Monday, December 27, 2010

My latest News Story On

 So I wrote this piece about the conviction of the former military dictator of Argentina, on charges of crimes against humanity committed during Argentina's so called "Dirty War" from 1976 -1983. The Military sought to eliminate leftist (Socialism and Communist) movements and those who supported them. While these two factions fought it out, eventually the Military became to target not just active leftist militants, but also any and all that were deemed "subversive". Over the course of only  years, nearly 30,000 people "Disappeared" never to be seen again.

Read the article I wrote here and you will get some more information about this terrible chapter in Argentine history:

Here is another article that briefly covers the topic of the "Dirty War"

For an extensive history you read here at Wikipedia:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tango At La Catedral...

Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Tango. And it has been said that Tango is the soul of the city, the blues is to Chicago, and Jazz to New Orleans. But here the connection between the music, and the very substance of the city runs deeper than I believe any other place on Earth.  Only here do you find pictures of long dead Tango singers still plastered on alley walls. Only here do you see Tee shirts, key-chains, and every sort of touristic good, covered in a line from a 90 year old song...(See above Quote)

It only fitting then, that as part of my life here, that I should try my hand at Tango. And given that my friend Max was here, and I wanted to do something a little out of the normal drudgery of daily life, we decided that this would be a good time to return to a cherished little stop that all holds a fond place in our collective memory; La Catedral.

This is not my first visit to this lovely hole in the wall. Way back when our dearly departed friend James (Departed from BA, not from the world of the living...) was the master of all things late night in BsAs, he had taken us to this hidden sanctuary after the meeting one night. James if nothing else, had a one of a kind ability, a gift rather, to talk with the locals, and learn from them about where to find the best hole in the wall bars, the little nooks that held the best restaurants in town. The knowledge of this site's existence, I believe to be among the finest of his many his finest acquisitions.

This was just such a place, that would require you to defeat that classic Catch-22 to find it; you will only find it if you already have been there, and you will never be there if you cant find it...Located on an obscure street in the middle of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of down town, and far from the glitz and glamor of Palermo Hollywood/SoHo, this is not where you would expect to find such a gem as this. When you walk up to the door, all you are greeted with is a normal inconspicuous looking door, and then upon entry, you are similarly unsurprised when you see a simple folding table with a equally inconspicuous looking man sitting there. You give him the 20 Pesos for the lesson ($5 US), you then receive a ticket and off you a yet again simple staircase that leads up to the unknown. After passing through what seems like a labyrinth of hallways filled with unassuming discarded pieces of everyday finally enter through a door to find yourself underneath what at first appears to be a enclosure...only after you walk around it do you realize that it is a enormous stage, nearly 50 feet by 20 feet.

Then raising your eye upwards, you begin examine your new surroundings and you start piecing things together. You ave found yourself in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse/factory, that has been converted into a dance hall(if you thought this, you would be correct). With a large bar at one end, a large dance floor area in the center, that is flanked on all sides by random couches, tables, chairs, and other assorted furniture sourced from what one would imagine was some kind of Argentine garage sale. The rustic, and almost down and dirty poor surface here, fits perfectly with the roots of Tango, which emerged from the slums, and working classes in late 19th century BA...When you are in La Catedral you almost get the feeling what it must have been like for these poor beaten, battered and bruised souls, who only found refuge in dance. 

Our Experience

Me and Max arrived early (very Taboo in Argentina...oh well) and took in the scenery while we waited for the girls. Like any forward thinking, intellectual guy, I made sure we had 4 girls to me and Max...(always have more girls than guys...Duh)

After talking with the young lady who would be our instructor for the evening, we were pleasantly rewarded for our wait, when our lady friends arrived. As the class began, we were given a brief into to Tango 101 by our teacher. After explaining the origins, and the moody, "wine flavored" nature of the dance, we were giving our first, and according to our teacher, most important lesson in Tango...How to walk with style. After walking around in circles for a while, learning to drag our feet with class, and eloquence, we finally were allowed to couple up, and try the moves for ourselves.

Now when it comes to Tango coupling, there is one thing that is quite important to remember. (I got so much flack for this statement before from my Argentine friends, I felt so vindicated when I hear our teacher say these words...) Our teacher explained to us, that this dance is all about improvisation. More than any other dance that I have learned, the Tango has a deeper connection with its accompanying music. As such, each individual Tango (Dance) must be crafted to suit the specific song that is being played at that very moment. From the abrupt twists and turns of the flowing emotion carried forth by the Banoneón, to the strikingly personal lyrics that often cut to the very soul, the dance mirrors the music in every way.

After our brief, but helpful lesson, we were more or less left to our own devices as the rest of the evening unfolded. With a growing crowd for the for the second "intermediate" lesson at 10, we decided to hang out a bit and enjoy the scenery, and each others company. One of my favorite things about this place is that you get a feeling of being free to dance, or to simply lounge with your friends on the comfy sidelines. You feel no pressure at all to have to dance, but should you choose to do so, you will not in the slightest bit feel out of place, or that all of the attention is focused on you as if you were in the spot light. (even though there is a huge spot light in the middle of the dance floor...)

So after we had a few beers, and a couple of freshly made Empanadas...we had a few more turns at the dance floor before clocking out at a "reasonable Tango Hour".

After reviewing my previous comments, all I can say about my experience here at La Catedral, is that words do it no justice, pictures only show half truths, and my ramblings of good times gone by, will only serve to create in you a desire to visit this enchanting place yourself. But I predict that you will go there with a certain unrealistic expectation, and find not something that is lower than you had imagined, but a place so charming and so engaging, that it exceeds the highest preconceived notice you could possibly entertain.

Notes To Readers:
La Catedral is located at Sarmiento 4006
10 Pesos just to dance, 20 Pesos for lesson and dancing
Beer is cheap about 15 Pesos for a liter, and Empanadas are about 3.50 Arg each.

Classes run every night at 8PM and 10PM, but Tuesday night is the standout night.

Jess and Gilda drowning in the blackness...

Me and Abby "Tearing it up" least that how well we thought we danced...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Getting To Play The Tourist...For Real

Walls, Windows, & Doors I
On Thursday, Me and Max decided to jump on a boat and sail off into the unknown...Uruguay! Max having been here for about 10 days already, was looking to do something different, and I was looking to renew my visa for Argentina (Since I am not working for an Argentine company, I simply have a tourist visa that is good for 3 months at a time, at which point I need to exit the country and come back to get it renewed).

Max's Classic Ford Ad
So we bought two tickets on Buquebus to Colonia del Sacramento. This town which is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site has a long and complex history that has lead to it being among the most finely persevered 16th century colonial architecture in the world.

During our day trip I finally got the chance to try out my brand new SLR Camera (brand new to me anyways...thank you eBay). I took over 650 pictures, I edited them down to about 50 that I deem acceptable to show to the public. Please make sure to comment on them, as I am dying to hear feedback about them. I will embed a few here for a tasting. But if you want to view all of them (and I know you do...) you can view them on my Picasa account:

Classic Ford Ad I

Wall & Flowers I

Wall & Flowers II

Walls, Windows, & Doors II

Streetlight Serenader

Lost In Thought

Walls, Windows, & Doors III

For those of you interested in the detailed history of the city...

Colonia del Sacramento (formerly the Portuguese Colónia do Sacramento) is a city in southwestern Uruguay, by the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is the oldest town in Uruguay and capital of the departamento of Colonia. It had a population of 21,714 according to the 2004 census.

It is renowned for its historic quarter, a World Heritage Site. Modern Colonia del Sacramento produces textiles and has a free trade zone, in addition to a polytechnic center and various government buildings.

Founded in 1680 by Portugal as Colónia do Sacramento, the colony was later disputed by the Spanish who settled on the opposite bank of the river at Buenos Aires. The colony was conquered by José de Garro in 1680, but returned to Portugal the next year. It was conquered again by the Spanish in March 1705 after a siege of five months, but given back in the Treaty of Utrecht. Another attack during the Spanish-Portuguese War, 1735-1737, failed.

It kept changing hands from crown to crown due to treaties such as the Treaty of Madrid in 1750 and the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1777, until it remained with the Spanish. It then transferred to Portuguese control again, being later incorporated in Brazil after 1816, when the entire Banda Oriental (Uruguay) was seized by the government of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves and renamed the Cisplatina province.

Now part of the independent country of Uruguay, Colonia del Sacramento has expanded to the north and east, but the original Barrio Histórico (historic quarter) retains its irregular, terrain-fitting street plan built by the Portuguese, contrasting with the wider, orthogonal calles in the newer Spanish area.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Romanians Bearing Gifts, & El Kwik-E-Mart

So last week my first visitor of this "Tour of Duty" in Argentina came to visit me. Along with his pleasant person, my dear friend Max, also brought along with him a large cache of goods for me. I had asked that he bring me my SLR Camera, (Not Pictured) along with a bottle of Scotch from the duty free and my favorite pair of boots.

To my surprise, he showed up with far more than I asked for. Turns out that when packing he decided he needed more stuff in his bags so that he would not have things bouncing around in their during the flight and during the excellent handling that airport staff are always known for, so he thought to bring a few more things for me. As you can see in this picture, it lead to quite a large amount of goods being brought for little ol' me.

I will be posting some separate posts about our adventures over his 12 day stay here in BA, over the next week. Stay turned for interesting stories and pictures from La Boca, Colonia, Uruguay, and more...

Large Johnny Walker (Red), 15 year Glenlivet, 7 boxes of gum (63 packs in all), 6 jars of peanut butter, 30 bags of trail mix, one large jar of mixed nuts, about 5 pounds of chocolate covered almonds, and 9 cans of peaches (I dont know where the idea for this came from). Not Shown: One box of frosted miniwheats, one SLR Camera, 3 Lenses, and other assorted accessories, One pair of very LARGE Boots, and 3 rolls of toilet paper (I guess his mom thought I didn't have any here...
This is the little shelf by the door I call El Kwik-E-Mart . Gum, Trail Mix, or Water  anyone? Thank you, come again!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dominick Learning Spanish Part I - How My Study Time Quadrupled In One Night

Hello everybody,

So this is the first, in what I hope will be an interesting series here on my blog. While not my main reason for being here, one of my many objectives is to learn Spanish. As any of you who have learned another language know, this is a long and arduous journey. Full of many ups and downs, skirmishes and battles, victories and defeats. But above all else, deeply satisfying, and humorous to look back on. Therefore i hope you enjoy this series...

I dedicate this particular chapter to Amanda Wozny. For all of those times you told me how it takes you 3 hours to study your Watchtower, and then I made fun of you...and tried to get you do to it faster so you could come to soccer...

Part I - How My Study Time Quadrupled In One Night

So a few days ago I decided that despite believing that I was trying hard to learn Spanish while living here, I wasnt making enough progress. So I decided to up my game one step at a time and see how it goes.

When i first came here, I was so overloaded with things, that to save space i left out whatever I thought I would be able to get here. In my mind it all seemed so right..." Its an English hall, they will have all of the books in English there for me. So I dont need to bring my "Follower" book, I will just get one there". Now this completely ignores everything I had previously experienced here with regard to procuring literature. So needless to say, for the last 2 months, I have been using someone else's English book, while they used their Spanish one. (Thanks Abby)

Since I was so sick and tired of waiting for new books to get shipped to us (From Brazil), I decided to go and get a book in Spanish, and that from now on, I was going to study for the Congregation Bible Study in Spanish. I figured this would give me the chance to learn some new words, and force me to spend time each day studying.

So tonight was my first night of studying in Spanish. And to be honest I really thought it was going to go a lot faster than it did. I seem to remember that when I had a Spanish Watchtower back home that i understood a lot of it. And so it goes, that I do understand a good deal of written Spanish. But that doesnt mean that I understand all of it.

My first delay came almost right away, when after about 10 min of frustratingly trying to find the LL section in the only Spanish dictionary I have in my apartment, I became so upset that I threw the stupid book across the room, and resolved to try this another night. Only once it hit the floor and closed, did i notice that this "Stupid" dictionary that was lacking a whole letter, was a English to Portuguese dictionary (Left over from my trip to Brazil).

After resigning to myself that "at least no one saw that" I got my computer and started using an online dictionary (funny how wrong that thought was, it took almost no time at all for me to start writing this post). Now here comes the part that was quite humbling. I managed to get through only 6 paragraphs,  in about 2 hours and 15 min! So now feeling a lot less sure of myself, but strangely enough, feeling more confidant that I can learn this language, I decided that it was best to call it a night.

It is amazing how when you have to study in another language, it makes you understand the material so much better. Because it forces you to focus harder, and take your time covering the material. Now I am not saying that from now on all I am going to do is study in Spanish, but I think I learned my lesson. And have gained a valuable determination to redouble my efforts to learn this language.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Proof That Our English Group Works

It seems like the last few posts I have done, have been lacking in Spiritual content. As that is the main reason I am here, I figured that it was about time to have a nice spiritual update from Argentina.

This last weekend we had our Circuit assembly here in Buenos Aires Circuit 1A. Here is the breakdown...

Pioneer Meeting = Lots of Funny Spanish Words & Cake!

So this friday began the weekend, with the meeting for regular pioneers. A great experience as always to get this special meeting with the Circuit and District overseer. We had exactly 100 pioneers at the meeting. Here are a few pictures and videos to show you what the hall was like.

Translation: Stay off the Lord's Grass!
Reality: Not so much grass...

Why dont we get Cake at our pioneer meetings in IL 15?

My notes from the Pioneer meeting. For those of you who speak Spanish you will find this funny....

Once i lost a speaker, I would start working on this list...

I Will Never Think Its A Hassle To Go To Romoville again…
Saturday & Sunday both started at 5:50 AM for me. 5:50 AM! You might be wondering (If your not wondering about the stupid happenings of my life, then perhaps you are on the wrong blog!) why I got up so early just to get to something that starts at 9:30. Well the answer lies in just what it takes to get to the assembly here. 

"El Jefe" brother Daniel giving a talk, along with Seba & Lionel doing a demo. 
The assembly hall is far outside of the city here, in a place called Cañuelas which is in the province about 1 and a half hours bus ride from Downtown. For most of us in the city here, public transportation is the only way we have of getting around, since we don't have cars (An American from the Suburbs without a car…I know right). Normally this is not a problem with all of the countless buses and the subway. However since the assembly hall is in the middle of nowhere, (Think DeKalb but by bus from the city) there is no public transportation to get there. The solution to this is that the various congregations charter buses for use by the brothers to get there. Our bus left at 7:00 am about 15 blocks from my house. The bus is unforgiving about leaving without people (The one instance in this country where being on time matters). Therefore, to be on time, I needed to leave my place at 6:40, add to that getting dressed, and making pasta salad for 15 people (We all pack things to share with everyone in the group) you arrive at me waking up at 5:50 just to get there by 8:45. 

Daniel Giving His Talk - This was one of only a few talks, where I understood almost everything he said. Thank you Daniel.

Best lines that came to mind:

1. Bigger people need...smaller amounts of juice?
2. It take a real woman to take down a whole liter of Orange Juice by herself.
3. This size is the biggest I could afford :(
The Assembly itself as is always the case was a delight. Even though my Spanish skills still leave something to be desired, it is always nice to be a such a large gathering of Brother and Sisters. Once again, the brothers for some reasons had enough faith in me, to make me an Acomodador (Attendant) along with the rest of the brothers from the group. Our job was basically to watch the two doors of the offices of the Superintendente (Circuit Overseer) and el presidente de la asamblea (Assembly Overseer) who happens to be our own brother Daniel (aka El Jefe "The Chief"). We joked all assembly that our only job was to take a bullet for Daniel should someone try to assassinate him...we never could think of any reason why someone would want to kill him though...

Go Ben Go!
But without a doubt, the highlight of the assembly came on Saturday, when our newest brother Bernard (Ben) got baptized. A native African, he is the first bible study to get baptized in the English group. Almost 6 years (I think) of being a group and now we have our first real success from the field. He even got a special nod during the "Needs of the Circuit" part when the circuit overseer speaking about the great growth in the foreign language fields,  mentioned him being the first African (and therefore Native English speaker) to get baptized, eliciting a loud applause from the entire 1,100 in attendance. After we congratulated him, the way Jehovah's Organization does, we patted him on the back, said "Great Job" and then sent him off to work watching the doors for us while we all ate lunch. Once you dipped, its straight to work! Just the way it should be.

In between diving in front of gunman's bullets for Daniel, and trying to figure out what was being said on stage, we all enjoyed our time together. Lunch outside tailgating with a few of the people who have cars, and then sleeping on the bus ride home. As always a day in Jehovah's house is better than 1000 spent elsewhere. I hope you enjoyed hearing about our good times here. 

Tailgating for lunch at the assembly

Why can't we do this in the States again?

Gilda, Abby, & Suzanne - Que Linda! 

I think this guy had it figured all out...He was the only one with the guts to do what we all wanted to do

Bret & Ryan jiving about life...

1. Thats some good Mate!
2. Taking a hit off the Mate during lunch.
3. Nothing like passing "The Herbs" around at the assembly

1. Its just so hard sometimes
2. At least he was awake during his part on stage earlier.

Me and Jess

Ryan & Jess

I swear she is a happy person despite what this picture seems to convey. 

My turn with "The Herbs"
*Mate: the green stuff in the cup is called Yerba or Herbs hence the joke...

Interesting facts about the Assembly:

Apparently Argentina is ahead of the IL when it comes to getting spiritual programs. This weekend was the brand new Assembly, "No Part Of The World". This is the first staging of it in the whole country, and among the first in the world, as this is the assembly for the 2010-2011 service year (If i am correct the one back home should be sometime around March or April).

What am I doing here?

This was only Half of the circuit, part A. The rest of the circuit, part B is made up of around 7 Quechua language (The indigenous language of the Mayan peoples from Peru, Bolivia, etc…) congregations.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dead Presidents

Have you ever wondered what its like living in a nation's capital when a national icon dies? Well I found out last week when the former president of Argentina, and current First Gentleman (husband of current President Cristina Kirchner) Nestor Kirchner, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 60.

It is simply amazing how fast people will change their opinions of a man, after he dies. While not being George Bush, this man had plenty of people who did not like him. And his current wife, in her role as president has an even larger set of detractors than he did. However these two are kind of viewed as a package deal. He was her main adviser, and they were planning to switch back and forth as president each election. With him slated to run again next year.

Either way those plans now are not possible. In the week since he died, the country has pulled together to mourn him. Within hours, the Peronista machine (Followers of Peron...Evita's Husband) has already placed posters glorifying the dead president all of the city. Political graffiti baring his name appeared almost instantly across the entire city. As you can see from these pictures and the video, people gathered in large numbers for the chance to see the president laying in state at the Casa Rosada the presidential palace in the heart of the city, despite the rain and cold weather.

Its a shame that i didn't take out my camera when i first walked through this plaza early in the morning when it was filled. I managed to take a few shots later after i had finished with service. Enjoy the pics, and watch the videos.

A woman crying her eyes out as she watched the video monitors set up in the plaza showing the people as they walked by the casket, and the president and her family.

This is the kind of graffiti that showed up over night across the entire city