off we go!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Teacher's Day ´09... still lovin' the gratuitous gifts

Last year I celebrated Teacher's Day at Hogwarts with dinner out with my boss and Anto, the secretary. This year, despite the fact that there were THREE new teachers horning in on my territory, my boss took us all out to eat! I was FORCED to split a bottle of wine with the vodka-lovin', heavy drinkin' British prof since all the native Argentines chose to abstain (don't worry, your girl did not make a spectacle of herself... well, aside from eating 2 giant pieces of cake, but I would have done that without the wine). We talked a little about our students and got to know each other better, and it reminded me how much it helps to realize that other people are in the same boat. I even started to feel affection for the 22-year-old Argentinian Scarlett Johannson lookalike teacher who always seems to rub it in my face that my students are farther behind than hers.
And of course, the gifts:
A potted plant (second year in a row)
Purple body spray
An awesome pink ballpoint pen
A box with candy and an inspirational poem from my boss
Earrings from my other bosses
A little necklace
A hand towel
My adult students did not give me anything. However, they have already informed me that they expect a dessert and/or song for this Monday, Student's Day. Ingrates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bolivia Part One: Villazon!

For winter vacations 2009, I went to BOLIVIA! First I was going to go with a friend from the murga who didn't have much of a budget, the plan being to juggle and sell jewelry at stoplights in La Paz to fund the trip (this plan obviously preceded by me learning how to juggle and make jewelry in a month). Then he couldn't and I was going to go alone, which was both scary and exciting. In the end, I ended up going with these chumps:
Their names are Mati and Facu, and they are two relatively new but wonderful friends from Cordoba. In this photo, taken at our first stop in Bolivia, the border town of Villazon, neither is at their best. Mati is pale from vomiting up all of his bus meal due to the altitude, and Facu is chewing gum to try to distract himself from the cigarrettes he had forbidden himself to smoke during the trip.In the background you can see a bit of the plaza of Villazon, which bore a strking resemblance to Fred Flintstone's workplace. Villazon wasn't all bad, it had this gorgeous mural by the train station:

and, as with many border towns, a ridiculous amount of cheap items from sweaters and puppets to kitchenware, which explains the presence of a ton of Argentinians with giant shopping bags. However, much, much better was yet to come- and thank goodness, since I, as a US citizen, had to pay a 135 dollar visa to enter the dang country. I tried to talk to Evo, but he didn't budge.
After all, I suppose it's a matter of international reciprocity, and since it can't be very easy for a Bolivian, even a Bolivian with 135 dollars to spare, to get into the US, I can't really complain. And boy was it worth it! Here we are enjoying our first Bolivian meal, french fries for me and french fries + meat for Facu (it wasn't exactly the lunch hour). Mati, too queasy to eat, was kind enough to take the photo.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Proud to be an (North non-Canadian non-Mexican) American!

Since Hogwarts didn't have a 4th of July barbecue this year, I took it upon myself to invite some friends over for choripan (sausage and bread sandwiches, a cheaper alternative to asado), apple pie and honoring of the Best Country on Earth. A good portion of guests came in red white and blue as firmly suggested/ordered, with the exception of my rebellious, democracy-shunning friend Cristian, who paid tribute to Russia and communism with his outfit:
Due to the fact that I was the only true blue A-muhr-icun present, I was forced to change my toast from, "To the health and continuing domination of the supreme, most important country in the universe, EVER" to "to friendship and sharing between cultures." Whatevs, the pie was a hit!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Election day!

Sunday, June 28th marked two important occasions: international gay pride day and elections! The first passed by without a peep; since, unfortunately, the Cordoba gay scene is super underground and it is highly uncommon to see a same-sex couple walking together on the street, a march is out of the question. The elections, however, were impossible to ignore. For the past month or so the streets have been papered with these handsome faces:

The first, Luis Juez, former mayor of Cordoba and primary guilty party for the mess at city hall mentioned in the previous post (he was the one that gave all his friends and family lifetime jobs and ridiculous perks there), ended up winning the senate race. The second, Eduardo Mondino, lost. He did, however, achieve immortality with an incredibly catchy campaign song that is sung at least once a day in my house.
The vote here is obligatory, which meant that Sunday buses were running free to nearby towns for all the people that had to go vote. It also meant that the sale of alchohol was prohibited starting at 6 pm the night before, in a savvy move to avoid that familiar election day concern, hangover voting ("let's see, I think I want the United Leftist Front party...oooh, my head hurts... oops, I voted for Juez!")
The elections were a big topic of conversation for the last couple of weeks (now supplanted by swine flu), and it was pretty interesting to hear people's attitudes towards voting. Most of my friends made the trek to the "cuarto oscuro" (the dark room, or voting booth), a few mentioning the need to vote in order to maintain a democratic system that is relatively new (the last military dictatorship ended only 26 years ago). A few others said they weren't going to vote, risking a fine, because they were disillusioned with politics.Well hey, it's hard not to be when you see a video of the debate between Juez and Mondino, in which both (during a commercial break that was recorded regardless) accuse each other of being criminals and con men, and neither denies the accusation. Yikes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pay in coins, get some fish sticks

So recently my Aunt Anne (another faithful reader) asked if in Cordoba we were also having a coin shortage like the one in Buenos Aires, mentioned in a New Yorker article.
The answer is yes! Almost everyday I am either told the vegetable guy owes me 15 cents for the next time, or the photocopy lady lets me get a few copies and pay back the 20 cents another time if I only have a 2 peso bill. Having a hundred (and I'm paid in 100s) can be like having nothing if you don't want to make a grocery store trip, cause most people would rather lose the business than part with their small bills. Granted, my "business" is usually a peso worth of candy, so it's an understandable decision. Today was the best though: I bought some spinach and cheese patties (just had one for lunch, EXCELLENT) for 7.50 and gave the guy a ten and two peso coins. To show his gratitude for the coins, not only did he give me back a 5 (thus only charging 7) but also threw in two calamari and cheese sticks. Awesome!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fight! For the Right!

So, when faithful blog follower Joanie Howland asked why I hadn't written in a while, I told her that basically, although I am having lots of fun in Cordoba, it's fun of a very routine, ordinary variety and not very blog-worthy. However, there are a few things about my life in Cordoba that, although common, are still pretty interesting: protests! Here's a rundown of some of the recent incidents of civil unrest I have participated in, performed at or been inconvenienced by:

1. Festival of Solidarity for Iveco, April 24th, 2009. Iveco is a car parts company where many of the workers were fired in a supposed violation of their labor contract, and thus the entire body of workers went on strike. As is often the case, I was (and am) not completely clear on the details of the conflict: I know there are more than two sides to every story and some people tell it that the firings were a necessary, legal step to combat this oft-mentioned economic crisis we're all going through. I'm not sure, but I do know that the festival was in support of normal, working people who are currently unable to support their families, and if dancing with the murga made them feel even a little bit better, it's got to be worth something!

2. March for the 40th Anniversary of the Cordobazo, May 29th, 2009. The Cordobazo (on this same date in 1969) is the name for a giant, 36 hour strike of union workers and students in opposition to the dictatorship of Ongania and the limits said dictatorship was putting on the rights of students and workers. It turned into an armed conflict between the protestors and the police, tons of property was destroyed, hundreds of protestors arrested and twenty were killed. The spirit of the march, as far as I could tell, was in memory of the fallen, but also a call to repeat the Cordobazo; not so much the violence, but union of students and workers in a common cause, something that is sadly missing today, as evidenced by the 4, count'em, FOUR, different marches to commemorate the event.

3. City hall and bus driver strikes, Friday, June 12-? The city hall workers have been striking since Friday, in protest of a proposal to cut their salaries and limit their benefits. Here's a pic from the Argentine indymedia website (Giacomino, mentioned in the poster, is the mayor who wants to make the cuts): As a result,choripan (sausage sandwiches) stands have popped up everywhere (here's a nice shot of a typical choripan vendor): their owners taking advantage of the lack of regulation, and things are generally a mess. Meanwhile, from Friday to midday Saturday all the buses of the province were on strike for a salary increase, impeding people from traveling for the long weekend and, more importantly, getting to work. The incredibly frustrating part of it all is that these two groups represent two of the most well-paid sectors of Cordoba, with salaries higher than teachers, accountants, and even doctors, to name a few. Even more frustrating, who does the bus strike inconvenience more than anyone? The little guy, of course. People with money have cars or can take taxis, but the less economically fortunate folks have no way to get to their jobs, where they are undoubtedly paid less than the bus drivers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cerro Colorado!

Because of a ton of work (Hogwarts with the kids, Precision here in Cordoba with businesspeople) I haven't had a lot of time to keep you guys updated on my life: which isn't a huge problem because recently I haven't had that much of a life beyond classes (though I'm certainly trying!) So now, better late than never, are some pics from my Easter trip to the Cerro Colorado (about three hours north of Cordoba) with Vicky and Vappu. Cerro Colorado, for me, is the best of both worlds, because you are totally in the middle of nature, but you also have a little town with excellent West Texas style architecture. Here's the church:And here's Vicky enjoying nature with some te-re-re (mate with orange juice instead of hot water):

And there was plenty of beautiful wildlife, both large:
and small:

We ate well: noodles, rice and tuna and other delicacies:
And at night, we hit the most hoppin' bar in town (and the only bar in town), Hugo Mario, to play pool, mingle with the families of Cerro Colorado, and even chat with Hugo Mario himself!Here I am pretending to know what I'm doing:

And here are the girls outside of Hugo Maria doing their impression of me sleeping on the bus:

On Easter Sunday, Vicky and I climbed the actual Cerro Colorado:

It was beautiful up there, and the view was awesome (if a little vertigo-inducing):
And on Sunday evening, we had beer and salami sandwiches for the road and then headed back to the hustle and bustle of Cordoba!