Friday, February 26, 2010

Settling In

We are just short of two months in and finally feel pretty settled. Our days are no longer filled with surprise after surprise. Tyler and I have found somewhat of a routine (or maybe rhythm would be a better word) for our work schedules and care taking of Pea. We're getting a handle of life in Buenos Aires--frequent trips to multiple supermarkets, frequent bank runs for coins for the buses, frequent trips to the park for Ella, frequent sweeping of our hardwood floors, lots of eating out (it's just what to do in the city, I guess), and Tyler and I have taken the plunge into tango.

Though I'm nowhere near what I wanted to be in terms of learning the language, I'm doing a pretty good job of understanding others and what they are wanting from me. Communicating back is more of a problem, but a lot of people are gracious and friendly about my stammering and hand gestures. I had really wanted to dive into the language and was carry a fair amount of guilt about being so behind until I realized that I am in fact mortal and just can't do it all. First there was Tyler's surgery, then Ella's pox, and figuring out how to get the things we need to survive. Add to that my work schedule, my training for both childbirth ed classes (to teach) and training for La Leche Leauge leadership. Housework, dishes (no dishwasher), and cooking--which T helps with greatly. Tango, which we are doing almost nightly. Then add to that the vast amount of energy that our almost 2 year old requires (demands?), and I just don't have that much left. We're here for several more months, so there's hope. But I'm beginning to look at this trip differently and accept my priorities as they've been laid. Right now most of my Castellano comes from yoga, tango, other moms in the parks, and the grocery.

Tyler and I were recently discussing how good, and hard, this trip has been for our marriage. Without all of our 'normal' things back home, there's not a lot of places to hide. All we really have here is, us. We've been much more deliberate about building our marriage and loving each other well in the past few weeks. We are finding both challenging and extremely rewarding. Since we got married and, even more so, since Ella was born, we sort of fell out of the dance scene back home--a part of life that was huge in bringing us together in the first place. We're so excited about picking up a new(ish) dance and having the opportunity to do something for us.

The studio Tyler and I are taking tango from is simply awesome. It's very old-school, traditional tango. We expect to spend a lot of time here before perhaps moving on later to a studio that emphasizes the newer style of tango (tango nuevo).

We celebrated Tyler's birthday yesterday (29...makes me feel old) and will continue celebrating on Sunday when I take him to a soccer game. Soccer is more of a religion here than a sport, and I admit to being a little scared about the game. Fans are Hard Core. Uprisings frequently happen in relationship to games. We plan to lay low, not wearing either of the teams colors and leave promptly when the game is over.

We are very behind in taking/posting pictures and videos. I'd love to capture this city by camera, so I'm going to make more of an effort to tote the Rebel around.

I leave you with Ella and Tyler reading a bedtime story. Ciao!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tango Bliss

Tyler and I attended a lesson at yet another studio last night. We've been searching for some instructors and classes that would be a good fit for us, and so far have just been studio hopping and having a good time, but not a fabulous time. But last night's class rocked our world! Roberto, the instructor, looked like he stepped right out of an early 1900's dance floor. He old-school tango technique was impeccable. In chatting with a couple fellow students who spoke a bit of English, it was clear that Roberto was very well respected as a teacher. Roberto didn't speak a lick of English, but a few other students were kind enough to whisper clarifications to Tyler and I as he spoke.

I was a bit intimidated by the class as a whole. I felt like the underdog in a class of students who were all much better than I. It didn't help that when we would practice the steps Roberto taught that a man I was dancing with would stop me and correct me in things. At first, I was a little offended. In lindy hop, students don't really offer students critique unless asked. It's a little rude--especially in the middle of dancing a song. But once I got over myself (humbled and receptive) what I learned was that these guys were not being critical, they were genuinely interested in the wellbeing of my tango. And what I learned half way through class is that many of these 'students' were not actually students, but were there as assistants to the main instructor. Awesome! Tyler and I both got essentially mini private lessons from really amazing teachers. They helped shape up Tyler's basics and connection. And they helped me with my timing, roping in my steps (way too big), and assisted with my frame. We got a lot of attention from all of them--a benefit of being the worst in the class. Ha!

The class was such an inspiration. We're going to take a private lesson or two from one of the co-teachers. Roberto runs a milonga on Fridays with a lesson before. Guess where Tyler and I will be tonight?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Dog We Left Behind

Most of you know that we have dog, Junuh. He is a rescue dog who came to us with a lot of, well, baggage. We named him after The Legend of Bagger Vance--remember Capt Randolf Junuh who lost his swing? He was terrified of pretty much everything. He'd cower if you moved too quickly. His tail stayed tucked underneath him most of the time. We don't know much of history, but we're quite certain that his past owners broke him in spirit and body. Poor guy. In the couple years we've had him, he came a long, long way. He seems happy most of the time. Tail wagging. Loves to be with us. Loves Ella and is protective of her around other dogs and visitors. He's starting to have faith again in mankind.

When we decided to move, we knew it probably wasn't a good idea to take Junuh with him. If the flight over here didn't give him a heart attack, the traffic probably would. He doesn't seem much of a city dog. So we asked some dear friends, Bryan and Tara, if they'd be willing to foster him while we were gone for our 6 months. They accepted, and Junuh has a happy temp home a mile or two from our home. We get to skype with him occasionally too.

We half-way joking, asked B and T to teach him how to fetch while we were gone. We tried very half-heartedly to teach him early on. But when I would throw pieces of popcorn to him, he'd cower and run. Bryan and Tara took our request seriously and have devoted so much patience and time in teaching him. And, it's working! Here he is in action.

Thank you, deeply, B & T! We can't wait to play when we get back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandma Katie!

I love you!

Love, Ella Lynn

Palermo Soho: Tango and Floods

Tyler and I took a class from a lovely couple last night in a charming dance room. Lam, the follow, was trilingual--Spanish, English, Japanese. Mucho impresivo. She was lovely to watch too. Here's a few of the moves we worked on:

For those of you who don't follow me on facebook, here are my new magic tango shoes. It was love at first try.

During our lesson last night, it started raining. The rain and gentle thunder in the background made the class feel cozy and romantic. And then we went to leave... (enter scary movie music, da, dah, dahhhhhh). Flash flood in Palermo Soho (the part of the city we were in). We tried to wait it out, but had to get home to Pea and the babysitter. So Tyler and I braved water up to our knees in the streets, trying to get to our bus. It was crazy. Random items floated by us. Cars were stranded. And only a few brave souls were braving the river like us. We laughed hard and got completely drenched. From the looks of everyone else on the bus, we weren't the only ones.

Tyler and I are really enjoying getting out regularly to do something without Ella. And Ella is really enjoying having another person to hang out with other than her parents. She adores Jill (Jull, as Ella calls her). It's fun for us to date and dance again!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday in the Park

Saturday evening we took a brief stroll to the Parque de 3 Febrero. Nothing eventful. Just a few pics to share.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Organico in BA and the Coffee in our Cups

One of the bigger challenges that has faced me personally since moving down here is trying to feed my family well. There is lots of good food here, but not necessarily lots of healthy food--even in the supermarcados. Organic is rare, I think mostly because most of the farms ship their organic produce to the US. And there just seems to be a lot less of a market for it here.

But this week, I had a box of local and organic veggies and fruit delivered right to my door. I got to choose the veggies and fruit, I placed an order online, and poof--it arrived. Here's the selection, minus the big squash that was already in the oven and some dried fruit that I also purchased from them.

I made some delicious veg soup that day. Tyler made us stirfry someday this week. I made pasta sauce from scratch last night. And I think tonight we might roast some Argentine beef (yummy!) and roast some potatoes. It feels good to be in the (albeit, tiny) kitchen!

Our search for good coffee continues. (The back story in a nutshell is that the coffee you buy at a cafe equals delicious. The coffee beans you can purchase in the store equal swill.) We found a story a few blocks from us called The Coffee Store. Sounded promising. It's a coffee shop that also sells their coffee--imported coffee. That means that it could potentially be good but also very pricey. Argentina puts stiff taxes on everything imported. We've tried two blends. Of course we like the more expensive one--and Ethiopian bean and dark roast. It costs us approximately $15USD for about half a pound. At that rate, we're almost more apt to just get coffee from a cafe every morning. That costs about $1.50USD. But then we'd have to get out of our pajamas.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tango, Take Uno

Tyler and I attended our first two tango lessons last night. We did back-to-back beginner and intermediate lessons. I recognized the male instructor from the practica we attended Monday night. He was in the Cat's Corner and certainly deserved it. The lessons, of course, were in Castellano. I'm grateful that Tyler and I had so much partner dancing experience and could visually translate what they were talking about. (Well, for the most part.) Both instructors spoke a bit of English, the girl more-so. If we were unclear on something, she could help us out in English.

We were grateful for the beginner class because it gave us a chance to brush up our basic and connection and ochos. The beginner class split into two classes--one side for very beginners, the other side for further-along-beginners.

The intermediate class kicked our sorry tango booties! I've had two years worth of Argentine tango classes and dances and was still struggling to get what we were supposed to be doing! Poor Tyler has had about 4 months worth of classes. It's harder, much harder, for leads to figure things out--in my opinion. The girl ripped my connection apart (in a good way). I was dancing with another lead and we were not getting the move. She led me in it in attempt to show him. But after a few steps she stopped, dismay filling her face, and said (they are very blunt here), "You are giving me NOTHING. Nothing! You have to give me SOMETHING. Squeeze my hand! Push my shoulder, just do SOMETHING to let me know you are here!" I appreciated this, greatly. She also worked with me on 'expanding the space in my ribs' and following first with my shoulders and letting my hips catch up. (Sorry to those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about talk.) It was the kind of dance advice that you mull over and over as you are trying to sleep that night. Tyler and I felt a bit like our first swing workshop weekend where everything you thought you knew was thrown away and even though you thought you were a good dancer, you know realize just how much you have to learn. But we are not discouraged by any means! Inspired, really!

Here are 4 or 5 moves we worked on in the intermediate class. They were gracious enough to let us film it so that when our technique catches up, we might be able to learn moves.

And let me just say that I cannot wait to go shoe shopping! I've got some shoes in my head that I hope to find. Tyler too. If were not going to be some of the best on the floor, we might as well look good trying! :)

We were are so happy to finally dive in to the one of the main reasons we came. We've had so many set-backs in the past month, that it felt like total victory--just showing up to a dance and to lessons. May there be many, many more victories in the days to come!

A few extra thoughts for our lindy hopping friends:

The classes were lead heavy!

Dance shoes, knee-high socks, and shorts translate as poorly in tango as in swing. If not, more so.

You know how you walk into a room of lindy hoppers and can very quickly assess the room and put people into 3 or 4 groups--newbies, up-and-comings, advanced, and Cat's Corner folk? At the practica there were three groups: Cat's Corners, advanced, and T & I. So humbling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Futbol, Superbowl, and a Library with No Books

Places to watch the Superbowl here in BA were lacking. Everyone was watching soccer. Soccer is less of a sport here and more of a religion. There were a couple of bars who advertised showing the Superbowl, but the commercials would be local ones, not American ones. And as not big football junkies, we thought, what's the point?! So we had our own Superbowl party here in our flat. We made tacos, watched the commercials online, and played a made up game that combined flag football, soccer, a Barbie ball, and a lots of laughs.

Prior to the big game, we took a stroll to visit the National Library. Argentine people pride themselves in being a highly literate country and the library was built as a symbol of that. It's a strange looking building--designed to look like a table, so that you'd get the feeling of sitting down with a book. It's seven stories high, however, visitors may only reach 3 of those stories. We toured the three stories and much to our confusion, didn't see any books. In a library. The floors were mostly tables and desks for study. It was so quiet in the large rooms, that I was paranoid of Ella making any noise at all. And where are the books?! I learned that if you want a book (or up to 3 at a time), you first go to a computer located here and there throughout the study rooms. You look up the books you want and request them on the computer. Then you wait for your name to be displayed above the librarian's desk. And you go pick up your books from there. The librarians fulfill the book requests by going to, I suppose, where ever they do keep the books. It was not a very inviting place in general. We were a bit disappointed. I had hoped that it might be a nice place for me to get away and work sometimes, but I think now I'd rather hit a cafe.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Via Poxy

Here are the latest happenings in our lives: Ella is covered from head to toe in chicken pox*. She doesn't seem that ill effected or bothered by it yet, thankfully. She just looks a bit ragged. I told her this afternoon that I was going to give her an oatmeal bath to sooth her skin. She misunderstood and I eventually caved and fed her oatmeal while she took her oatmeal bath.

We went swing dancing the other night. It was fun to get out and check the lindy scene here. We got stuck in a rain storm coming home. We got soaked, but laughed the whole way.

We've managed to learn the public transportation--buses and metro--now. And by we, I really mean, Tyler. He's my hero when it comes to stuff like that, and I am so grateful for him. Without him, I would be just a stupid American tourist. With him, I'm a stupid American tourist in disguise. Both the buses and the metro cost about 50 cents (USD) one way. Very cheap. And it's just nice to be able to get around like the locals.

We found a willing baby-sitter for Pea so T & I can start some tango lessons. She's from the States, here studying language. We were supposed to start a couple days ago...but then, the pox.
I have found a place to take a yoga class once a week. I really can't understand much of anything, Gabriel, the instructor says, but he's good at demonstrating. The classes are very different from the flowing classes I'm used to. It's a great challenge to have. He has a very precise yoga practice and I'm getting my booty kicked by his adjustments to my sometimes sloppy poses. As I was leaving class this morning he said to me in very broken English, "We speak different languages, but we are still talking."

Our neighborhood is starting to feel familiar and homey. Colorado-sickness comes and goes. But despite all the obstacles we've faced since we've been here, we're happy to be sharing this adventure with each other. And with you!

*We have chosen not to do any vaccinations thus far, and are actually very grateful that she got them this early in life. Chicken Pox are hard to come by in the US because of the shots they give kids. In fact, some of my other non-vax momma friends are upset that we are not there to 'share the germs', as it were.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Milonga in the Park

A Milonga is a place or event where tango is danced. There is a popular Milonga on Sunday evenings in a park, under a big gazebo, with a marble floor. We stopped by last night to take a peek. Enchanting. I snapped a few pics while it was still light outside. These were taken at the start of the milonga. When we returned after dinner, the dance floor was packed, with layers of spectators around the fence.

Buenos Aires is where tango originated, for those of you who may not know, and the scene/music are everywhere. It also has a vibrant lindy hop scene too. We've been late in getting started--with Tyler's organ mishaps and all--but are itching to dive in now. I've got two years of tango under my belt, and Tyler has joined me for several sessions of classes. Lindy hop is how we met, and we're well-versed in that.

We are interviewing some babysitters this week so that Tyler and I can start taking classes and going to Milongas. I miss my friends who I could unreservedly trust to take Pea at such times.