Thursday, February 28, 2008

Life in the Cards

Back to Marion again this afternoon for tarot card reading. She is trading all sorts of reading with me for Chinese lessons. I wasn’t all that happy about the arrangement but I couldn’t say no. She is slowly making a believer out of me. Just before seeing her I had lunch with Andrew at Status and we had a lengthy argument on the validity of fortune telling. Andrew can sometimes be a rather black and white person. We share that kind of rationality but I like to think I’m a bit more flexible. I admire the fact that after years of hard work and a divorce, Andrew decided to relinquish his former life in Britain at 55 and start over here making decisions based on the feel of the moment. He has now lived here for three years and bought two houses in San Telmo. Andrew loves tango and dislikes the formality at many of the milongas. He also doesn’t believe in any religion or fortune telling voodoo. I’m not religious by any means either but I can’t rule out the possibility that there are people on this planet who possess the intuition to see into the future. I’m not convinced that Marion is one of them but I like to believe that they exist. Andrew said that life is completely random and therefore can not be predicted. I argued that there is not confliction between randomness and predictability as long as the prediction is not based on a notable patterns or a formulated system. Fortune telling is not logical so it doesn’t contradict with the randomness of life. Anyways, Andrew and I said our goodbyes in a hurry and left on a bad note.

I went over to Marion’s on the 64. She laid out the cards and said, “You don’t have many friends and some of them can’t keep up with you because you are growing so fast spiritually. You might loose a friend here or there but it’s ok. You will make new friends on a higher spiritual level.” I thought to myself, “Hopefully I won’t become one of those crazy born-again Christians some day preaching the words of God to everyone.”

Later Marion pulled out a video cassette off of her book shelf titled “The Eternal Presence of Marion Gold” with her picture on the cover and explained that we live in the present and she can tell me how things are going to be in the future. The traditional way of liner thinking is not correct. We must always think life in the continuous present.

Having said that she told me what the cards had to say about my future. We all know I’m going to falling love someday, get married and have two kids. She also told me that I’m going to move soon into a house with white walls and full of light. There will be many plants and a court yard or a garden near by. There will also be an older person, over 50, to look after me. This new environment will help me to make lots of money with my new career. And because I’m an angel that was put on earth to help people some of them will in return help me too. They will give me suggestions to start a career and I have to decide which is the best option for me. The most important thing Marion said was I must tell people that I love them regardless what the future holds.

“When King Louis XVI of France was a child, he was warned by an astrologer to always be on his guard on the 21st day of each month. Louis was so terrified by this that he never did business on this day. Unfortunately Louis was not always on his guard. On June 21st 1791, following the French revolution, Louis and his queen were arrested in Varennes, whist trying to escape France. On September 21st 1791, France abolished the institution of Royalty and proclaimed itself a republic. Finally on January 21st 1793, King Louis XVI was executed by guillotine.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Color Tango @ Canning


Later into the evening, Rose and I caught another amazing performance at Salon Canning. We are both big fans of Color Tango and Canning is a great place to hear them despite the crazy mob. For the first time I sat on the floor behind the band for the entire set, positioning myself close to the piano behind the bass player. I love to feel the bass in tango music but more than often the bandoneon and the violin dominate the show with their piercing sounds making it difficult to hear the bass and the piano. That’s usually the problem whenever they play at Ideal. But tonight I was so close to the piano I could feel its vibration. I’ve been infatuated by the pianist ever since the first time I saw her here. Over the year I’ve seen her perform at many milongas, even in Lisbon. Tonight she wore a white form fitting halter top dress with too much sequence on the front. Her brown tango shoes looked like comme il faut. I like how her dress is always pulled back slightly above her knees when she plays, exposing her strong calves, even more accentuated when she taps out the rhythm with the left and peddles with the right. The well worn upright piano is just as sultry with its front board taken off revealing all the hammers inside. The sheets of music placed in front of them shook heavily as she banged out the rhythm. I’m drawn to the way she plays with such strength and conviction. She commanded attention with her energy. She could have been the Beethoven of Tango if she was a guy with crazy gray hair. As I watched, she turned her head and smiled at me from time to time. I wonder if she could tell I’m a musician or how I’m fascinated by her playing or both. I think it made her a little happy. I didn’t notice until Rose pointed out to me the way her eye lids moved to the beat of the music sometimes even the sixteenth notes in vals. I’ve never seen anything like it. Her long dark eye lashes shook like the movable eyes of a porcelain doll. I have to admit that it’s a little freaky but I could watch her all night.

I used to listen to tango music when I first started dancing. Now after so many milongas I associate the music with night and rarely listen to it when I’m not dancing. I find it too distracting for causal listening. Besides, most the tango songs are of simple harmonic progressions that get rather repetitive after listening to it for too long. Color Tango, directed by one of the most amazing bandoneon players Roberto Alvarez, grew from the old orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese. They are a tied ensemble with unparallel artistry. Color Tango is perhaps the only tango band I could listen to at a concert setting without dancing.

Last Tango at Practica X

Everyone has their own definition of Tango. While some people identify it with its unique embrace, I see it as a dance of improvisation. Like jazz, tango is the dance of the moment. It’s a living art that constant evolves and transforms itself as the artists communicate with each other sharing the same rhythm of the music. Like a whiff of perfume, it appears and dissipates all within a few breaths. It’s to be created only to be lost with a lingering impression that could never be repeated. No two dancers are alike. No two dances are ever the same. This is why I love tango. It’s a novel experience every time I step onto the floor. Peel away the heavy sentimentality and different schools of technique; to me the core of the dance is communication. Tango music is played “a la parrilla”, literately means on the grill or created on the spot. Tango, the dance, is done in the same way. Most performances nowadays are choreographed to showcase fancy steps in order to impress the audiences. However, true artists stick to the principle of improvisation. There is nothing more magical than witnessing two people responding to each other in the most delicate way to create something new right in front of your eyes. This is usually done in the performances at Practica X on Tuesday nights. Most of the times they are of young dancers very few of us have heard of. It’s up to the DJ to pick the music for the performance without consulting the dancers. This kind of performance not only requires the dancers to have solid technique, superb musicality and creativity but also a broad knowledge of tango music. Although the dancers might not have known what the DJ would play ahead of time but once the music comes on they should immediate recognize the music and dances accordingly. The man plans and leads the steps while the woman responds and embellishes. Great dancers cover every beat of the music as if the music was tailored just for them. Of course, true musicality is much more than stepping on the beat because no music is played mechanically like the metronome. Listen to some Chopin and you’ll understand. To dance musically not involves optimize different steps for various elements in the music but also to anticipate and take advantage of the variance in rhythm. This is hard to explain and even harder to demonstrate and not to mention improvise!

The performance at Practica X was exceptionally beautiful tonight. I dislike how some traditional dancers automatically reject nuevo tango because of the open embrace. Someone once said to me that nuevo tango has not real tango but synchronized dancing. I was rather annoyed with such acquisition. I enjoy both styles of tango and don’t see any conflict between them. The embrace is only a vehicle for communication. Nuevo tango has many different steps and some of them seem impossible to be led. But that’s the beauty of it. People spend years obsessing over these steps going constantly between classes, practices and milongas trying to perfect them. Tonight’s performance is a proof that the embrace is not a limiting factor in tango. The dancers opened and closed the embrace whenever necessary accommodating to the music and the step. The last song really pushed the boundaries a little by not actually having much of an embrace at all. The guy led by intention and occasionally a half embrace or even a full one. There was no lack of communication. Every movement was elegant and full like a pregnant pause. I could feel the magnetic field between them. They moved around each other as if they were two atoms bounded by laws of physics. The couple danced to the music with ease and flexibility. I was moved. On a side note, they were a very hot couple. The girl looked like a slightly skinnier version of Eva Mendes with a full red ensemble. Her tied orange red corset didn’t quite match her red pants. But the fact that the pants are fully see through with a pair of red boy shorts underneath and even better frame to support them really took the attention away from anything else.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sarkis with Rose and Gary

According to Guia Oleo, an online restaurant guide, Sarkis is the most popular restaurant under $30pesos in BA. Gary had eaten there three times in the last week with his Japanese girlfriend, now it’s my term to join the masses. Sarkis is located on Thames 1101, just around the corner from Villa Malcoim. It serves a variety of delicious Armenian dishes with a side of belly dancing in the evenings. We ordered few appetizers and shared three big dishes. It was a lot of food considering I was having my second dinner of the night. Hello, my name is Liren and I’m addicted to food. Before I met up with Gary and Rose I ordered some Chinese takeout for my roommate Loren and couldn’t help but to order an extra dish for myself. I had planned to eat it the next day but I inhaled it before the delivery guy could get back onto his scooter. The only good thing about knowing Chinese is that I can order food from Chinese restaurants all over the world. You can’t order cheeseburgers in English at all the McDonalds.

The hummus didn’t have enough zest and the falafel was a bit hard but dinner was delicious overall. The three of us joked around like the good old times and made plans to meet again for Chinese at Belgrano on Sunday night. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much with anyone else in my life.

Rose and I caught the 106 back to my place after dinner. Rose worked as a massage therapist in her pervious life before coming to BA. Due to the high demand, I was reluctant to ask for a massage myself knowing how little time she had between all of her dance classes. My shoulders have been tense for many weeks now even the 1 minute massage at end of my pilate classes was hurting me. When I woke up with stiff shoulders this morning I finally broke down and requested a message from Rose. I love massages and Rose is the best. She starts up light and gradually builds pressure to loosen the knot. I’m addicted to pain. I remember getting massages from the infamous Thomas at Eastman who makes his patients cry and says “they don’t call it therapy for nothing.” Now that’s the spirit I like.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Miso Soup

Rose and I are back to Pierino again for some delicious raviolis. Surprise, surprise, we’re still talking about the same stuff we did a year ago. My emotion is a bowl of miso soup: me so confused soup. Just as I try to settle down it gets stir up again. I thought I was doing so well getting over this place. But who am I trying to fool here? No one, including myself, is convinced.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sutherland

It was Rose’s idea to organize a big get together at Sutherland this evening. It is a more traditional milonga a little outside of the city. I have heard of the place and seen pictures of it but never made there myself. It is the perfect milonga for a big group since it is not the most inviting place for getting dances from strangers. Hector and I arrived shortly after 11 and the milonga quickly got very crowded. It was so nice to see everyone I know all at the same place. There was Rose, Maria, Bright, Geoff, Gary, Paolo, Hector, Regina, Ruth, Lionel and many others. I suppose this is the unofficial farewell party for Rose but no one referred to it that way. Leaving is a rather sore subject none of us like to talk about. I wore my ultra conservative white dress that I had just purchased few hours before on Santa Fe Av. I used to love red but white is my new color. It matched perfectly well with everyone I danced with. I made the point to snatch up few photos before everybody disappears onto the dance floor. The place was a zoo and the florescent lighting in the basketball court wasn’t exactly what you would call romantic. The lining of my dress, soaked in sweat, was starting to stick to my legs making it difficult to take larger steps. But the limiting factor was really the crowd. There were some performances of famous dancers but I was just happy to be there with the people I love. Moments like this makes me want to stay here forever. For the first time it started to sink in that Rose was leaving and I soon will leave as well. But tonight, I’m in love and nothing else mattered. I stepped out into the fresh night and decided to save the tears for the plane ride back.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Too much of a good thing

ROSALIND: Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?
Come, sister, you shall be the priest and marry us.
Give me your hand, Orlando. What do you say, sister?

- Shakespeare's As You Like It

While some people think excess may do you harm, I have found that the only way to stop an obsession, at least temporarily, is to do it obsessively. Like Carrie said in Sex and the City, “Sometimes when you get your needs met you don’t need them anymore.” In some ways the same thing applies to obsessions. I like morcillas so I had them all the time when I came back, now I don’t crave it as much as I used to. I loved teaching here so I taught obsessively for a month in January, now I’m looking forward to my last week of classes. I was obsessed about tango on my last trip so I went to the milongas every night, now I go occasionally just to take advantage of being here, the Mecca of Tango. I’m obsessed about Buenos Aires so I extended my stay here hoping to get over the city. So far it is working. I like to live out my obsessions and sometimes it appears as if I get bored of things. But without that I would be too distracted by my current obsessions to develop and live out new ones. There’s a saying in Chinese, don’t fear one that knows many things but take note of the one that is strong in one subject. Perhaps that’s my down fault. Had I focused on one thing whether it’s music or finance I could have been very good at it. But instead, I’m constantly changing and developing new interests.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rumi with my Roomie

Tonight my new roomie Loren invited me to a reopening of a trendy restaurant/club called Rumi just outside of Palermo. This is precisely the kind of place I tried to escape from. Everything in Rumi reminded me of Vegas. Working in a club environment has ruined me for life. Tonight is a proof that no matter how far away I am from the Vegas Strip, a club is just a club and it’s really no longer possible for me to enjoy such things. It didn’t help that I had no friends here. I knew Loren and her friend Ken. Everyone else looked the same. For the first time since I came here I felt sick. Loren smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. She is loud and frankly didn’t give a fuck about anything. I sat quietly by myself for a little while, nodding occasionally to people who were speaking around me. I’m not used to second hand smoking anymore. It gave me a terrible headache and if there is such thing as second hand drinking I’m definitely a hopeless victim. I felt sick to my stomach, the same nauseous feeling I get when I drink. Finally when Ken went out to look at the lunar eclipse I stepped out with him and jump into the first taxi I saw. I had only been there for a little over an hour but it felt like eternality. I wanted to leave as soon as I stepped in but I felt it was more polite to stay. I don’t know why I cared since I know my lack of “party spirit” probably have made Loren a bit uncomfortable. But honestly, I don’t think she cared much once she started drinking. I don’t judge people and sometimes I wish I could be so easily entertained. I haven’t seen everything but I’ve seen enough. Places like this don’t excite me anymore. In order to make small conversation I asked Loren how the dance clubs are out here. She looked at me with such disbelief as if I went to Paris and didn’t see the Eiffel tower. I know they’re everywhere. Just because I don’t go to clubs here doesn’t mean they don’t exist. But I’ll try my best to erase Rumi from my impressions of Buenos Aires.

The Celestial Orange

I might not religious but I am a bit superstitious. I first met Marion the fortune teller with Joe at El Beso around this time last year. It was quite the coincidence to run into her again two weeks ago at Cachirulo. We exchanged phone numbers but I never bothered to call her. When she phoned me two days ago I agreed to stop by her place for a visit, which turned out to be only three blocks away from my new apartment. Inflation obviously has found its way to everything. The $10peso palm reading from last year has gone up five folds to $50pesos. I’m quite annoyed by the fact that Marion only invited me over to support her business but when faced with her overwhelming enthusiasm, I had a hard time saying no even over the telephone! Admittedly I need to work on my refusal skills. It’s not that I don’t believe in such thing as fortune telling, I just don’t think Marion is particularly accurate since last year she had predicted that we will never see each other again.

When I showed up at Marion’s this afternoon, she wasted no time to work out a system where I teach her Chinese lessons in exchange for all sorts of fortune telling stuff like palm reading and tarot cards. I’m really not sure who’s getting the better end of the deal but again, I had a hard time saying no. Next thing I know I signed up for two sessions with Marion for two lessons in Chinese. I’ll just have to think this as a volunteer work like so many other things I do. This is why I don’t ever make any money.

So here is what Marion has to say about me: “You are a very nice and genuine person. You are wise and confident. You like to study and observe people. You will work very hard all your life…etc.” After sitting around for a while I started to make comparisons of what Marion had told me a year ago. Both times she mentioned that I will travel a lot. I guess that’s a safe thing to say to any tourist. After all I had to travel here just to get this palm reading. Concurrent to last reading Marion told me I will always be safe because there is a guardian angel looking after me. However, this time she told me it’s because I was a very good person in my last life time. Maybe I should try to tell that to my parents next time they get worried about me because of my travels. I like how she buttered me up by saying because I analyze and examine everything carefully I will always choose correctly and be in the right places at the right times. Marion even went as far as saying that I am an angel sent from above to help a specific group of people! Little does she know I even have wings on my back! Marion doesn’t know that I also have an economics degree but when I told her she said “But you are an artist at heart.” Gees, that’s not going to help me to get a job in finance.

Of course, no fortune telling is complete without commentaries about love life. Marion told me that I haven’t found him yet but this might be my year. I have an admirer but he’s not the one. She mumbled something about meeting the love of my life this September or October, so mark your calendars and stay in tuned. According to Marion, doesn’t matter where I will be god will put him next to me and when I meet him it’s going to be magic. At first I will travel and see him from time to time. When the time is right he will ask me to marry and stay with him. It will be a compromise. I hate that word mentioned in the same sentence as marriage like some kind of legal arrangement. She also mentioned I will have two children but I have a feeling she remembered that from last time.

If there is anything I got from my session is that I need to stop looking for the middle of the orange. Apparently that’s the Argentine way of saying looking for your better half. Marion said because I’m a whole orange myself I need to look for another whole orange, anything less than that will only drain the life out of me. My god, what a simple concept yet I’ve never thought of it that way. I need to look for someone complete and independent like myself. So if you’re another orange out there call me up in Sept.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Moving

I have the habit of getting attached to everything. It’s hard to believe that I have lived in this apartment for three months. I have hardly lived anywhere for that much time at once last year. I have grown accustomed to the narrow stairs and the comfortable futon. I liked dragging my tired self to pilate classes in the morning only to lay down on the platform before my eyes could be completely adjusted to the bright daylight. I liked the nearby restaurants and Puccini café where Rose and I occasionally met to indulge ourselves with a plate of perfectly toasted little pieces of bread topped with cream cheese and caramel. I get attached to many places, the difference is that I really loved this one and I knew it all along.

Moving is rarely easy but I do it so often now that packing has become one of my pass time hobbies. Fernando showed up with his little Ford at 4 to help me move. Within half an hour I was at a whole new place. I met my other roommate, Loren, for the first time. The fact that she’s another New Yorker somehow made me feel at ease. I never understood what the whole East Coast vs. West Coast thing was about until I lived in Vegas and encountered aliens of another kind from LA. Ever since then I knew I needed to be back on the East Coast. Totally unaware of the fact that I have just moved in, Loren asked, “Where are you staying?” I gave her a puzzled look and answered, “Here”.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sweetbread

Before I could completely digest my dinner from last night, Rose and I are back to Parrilla Pena again for another heavy dose of carne. By now we have become obsessively addicted to mollejas, otherwise known as sweetbread or thymus or pancreas glands. 24 pesos got us the biggest piece of Bife de Chorizo. I don’t know how many ounces that was but it was enough to split between the two of us, and we’re not amateur eaters. The two of us also shared a large mixed salad, a plate of mollejas and two fried empanadas. Throw in another bottle of wine you can truly call it a feast. However, we still haven’t given up the habit of not ordering drinks in restaurants.

After dinner I walked Rose back to her apartment just so I won’t have to pass out on my couch as soon as I get through the door. But when Rose invited me up to checkout her place, I sat down on her chair and never got up until 5 in the morning. We talked the night away and sometimes I laughed until my eyes were teary.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Eating Machine

One of the few things that I noticed from the women’s technique classes I have been taking is that I’m really getting a bit chubbier, especially around the waist! Even though I don’t have a scale here it’s hard to escape the big mirrors at the dance studios. I tried to get couple second opinions but so far no one has been stupid enough to agree with me. Today something shocking happened. While I was walking down Peru to meet up with Andrew in San Telmo to share another plate of Ceviche, I stopped by the Puma store to checkout their colorful shoes. I also came across a pair of nice causal capri pants so I decided to give them a try. At first I grabbed a pair of small but I could barely pull them above my knees. I wasn’t too surprised since sometimes my thighs are a bit big for small. So I exchanged for a medium thinking I shouldn’t have much problem fit into those…WRONG! I forcefully pulled the pants to my waist and had no way of zipping up the zipper. My god, I couldn’t believe it! By this point I was so determined to fit into these pants I immediately went back to look for a size large. And for the first time, I had to leave a store because they didn’t have pants that were big enough for me. All this happened before I even had anything to eat today. Imagine if I went to the store after a night at the parrilla, would I need a pair of extra large! Lately I have been doing some vigorous pilate classes three days a week with Emmanuel but that’s not a way to loose or control weight. Ideally I should alternate that with cardio workouts but I’m not exactly here to loose weight. The low carb diet is obviously not working out for me and I don’t care. I’m going to stuff myself with all the meat, pasta, ice cream and whatever else I can before they shove me onto the plane. I was once known as the lean-mean-eating machine, now I’m the newly improved eating machine version 2.0 with love handles. Oh well, that’s the sacrifice of being in a country that is more obsessed with meat than I am. Some people eat to live; I live to eat. So bring it on, Liren will not be defeated!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Delta

It’s no surprise that I’ve decided to extend my stay here but this afternoon I finally made it official by going to Delta office to cough up $200US and change my return date from Feb. 18th to Mar. 24th. I guess it’s a reasonable price to pay for five more weeks of indulgence. Besides, Visa, is everywhere you want to be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Save the cows, eat a salad

I went back to Parrilla Pena today for lunch. The restaurant was first recommended to me by the apartment owners on my first day here back in November. Even though they couldn’t stop raving about the meats there, I never actually set my foot in the restaurant until last Saturday night with Maria, after that terribly disappointing tango class. Everyone knows that I’m a meat lover and Argentina is THE place for carnivores, yet I have hardly gone to any parrillas on this trip. So far I’ve been perfectly happy to get top quality meat at the supermarket and cook it myself. But really, nothing compares with the Argentine Asado and Parrilla Pena is just the place to go. It’s a very simply and clean yet classy neighborhood restaurant with a slightly higher price tag. As soon as Maria and I sat down the waiter brought us two fried empanadas complementary on the house. I was instantly addicted! These are by far the best empanadas I’ve ever had. My god, had I known they are giving out free food I would have gone there a lot sooner and more often. We split a large salad and each had some very delicious meat cooked to medium. It was very difficult for me to go to the milonga that night because I ate so much. Today instead of getting meat I opted for two fried empanadas and a large mixed salad with eggs. It was a bit shocking for me to only have a salad at a parrilla while everyone is chewing down on a juicy steak. I just never thought I was the kind of girl who orders salad at the steakhouse. Oh, well, it was a good salad and the bill was even better. I’m not sure if they’ve decided to give me a vegetarian discount or it’s customary to give out free food but I’m sure I’ll be back soon.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How I got robbed by a woman name Graciela González

I feel like I have just been robbed by a fat woman name Graciela Gonzalez. You can find her flyers for women’s technique classes everywhere. So after seeing it circulating for a long time I finally decided to give it a try. The seminar took place in El Beso: 4 hours for 80pesos.

Before I insert too many personal comments I will summarize the Seminario de Tecnic y Adornos para Mujeres to my best recollection as objective as possible:

The class started 20 minutes late.

We began with three exercises involving a partner: (1 hour)

  1. Guide your partner around the room holding her hand while she keeps her eyes closed for one song. When the song ends, switch roles. After that there was a ten-minute discussion about trusting your partner.
  2. Do the same exercises with your partner’s eyes closed but this time you’re only to touch different parts of her body without push or pull to direct her to go different directions. One song and switch roles. Ten-minute follow up discussion on nothing.
  3. The third time guide your partner by pulling tightly onto the lower center of her bra and the top of her pants just below the bellybutton. (This was a rather violent demonstration so if you take the class I suggest you stand away from her during this segment to avoid being the victim of her abuse.) And again switch roles at the end followed by a long discussion about the center of gravity.

This brings us to the end of first half: a very lengthy talk about the “water and the lion”. You have to imagine a tube going from your vigina to the bottom of your diaphragm that is filled with water. As the water flows through your body it up lefts your abdomen muscles and opens up your rib cages. The water will also flow under your arms to give you the sensation of standing in a swimming pool with your arms open. The “lion” is the attitude you have when Antonio Banderas walks into the room. What I just said in three sentences took Graciela about 45 minutes, which concluded the first two hours of the workshop.

After a 20 minute break we resumed with the second half for another hour and a half. This is the actual technique part of the workshop.

After each participant placed a chair in front of them, we were told to show her our forward and backward ochos for two songs as she causally chatted with people at the bar. When the music ended she came back and showed us her ochos. Graciela said that you should dance exactly like the way your walk, not with toes sliding on the floor but land with your heels first. The free leg belongs to the men and should not be used to assist pivots. 20 minutes later the students practice for two songs. She came over and corrected me by saying I should never pivot from the hips but to turn my whole body to each direction as I do the ochos. This involves the complete movement of the chest, head and shoulders from side to side. She later demonstrated the same point to the rest of the class. The same procedure followed for back ochos for another half hour.

Graciela then said, “If you have cameras, now it’s time to get them out.” She placed three set of chairs in front of her with another woman keeping her weight on them so they can not be moved easily. The music came on as she flaunted her ornaments by brandishing her fat legs around while supporting herself on the back of the chairs. After the “show” she said nothing about ornaments or showed us how to do them. Graciela simply said, “Ok, now you practice them for two songs.”

The last 15 minutes were spent on giros. Graciela said you should always keep your weight forward and step towards the back of the men. According to Graciela the woman should never collect her feet. If the man wants to change direction that's his problem. She briefly showed us her giros and left us two songs to practice on each other.

So that summits up the whole seminar.

While I’m appalled by some of her principles I was more disgusted with her attitude and the fact that she had just robbed me of 80pesos and 4 hours of my life. I had forgotten to mention that although Graciela speaks a little English there was a translator, so the workshop is really only 2 hours long. What a great way to scam money. This is a total tourist trap. I had a bad feeling about it in the beginning but it was like watching a terrible movie, I kept thinking maybe it will get better. The first half was a complete waste of time. Normally I would have left but 80pesos is a lot to pay for a class. The second half was even more torturous than the first. Although I don’t take many classes nowadays, I have been to a good variety of them in the past including CITA last year. Most classes, especially Nuevo ones talk about disassociation when it comes to turns and pivots. Never in my life have I been instructed to turn my whole body during an ocho. What happened to always facing the man?? What’s up with stepping down heel first rather than sliding with toes on the floor? Do tango people really need more lessons on attitude? Anyways, I could go on forever about this stuff but I’m really not that judgmental. It’s just that I was so frustrated with the workshop that I felt it was my responsibility to warn others of a woman name Graciela Gonzalez. If you like her teaching, take her classes by all means, but if the stuff doesn’t sound right to you stay away. If you are looking for a good woman’s technique class do try Aurora Lubiz at Escuela Argentina de Tango on the top floor of the Galleria Pacifico mall. She currently teaches Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 11 to 12:30, Saturday from 11:30 to 1 and Wednesday evening from 8:30 to 10.


This has been a
public service announcement.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ceviche with Andrew

It’s funny that when I’m home I have to justify the reasons to deviate from the “normal life” but when I’m on the road it’s the opposite problem. Andrew and I discussed a few things over lunch today among one of which was the reason for me to leave Buenos Aires. Travelers can’t comprehend how people could go through the same motions from day to day living a monotonous life just like the others can’t understand how some people could wander around the world without roots or materials things to show for. I’m at a total lost of words when people say things like “I have a family, a house and a career, what do you have?” I’m happy, how much does that count in your value system? But honestly, I’m not completely satisfied here. I’m getting over Buenos Aires. I’m preparing myself for the end of a love affair. It’s not that I’m not in love or the fact that I feel pressured to pursue other materialistic things but I can feel a sense of restlessness growing deep inside of me. For over a year now I have been indulging myself traveling around enjoying things but lately I feel like I’m slowly getting ready for something more, a bigger challenge. I want to develop a career not because I’m obligated to but because I need to extend my potentials. I don’t want to work. I want to really find and do something I’m good at. I’m not completely certain what that is. Maybe it’s like being in love; you know the right one when you find it but until then you can’t quite explain what you are searching for. It’s a bit crazy that I think everything is like being in love. For a while I thought that the sense of hopeless romanticism had been replaced by a more pragmatic and even cynical point of view. It's easy to get jaded in my line of work. But, I’m 24, I can afford to be hopelessly romantic.

Burn Baby Burn

It was Catherine who first turned me to pilates classes with Denis at PilateSol. Ever since the first lesson I’ve been addicted to the sensation of working out while lying flat on a platform with nothing in mind other than breathing. Denis is not only good at mixing up different exercises for each lesson she also spends a good amount of time on stretching. A friendly young man took over Denis’s classes this week because she went on vacation. I like him but I prefer a more demanding class. This morning I finally felt the burn I was looking for with another instructor name Emmanuel. Although I was the only person in class, Emmanuel didn’t speak a word of English. I’m not sure if doesn’t know how to or prefers not to. Don’t get me wrong, he seemed like a very friendly guy but we had absolutely no exchanges other than hola in the beginning and gracias at the end. I didn’t mind since I was only there to workout and workout is what I got. Emmanuel managed to workout every single muscle in my legs and even ones I didn’t realize I had. I was shaking at times, biting my lips to finish the repetitions and thinking, “god, I’m going to feel this tomorrow.” I loved it so much that I immediately signed up for three more classes with Emmanuel for next week.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My new roommate Fernando

Luck is on my side once again. After days of searching on Craigslist I have finally found the perfect roommate: Fernando. He is renting out a room in his new apartment on Av. Santa Fe y Ecuador, a trendy neighborhood in the northern part of the city crowded with fashionable stores and expensive restaurants. I was supposed to go see the apartment at 2:30 but since my noon class at Siemens was cancelled I called Fernando and invited myself over for lunch. The apartment was pleasant with a nice patio. The living room contains a newly-purchased espresso-tainted dinning set, matching coffee table and a modern-looking white-leather sectional. It is simple and clean looking. We chatted a bit and ordered fried merluza and batata pure for delivery. Fernando is 29 and works at a bar 9 blocks away from his apartment. He also works at Theater Colon but as far as I know he’s just on the pay roll. Few things we have in common are: tango, pilate, travel, love for ethnic foods and dislike of noisy environment and smoking. Since we hit it off so well Fernando decided to offer me a great deal on the rent. I’m super excited to move in next Sunday. We’ll be going to go to the milonga and pilate classes together on top of living in the same apartment. We’re going to see so much of each other that Fernando said “I’m going to miss you when I go to Jamaica on March 5th.”

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is the biggest holidays in China and by far my most favorite one since I was a child. I have vivid memories of spending the holiday at my grandparents’ house with lot of relatives cooking and preparing for New Year’s Eve celebration together and enjoying each others company. It has been 12 years since the last time I celebrated Chinese New Year with my family in China. I miss the cheerful atmosphere surrounding the holiday and of course, the delicious food! There are no other holidays like it. No substitutes. I’ve been to Chinatown in NYC for the celebration but it’s not the same without all the relatives I love so much. Since the holiday is traditionally celebrated on New Years Eve I called my mother this morning at my grandparents’ house in ChangSha to wish her a Happy New Year. Everyone was so happy to hear from me and even through the thin wires of the telephone I caught onto some of the holiday spirit. This has been the coldest winter China has ever had in the last 50 years. Many central and southern provinces have suffered electrical and water shortages in the past couple weeks. Despite the difficulties, the celebration continues with major New Year’s Eve shows on the television just like how I remembered them. I miss Chinese New Year with my big family.


FYI:
2008 is known as the Year of the Rat. There are 12 animal names; so by this system, year names are re-cycled every 12 years.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A short encounter on the subte

Everyone knows that the city is notorious for pick-pocketers. It’s almost a miracle that I haven’t lost anything on this trip other than 50pesos couple of weeks ago. Knock on wood. I don’t have a purse here, only a thin nylon bag which I carry on my back. When I go out I ration the amount of things I’m willing to loose at a time, I often hesitate to take my camera and ipod out at the same time. Just in case I get robbed, I’m not ready to part with both things at once. I keep my passport at home and rarely carry more than 100pesos with me at a time. I’m always very alert in public places, paying close attention to my belongings, but things are bound to happen and it did on the subway ride this evening to Abasto. As I stood by the door in the subway I felt a slight movement with my bag that was different from if someone was accidentally bumping into me. I didn’t panic knowing that there hasn’t been enough time for someone to steal anything from me by cutting open my bag. I took my time and turned around casually. And there he was, standing close to me with a jacket hanging over one arm to conceal his actions. I also noticed that there was another man standing next to him with a similar jacket even though it’s 90 degrees out. I didn’t say anything and even if I wanted to I wouldn’t have known what to say in Spanish anyways. For some reason I just stood there and looked at the man in the eyes and occasionally focusing on his partner. I wasn’t angry, upset or scared. I said nothing with my looks other than perhaps a slightest bit of disappointment. Strangely enough, that made the men rather uncomfortable. They shifted their weights while their eyes wondered around the subway cart calculating how many potential victims they had just lost because of my blink stare. For a short instant I thought the whole thing was quite amusing. The men got off the same stop as me but I walked quickly and soon lost them in the crowd. Later I thought to myself, god, can’t they have done a better job? If that’s what you’re going to do for a living, at least be good at it. Spend some time to practice that on each other before you pull that shit out in public. I’ve never stolen anything but I imagine I could have done a better job than those two if I had to.

Practica X: The Usual Suspects



The tourists are back. Tonight I saw many familiar faces at Practica X; people I remembered from last year. Some are back from France, some from Germany and of course the US and Japan. Ian has already made his way back from the freezing Rochester. Chicho, the god of tango, is here once again with Mariana. Lucia Meser was also at the practica but I'm not sure who she's dancing with nowadays. Since my Wednesday morning class was cancelled I danced non-stop until the ultimo song. It's great to dance with Andrew occasionally on Tuesday nights. He has been taking many classes around town and is always enthusiastic to try new things with me. We always have a wonderful time dancing together and playing with the music. I also danced many songs with Andres, a friendly guy from Switzerland, who’s always sipping on a big bottle of Quilmes. Although we might not have been the best match, we have great time laughing at our mishaps. It’s fun dancing at Practica X because it gives me an opportunity to balance off the more traditional milongero style at Maipu.

Update

Hi Petar

How are you? I have been here since Friday and so far it has been great! I've gone to lots of milongas already and danced until 6 in the morning. The empanadas and parrillas are wonderful. People are very friendly even though I don't speak any Spanish. It's very hot here. I have to drink water constantly and take bunch of showers throughout the day. I don't have AC in my room and most milongas are also very hot. I met two people from Honolulu at the first milonga I went to so we've been hanging out these few days. I heard it has been very cold in Rochester, guess I should complain about the heat here.

Sending you a picture of street performers in San Telmo, an older part of the city.
Also Palacio del Congreso, where all 72 senate desks in there have direct calls to the cafeteria! I guess they really take their food seriously here.

ciao

Monday, February 4, 2008

Is the Honeymoon Over Yet?

Lately I have started to wonder if the honeymoon is finally coming to an end. It’s true that I don’t want to be the last one to leave the party but I also feel like I have to live out this fantasy in order to move on, otherwise this will always be a distraction. Buenos Aires has become the drug of my choice, a bad habit. This is the opportunity for me to cleanse it out of my system once and for all. When I go back to Vegas it’s going to be like a rehab, cold turkey. I’ll miss walking under the purple flowers and coming home from the milonga at 3am full of exhaustion, but I don’t want to come back again, at least not any time soon. When I get on the plane in EZE it’s going to be the last in a long time. The world is a big place, there are many other things waiting for me to discover. I know my sense of reality might be a bit scud but I also know that I can’t put my life on hold here forever. This is not sustainable, nothing really is, even misfortunes in life are temporary. I can’t always have BA and BA can’t always have me. Borges mentioned in one of his stories that “eternality is a word man should never speak of.” I don’t want to take things for granted. Everyday I remind myself to enjoy everything to the fullest.

Things I've Learned

Over the past month I have become aware of the fact that I have learned more things from my students than I’ve ever taught them. Although my Spanish haven’t improved much I have acquired a few new terms. For example, a person who does everything around the house is referred to as “Maria”; the Boca fans are known as “Number 12” since there are 11 players on the field; a gaucho calls his wife “mi china” as a term of endearment whereas I the city people use terms like “gorda or gordo”; government workers who only shows up one day a month to collect pay without working are “noquis” because it’s a custom here to have noquis on the 29th of every month. Of course, more than that I’ve learned a few things about myself.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Movie and Chinatown


Another beautiful Sunday afternoon. The weather is by far too gorgeous to sit in a movie theater but since I’ve made plans already I had to live up to it. Besides I’ve always wanted to watch movies here. Although I went to see “Devil Miss Jones” at MALBA few weeks back on a Thursday night, it couldn’t possibly have counted as a movie. If you’ve never heard of it I’m sure you can find plenty of information online. Despite the recent trends, I still don’t approve of reviving old pornos as art films. Many things change over the years but people are still having sex the same way as the Romans did. Thankfully the movie for today is a bit more tasteful. The Legend of the Yellow Dog is a movie made in Mongolia with Spanish subtitle. For an hour and forty-five minutes we watched the daily life of a real family in Mongolia with no plot development and very little dialogue. I guess it was the perfect movie to see in two languages I didn’t understand.

Afterwards we hopped onto the 29 to catch the end of the New Year’s celebrations in Belgrano. Chinatown was completely packed just like I remembered last year. I made a quick walk down the street to pick up some tofu for next week and got a spring roll from one of the food stands. This Thursday will be my second consecutive Chinese New Year in Buenos Aires.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Where All the Chinese People are

Saturday nights are dedicated to Maipu and tonight is no different. Somehow there were fewer people around but the usual suspects are here. I danced with the old man and the guy in the white shirt. Marisa is here again wearing a purple outfit with matching shoes. Although she has one of the most beautiful footwork when it comes to dancing I can’t help but to notice that she’s incredibly rigid everywhere else. This is especially apparent when she dances salsa. Sometimes she moves around like a little robot adding tango ornaments to salsa. It made sense when someone finally told me that she used to be a ballet dancer at Theater Colon. All those years of standing upright has made it hard for her to loosen up. It reminds me of a story about my aunt. When my mother was younger she acted as the head of the household when my grandparents were absent. Being very strong willed and a bit bossy, mother got her early years of parenting experiences through my aunts and uncle. While growing up she shared the same bed with my third aunt, who was told that it’s better to sleep on one’s back. As a result, my aunt can’t sleep on her side even until this day.

Even though the milonga seemed a bit less crowded than usual, one thing it didn’t lack of was Chinese people, all 8 of us! I’ve never seen so many Chinese people at a milonga other than the one I went to in Hong Kong. Most Asian tourists here, like everywhere else, are from Japan. More ironically, two of the people I’ve seen frequently at Maipu also look like my cousins. Half way through the milonga I noticed a woman with short hair and dark blue eye shadow. I stopped by her table and asked if she was from Hong Kong. She nodded her head so I asked the next stupid questions, “do you speak Chinese?” I know how absurd it is to ask a Chinese person if she speaks Chinese, but it happens with all of us like a natural reflex. Very often after two Chinese people make those exchanges they continue speaking to each other in English. So in order to make my questions less stupid I made a point to say the next sentence in Chinese only to switch back to English since we didn’t speak the same dialogue. I recognized her from browsing though Hong Kong tango websites a year ago. It turned out that her name is Sunshine and she is there with her daughter, who is going to stay here for six months. Sunshine asked for my contact information for her daughter in case she needs help with anything.

Later during the night I danced with a Chinese guy from Hong Kong who lives in Australia, making him the first foreigner I’ve never danced with in Maipu. By 2:30 most people had left other than the real fanatics. Hector, the organizer of the milonga, seemed to be in particular good mood tonight and was dancing with few of the regulars at the club. I kissed him and Norma goodbye and walked home in the cool breeze. Even after sleeping all day I was exhausted.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Too good to be true

It has been a good week for me. The workshop kept me very busy. I spent most of my free time researching and putting together material for my classes. I’m happy with my work.

This morning I finally exchanged my last 50Euros, which took all of 15 minutes of work. After walking around with an empty wallet all week, $232pesos is more than enough to tie me over until I get my pay check next week. Ironically that’s about the same amount as I made from the 3-day workshop which I spent all week preparing. But I guess we’re comparing apples and oranges here.

The class with Juliana from Deloitte was pleasant as usual. We worked on a news article about the US government’s Stimulus Plan to jump start the economy. I sure look forward to get my $300 refund when I come back.

The last day of the workshop was a little disappointing because very few people showed up. I spent all of yesterday and this morning working on my PowerPoint slides and researching topics for group presentations. I had organized three sets of different articles and statistics on federal funds rate, housing price and US war spending for each group to do their own presentations. I left the apartment in a very good mood with the feeling like I could do anything in the world. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect: 80 degrees, sunny with light breeze. As I listened to the soundtrack to Amelie I thought life is too good to be true. How can I stop, I haven’t seen Paris yet.

I celebrated the end of the workshop with a dinner at Plaza Mayor, a Spanish restaurant that caters to well-to-do tourists and locals. The menu comes in the shape of a fan and there are coat-of-arms from various cities in Spain. We had shrimps in garlic oil, fried baby calamari and merluza stew with potatoes. The food was good enough to justify the inflated price and the décor really made me miss Spain. I guess we always want what we don’t have.