at this stage of my life is the inevitable feeling of stagnation. It is detrimental for a traveler to loose the movementum one need to be constantly on the road exploring new things. It is human nature to seek consistency and order in life. When I stand still, even in the most hazardous conditions, I instinctively mold a comfort zone around me. Having lived in many places during my youth, I am adaptable to new surroundings.
Surely, not everything evolves around traveling and staying in one place. I suppose the feeling of stagnation would diminish proportional to progress in other subjects, such as job and personal life. At the moment it is easier to feel progress on the road. Every time I catch the right bus I feel a sense of accomplishment. Lately I have becoming increasingly aware to the fact that it’s the people that I meet on the road who truly fill me with sense of courage and optimism. I’m not rich or particularly high maintenance. I watch my spendings on the road and stay at local hostels whenever I can. I love to travel the way I do and encounter people of all types. Many of them are students and young professionals with normal jobs and obligations. Some times I run into couples and older travelers too. They prove the fact that traveling is not a luxury but a way of life. I was glad to have met a young couple in Patagonia from LA who gave up their well-paying jobs to move to Equator for a year to enrich the community by volunteer on project to eliminate illiteracy. It is reassuring to know that life does not have to be a 9-5 hell and that it is not necessary to give up dreams for conformity. More and more I feel the need to accept the reality of life and get a real job but to see people on the road I am comforted by the fact that I don’t have to forever change my lifestyle.

The past two months hasn’t been easy for me but the bright side is that the end is near. Although things have seemed to be pretty static here, I’m exhausted as if I’m at the last quarter mile of the marathon. More than a change of environment, I need to be surrounded by positive individuals who truly enjoy life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Obituary

While waiting for my grande mocha at Starbucks this morning I picked up the newspaper and started to read through the obituary. Having never paid much attention to such section before I was surprised to see how extensive the obituaries are on the local paper. Some of them are as long as 300 words detailing significant events in the person’s live. As I scanned through the page, the name Sylvia Jane Lane grabbed my attention. I’ve always liked the name Sylvia, which means woods or forest (like Pennsylvania or Penn’s forest). Born in Eddyville, KY, her husband always referred to her as Jane. After separated by death from her better half almost 20 years ago, Sylvia lived with her daughter’s family and enjoyed spending time with her two grand daughters. I imagine she was a nice lady. Whenever I hear the name Sylvia I think of Gwyneth Paltrow, who played Sylvia Plath in the biography movie about the poet’s life. And that led me to think about all my books packed neatly in boxes stacked in the storage room. The thought of my books reminded me how much I miss having my own apartment in Rochester. I’ve always like cozy couches, warm blankets, hot tea, moving music and good books. I miss all that. At least I know they’re safe in storage.

So what would your obituary reads like? I guess the key is to write your own and live life that way.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paradise Grill

To find a good restaurant in the city of entertainment might not sound like a big challenge but for me it has been like quest for the Holy Grail. I don’t consider myself all that picky. Despite the fact that I will eat just about everything, I have to admit that very few things really get me excited. After going to countless restaurants in the last two months, I have finally stumbled upon one that I’m considering returning to! Paradise Grill on 4180 Jones St. is perhaps the definitive authentic Peruvian restaurant around. If you Chinese food get you salivating you have to come and try the chaufa, a very simple fried rice dish with soy sauce, fried eggs and any kind of meats/seafood you desire. They also make a similar version with spaghetti. The seafood ceviche is the real thing with raw seafood soaked in lemon juice and mixed with fresh onions. The service was excellent and laid-back like everything else in South America. I miss having real coffee in a real cup and service people who expect you to sit around in their shop all day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Artistry

Having seen Jason Vieaux perform many times before, I’m still glad to be sitting amongst the audiences tonight at UNLV. Jason is one of the players you can really depend on for a solid delivery time after time almost like clock work. He also has a way of mixing traditional pieces with new interesting ones, all with wonderful melodies that are easy to follow and beautiful tone. To see a man doing something exceedingly well, regardless what, is always a turn on.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Idle Afternoon

Ten more days until I leave for Buenos Aires. I’m looking forward to walk in the beautiful Palermo parks again and going to the milongas. I also can’t wait to drink up some licuados and eat great meals at a reasonable cost (if you can afford time). Even though I’ve been here for almost two months, I have not yet had a meal that I can blog about. I have cooked more dinners here than I’ve had in a long time and even that is not an easy feat. Despite various grocery chains such as Vons, Alberston, Smiths and the almighty Walmart, I still can’t get all I need for a meal without going to at least three different stores. It is completely ridiculous to drive all over town for the right herbs and cheeses. Wegmans is right, they do “make great meals easy.” The only good thing here is the International Market on Decatur and Tropicana, which carries a variety of mates sold at almost lower than Argentine prices. Although I’m not a big mate drinker I was very happy to find out that the Market also has great salmon. I got a pound yesterday and had ¾ of it for lunch. I’m not sure where they get the salmon from but it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve had in Vegas. I guess I could be on an all-salmon diet for the next ten days if I have to. After all, it’s not that popular in Argentina.

My stress level has leveled out a bit since the audition. I’ve been making some more preparations for my three-month staying in Buenos Aires, including transferring money out of my IRA account and going to the gym everyday to strengthen my immune system and making sure I don’t put on weight from sitting around with the flu.

In order to keep myself busy for the next three months with teaching English, dancing tango and avoiding excessive shoe shopping, I also ordered study books for GMAT today to bring with me on the trip. Traveling and music is great but I suppose I need to get a MBA degree in the near future and work a real job someday like everyone else. My parents would have been thrilled to read this but thankfully for their sanity, they are blissfully unaware of my blog and few other small aspects of my life. After being out of school for almost a year I’m excited to be learning anything new. Petar had it right, it’s not exactly school I am missing, it is the sense of progress. I miss the finality of the school calendar: end of a semester and beginning of a brand new one. Real life is to me seems is like a endless blah with no real time markers except when you talk to someone and they say “wow, I can’t believe it has been 8 years since I’ve moved here” or “where did the past 10 years of my life go?” I suppose people with family can count their wedding anniversaries and kids’ birthdays but for an outsider that seems pretty depressing. So far this period of my life has been marked by places I’ve lived and traveled. It’s satisfying enough for now to believe that I’m taking time off from the real world to see the real real world so maybe when I do start counting my kids’ birthdays I’ll have something to talk to them about.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

UNLV Audition

The audition went well this morning at UNLV (University of Nevada at Las Vegas). I was a little worried since I haven’t honestly invested enough time to prepare for it. Although my playing was solid in studio week before, there were few minor memory elapses in the fugue when I preformed last night. The good thing is that small problems like that arise often enough now that I have learned to focus on hearing the music. In this way even if my fingers are lost the music still plays perfectly in my mind so I can adjust my fingers accordingly to match up with what I hear. This also allows the mistakes to stay somewhat in rhythm making them less noticeable.

Other than the audition, I also had lunch with Nate at P.F. Changs, got a flu shot at Walgreens, worked out at the gym this afternoon and saved $100 bucks on my auto insurance by taking off collision for my three months visit to Buenos Aires. Now I just have to file the paper application for the school to be considered for the graduate program next fall.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday Afternoon at ReJAVAnate

Coming to 3300 E. Flamingo Rd has become a part of my Sunday routine. It’s a nice little café off the strip with free wifi. There’s also live music on some days. The interior is pretty unremarkable but then not all cafes look like Java’s or Spots. While checking my email I came up on one of the mass mailings about the Rochester International Jazz Festival. According to the site, I was one of 121,000 people who attended the festival last summer. I was at SEMA last week (Specialty Equipment Market Association featuring automotive performance products). It is one of the largest conventions in Las Vegas, attracting 130,000 sellers and buyers from around the world. Considering Rochester only has an estimated population of 215,000, for an event that draws almost equal amount of attendants as the largest convention in Vegas is rather impressive.