Friday, January 29, 2010

A reminder of the times we live in

Preface: I hope this story does not turn anyone off from coming to this wonderful city. This is an isolated incident and could have happened in any city on Earth (even our "super safe" American Cities)

So far all of my tales of adventure here have portrayed this city as a dream come true. With a style and culture like no where else on the planet. And no matter what happens i will always maintain that attitude toward this place and these people. However...with light comes the darkness, there are two sides to every coin, you will find evil when you see the good conquering it. Tonight we got to see an ugly side to this place. One that while not everywhere you turn, and certainly not something you need to worry about every moment you live, is none the less something you need to always have in the back of your mind.

Me, our Dearest expat friend Crystal, Jakub (Czeck boy as the girls call him) my fellow American expat and roommate Jon, and our Wisconsin visitor Harmony (See my other blog about finding connections where you least expect it for more information about her) had just finished having dinner in one of the oldest bars/restaurants in the city called "El Bar Federal" in San Telmo about 6 blocks from our apartment. Seeing as this is Buenos Aires we began walking looking for another place to go and have a drink to end the night.

As i said before we are in a neighborhood known as San Telmo. This is historically the oldest part of the city. Originally built in the mid 16th century this was the first place the Spanish started building when they arrived here on the Rio de la Plata. Until the mid 18th Century this was the richest part of town with huge houses built for the wealthy of Buenos Aires. After a plague swept through the area everyone left and moved to Recoleta on the far side of the city to escape. However to this day many of these old mansions are still here in San Telmo where they have been revamped into various apartments and such. With its historic buildings and cobble stone streets this area is perfect for people who want to experience the history and passion that is Buenos Aires upfront and personal. Now a days this area has many vacation rentals and hostels that cater to backpackers and the like from all over the world. As such seeing foreigners walking around the streets here is not uncommon.

As we were walking back tonight me and Harmony were talking and enjoying the beautiful night outside. All of a sudden i feel something land in my hair as we walk under a low branch on a tree. I think that its water at first falling off the tree from a recent rain shower. After we walk a few more steps i feel another drop of something land in my hair. Again as we were still under the same tree i just assumed that it was more of the same. Until we walked up to the corner when i noticed that harmony had some kind of brownish liquid on the back of her shoulder. As i was in the middle of saying something she began to notice the same strange substance on her. Then suddenly out of no where comes this woman running up to us telling us that we have something on us. It is then when we stopped and looked that we notice that both of us have this strange liquid all over our backs. This woman kindly takes out a large stack of napkins from her purse and starts helping us wipe it off. She hands me a few to help Harmony while she starts patting off my back. When we ask her what it is she points to the building above where we just were. Not being that fluent in Spanish i didnt really understand what she was saying as i was more concerned about what exactly was on me! I started trying to understand what was going on and what had just happened with Harmony. As we were at a loss for words we just kept standing there in utter shock at what had just happen. While i was helping Harmony this "kind" woman was helping clean both of us off. When she handed me some more napkins and told me to help Harmony. As i was doing such the woman "bumped"my wallet in my back pocket. Seeing as i am extremely paranoid about people stealing my wallet, (even back in the states) i as an immediate reflex grabbed my back pocket to make sure my wallet was still there. She continued to help clean me off and then started helping Harmony as well. Once i told her it was ok and that we were only 3 blocks from my house she stopped and began walking away from us. As i watch her standing there a few feet from us i told Harmony to check her wallet and her purse to make sure nothing was missing. She did and also like me found nothing to be gone. We went back to our apartment where we cleaned ourselves up and started piecing together what had just happened.

We have come to the conclusion that this was all just one big ploy to take advantage of us. Nieve turists are such easy prey for those who know what they are doing. And tonight we must have seemed to be complete rip for the picking. For one thing we were talking only in English since we had no locals with us only 3 Americans and one Czeck who speaks English perfect but is only learning Spanish, we had no need to talk in Spanish. Also being in San Telmo where there are lots of bars and hostels we could easily been mistaken for normal run of the mill tourists out bar hopping at 1 am. Most of the time we are hardly thought of as foreigners by the locals, me for looking just like the rest of the Argentine population (Tall slender dark haired Italian decent thats almost everyone here) and Jon with his perfect Spanish. All of these factors which normally we would not have going against us all worked to our disadvantage tonight.

Now looking back on it i have read of this sort of thing happening to others while on vacation. The same Modus Operandi as we had tonight. We believe that is was far to convenient for this "kind woman" to just happen to be right behind us when right after this happen. And who carries around a whole wad of napkins from a restaurant in their purse at 1 am? We believe that something was thrown on us and then this woman's job was to come pretend to help us and while doing so take our valuables. I think that they must of hit us twice with it seeing as i didnt stop and notice it the first time i was hit with it. I surmise that they then dropped some more on us so that i would notice it and so that this woman could then come and "help us". Also while the woman was helping us she kept giving me more napkins to help Harmony clean up while she was busy wiping the back of my shirt and pants. I think she was trying to distract me so that she could grab my wallet, (which is easy to see since i shrunk these pants and they are super tight and i had just went to the ATM and had a bunch of cash in my wallet. ) without me noticing.

All and all my being in a constant state of paranoia saved us tonight. I am glad that in the end this did nothing but reaffirm that we always need to be vigilant no matter where we are. This neighborhood is perfectly safe, and normally i never feel even slightly worried about walking around here at night. This while not changing that has however has reminded me that you always need to be ready just in case something like this happens.

P.S. Some of you are probably wondering what it was that got thrown on us. Well to at first all we knew was that it was a brown, watery liquid that had a fowl stench...(get were this is going?) However after looking at it closely and getting a smell of it after we got home i have come to believe that is was some kind of Chimichurri mix. It has a small like that of Vinegar and looks like the Chimichurri sauce that they use here for beef.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random moment i wanted to share

I bought some super whole grain bread (The kind that makes your Mommy happy to see you eat) the other day that was super cheap...the only downside, when i got home i found out that it was not sliced. I didn't know there were still places on Earth where one could find such a thing...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 sick

So it took 16 days for it to finally happen. I have been paranoid about it this whole time. I even took extra special measures to ensure that it would not happen again like last time i was here. And yet still despite all of my best efforts i have failed. I have gotten sick!

It started yesterday while i was out looking for some dress shoes without any success (No one in this country seems to be able to comprehend a size 47 aka a 13) when i started feeling i little tickle in my throat. The sinuses had started moving out their unwanted furniture as i like to call it and it was all heading straight into my throat. By time i got to the hall i was already in pain and getting crabby. Last night trying to get my body to sleep through the pain was hard sell. I did finally manage to drop off into the dark unknown paradise that is unconscienceness. When i woke up today i found that it had begun to migrate from my throat and chest back into my sinuses. After pushing through the day really craving some spicy food (Argentines fear spicy food like death it self and therefore have none in their county) i managed to make it to now.

Being sick is nowhere near as fun when all you have is your laptop. The distress caused by a lack of a TV when you are sick can not be put down into words. And to top things off our power went out today for about an hour. Which took with it our internet router aka my window to the world. So that was no fun.

I believe the culprits here are the same ones back home that get me...allergens. I have come to the conclusion that my body was quite confused for the last 2 weeks. I just came from the brutal Chicago winter, where everything and anything that has life in it goes into a kind of near death like states that fails to be remedied until the spring. Then i come here where summer is in full bloom. With everything floating around it was only a matter of time before i came down with a bad case of summer allergies.

But as i said i knew it was coming and i prepared myself as best as i could. Last year when i came here for the second time i found out the hard way that everything in my first apartment made me sick. I came with perfectly clear skin and within 4 days i looked like a 14 year old kid who mans the deep fryer at the local Burger King. I discerned the culprit was nonother than my beautifull blanket and pillow set which were made from real down feathers. After spending the first whole month sleeping on my sweater and using just the top sheet i finally cleared up and moved into a new place. Once agian i was enticed by the alure of the sweet sweet pillows that found there and sure enough...boom pizza face again. So that story having been told this time around i wanted to make sure that did not happen again. I went and bought a Fleece blanket from target (Best 18 bucks ever) and brought a hypoallergenic pillow with my in my bag. Now seeing as i needed to pack enough for 3 months in another country into a backpack, one suitcase, a messanger bag, and a guitar case, i didn't have a ton of room to spare here. But it was worth the effort. As for the last 2 weeks i have had a beautiful blanket and pillow to rest my weary head upon when i sleep. I plan on leaving them here with my roommate Ryan for when i come back down in the late summer/fall for a year.

Seeing as i have started rambling again (i am a creative person we tend to do that when we write) i am going to end this entry here and say i hope you enjoyed this little story. And i hope that this horrible entry has not turned you off from reading my blog.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Random Pics

I thought i would upload some pictures of my friends for all of you.

One of the many group pics that we take everywhere we go. This one was on Sunday at Mirna's apartment party.

Our good buddy Pablo doing his best Peruvian flute player at the party.

The Czech guy Jakub, he is studying Spanish, but he speaks English so he has been hanging around with us.

Me and my dear friend Abi. Ours is a world where the spontanious self portrait is an art. Like this one from or long 10 hour Saturday service adventure.

Me and my girls in service during the week. Im like the Captain and these are my Sargents.

This is the roof top of our longest serving American expat, Brett. He had an Asado after the meeting on a Sunday. Here is another one of our quick group pic.

Me and some more girls.

A random picture of Jason of Sarah...don't they loo so cute.

Me and my friend Gilda enjoying an ice cream after a long 10 hour day in service.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The healing of a wound

I thought i would update everyone on the status of my burned hand. Praise be to the lord above that my wound did not end up becoming infected like we all thought it would. For those of you who did not know, about 12 days ago i burned my hand on a pot while cooking fajitas (I still managed to eat the fajitas after i burned my hand and they were delicious). After i burned myself the area of my hand swelled up, as the kids say these days "something rotten".

Well anyways um uploading the pictures that i took the day after i burned myself, and the pictures i took today 12 days later.

I hope you enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

You will always find a connection

Greetings to all,

Well i have been back here in Buenos Aires now for about 5 days and all ready i have been having quite the good time.

I think you will enjoy this short story that demonstrates the reality of our worldwide brotherhood and ALL of its implications.

On Wednesday i went out in service with the English group (thats where i belong while im here so from here on out when i refer to the "group" this is what i am talking about). It was such a joy to finally get to see all of my dear friends again. But as is the case here there were a few new faces that i encountered this day. One of them goes by the name of Harmony Paulley. A lovely girl who although being just a visitor here, had decided to join us in service. As i got to know her a little bit i came to learn that much like me on my first visit here, she had come for a relatively short period of time, one month (short by backpacking, world traveling, foreign country moving people standards anyways), she had been drawn to Argentina by reading about it and being fascinated by its charms, and had wanted to study Spanish, and was all and all just looking for an adventure. She also hailed from a place not all that unknown to me...Wisconsin. Thats right everyone i found a cheesehead even down here.

Not getting to the interesting part of the story. As we were working together in service we are enjoying a quite enjoyable conversation with each other about the many interesting aspects of expat living...yada yada yada. When out of no where she asks me if i like Ethiopian food. Ethiopian food? Who asks such a thing? However the thing that took this normally strange question into the realm of "Twilight Zone Weird" was the fact that only 3 days previous to this i had for the first time in my life experienced Ethiopian cuisine. On my last night in Chicago my good friend the Dutchman (Stephan) and the lovely Leslie who also were on their last night in Chicago, led a group of us to a quaint little place on the north side to enjoy the finest Ethiopian food in all of Chicago. As i am relating this information to her with all the dullness that you can possibly imagine me doing (Think about my best man speech from Suprney's wedding), she tells me that she knows the story already. How may you ask? She knows Alex and Paula Romero from Glen Ellyn Spanish who were with us at the final goodbye dinner that night. When she told them about her trip down to BsAs (Buenos Aires in case you couldn't figure that out) they naturally told her about the person they just had dinner with who also was going down to BsAs...e.g. me! And they told her to freak me out she should start asking me about it. Well needless to say i was thoroughly werided out by the whole thing (Thanks Alex).

So what does this needlessly long story demonstrate? That no matter where you go, no matter when in you life you go, no matter who you meet, and no matter how well you think you have escaped from your world, there is always something, or in this case someone, that will find a way to reach out and touch you even if ever so slightly no matter how far you run away.

In laymans terms in six degrees of separation you will always end up back at Kevin Bacon, or in this case Alex and Paula.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Off

Well today was the day...i finally left for Argentina. Last weekend was the big day...Spurney got married and we all had a great time. But now that that is over its time to get down to business. As i write this i'm sitting at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. My flight to Buenos Aires leaving in about one hour at 10:07 PM. So i just thought that while i had a moment i would open my laptop up and write a little note to everyone.

I hope that this will be the first of many posts to this blog for the next two months that i will be in Buenos Aires. Please keep in touch as much as you can...i get very lonely at times and nothing cures that like getting an email from back home. Even though i have many good friends in Argentina...there is still nothing like old friends from back home.

So here we go i hope you have as much fun reading about my adventures as i do writing them.


Dominick Dal Santo