Friday, October 19, 2007

Not a Starbucks in sight

A large percentage, something like 60%, of Argentineans are descendants of Italian immigrants. From what I understand, as the United States began to slowly close its doors to new immigrants in the early and middle twentieth century, the continuous flow instead headed south, many landing in Argentina. Whether that fact is true or not, there is a very Italian feel to Buenos Aires. The people are friendly, tolerant and easy going about life. They also know how to cook. But best of all they know how to make coffee. I start each day by going to one of the local sidewalk cafe's and getting a cortado, which as its name implies is a quarter steamed milk with expresso, served in a very small cup. It is fantastic. Being an American, when I first saw it served I thought that I was going to need ten of them to replace my typical morning grande. Surprisingly, one does the trick and you are off and running.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Obelisk

So you are thinking: What is the Washington Monument doing in the middle of Buenos Aires? Those thoughts are so "Estados Unidos céntricos". But to be honest even the Argentineans are a bit mystified as to why there is an obelisk in the middle of their city. Perhaps it has something to do with the Freemasons that may have had a part in planning the city design. This monument is theoretically located where the first flag was planted in Argentinean soil, when the city was founded some 400 years ago. Today this location is BA's version of Times Square in New York. All the major celebrations are held in or around this area. Although the photo doesn't show it the obelisk is in the middle of 9th de Julio Avenida which has something like 15 lanes across, let's just say it is very wide.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


To be a sports fan in Phoenix, where I live, means to go watch your team occasionally and jump on the bandwagon when they start to make a playoff run.

But in other parts of the world it takes on it's original meaning, as to be a fanatic, to be seemingly possessed with the spirit of the team, or to have single-minded excessive zeal. That is what it means to be a football fan in Latin America.

Prior to arriving in Buenos Aires, I had arranged a day tour with a guide that I had seen on the Travel Channel. (I hope to have a separate post about that experience at a later time). During the tour today, the guide received a call from a friend who had tickets for this evening's Argentina versus Chile football match. This was the first of the 18 matches that are part of the qualifications for the 2010 World Cup.

I have never thought of myself as a big football (soccer) fan, but going to the game live certainly changed my interest level. The stadium is in the northern end of town and is called El Monumental, it is one of two major stadiums in town the other being the more blue collar area of town called La Boca. (Perhaps more on that in a later post). The stadium holds 70,000 and these are not your-sushi-eating, Perrier-sipping, fifth-inning-arriving Dodger fans (sorry Kevin), these people come early and they come loud. An hour and half before the start of the match, the stadium was full with people chanting and singing. At various points they reach a frenzy and begin to jump up and down. It was quite an experience. I'm sure the entire southern cone of South America was watching as these two neighbors battled it out on the football field.

I had my small Canon point and shoot camera that takes video and so I captured a few of the moments from the evening.

The first video is from the moments right after the Argentinean national anthem has ended and immediately before the game begins. It gives you a sense of the atmosphere of the match and enthusiasm of the crowd.

The next video is actually from a French TV broadcast of the game. (I couldn't find the Spanish language version on YouTube.) I post it here so that the next video will make sense. The shot was brilliant as the Argentinean player "bends it like Beckham" and curves the ball into the goal.

Below is the video I shot of the first Argentina goal. It will give you a perspective of my seats in the stadium and the pandemonium that breaks out after the goal. I'm not sure that you can actually see the ball go into the goal, on this grainy video, so that is why I posted the first video.

So that is my first Latin America football experience. Argentina won 2-0. I may begin to follow the World Cup qualifying a little closer now that I have been introduced to a few of the teams.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Presidente Chica

They're as far as the eye can see.

Walk or drive along the major thoroughfares and the posters are plastered to any available public space. I thought that political advertising was bad in the United States, but in Argentina it is literally an urban street art form. Plaster a poster with the same face 300 times on a public space, expose it to weather, pollution and graffiti and you have quite a work of art.

As it specifically relates to the election, there is an interesting situation that is occurring in Argentina that echoes U.S. politics - the sitting first lady of Argentina is running to replace her husband as president. Apparently she is very intelligent, a current senator in the Argentinean Congress and a heavy favorite to succeed her husband a few weeks from now in the election. The Argentineans call her "Queen Cristina" and she certainly has shrewd political instincts. If she wins she will follow a trend that includes female presidents in the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Germany, Liberia and Chile.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Travel Day - Destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina

"The unexamined life is not worth living..." - Socrates

In recent years I notice that when I take these trips it is not just a physical journey but a mental excursions as well. The long distance and time away from the day-to-day distractions allows me to reflect on my life. Typically there are moments during the trip where I begin to question the various aspects of my life, the questions start simple and build to a crescendo: Why am I traveling alone? Where are my friends? What am I doing in a foreign country far from my family? Why aren't I married? How come I don't have any kids? Do I want kids? What am I doing with my life? Why did I plan a trip during the baseball playoffs? These questions and many more as I bounce around a foreign land. With age and travel experience the answers have become more refined and I have become more accepting of my life and situation. Socrates may have thought it valuable, but sometimes while I am on vacation, I just find my mental process annoying. It is amazing that I have these thoughts at all, in so many ways I am living a life that incredible by any standard. I have my health, family that loves me, friends that support me, a job that I am fulfilled by; I live in the richest country in the world, I have college education that has help me to build a very acceptable level of comfort and freedom. Perhaps it is because of this level of comfort I have the luxury to worry about such mundane things, where as the rest of the world seeks a simple level of survival and security. I learned the other day that the Latin root for word decide means "to cut off from" and so I therefore every decision that I have made in my life has cut me off from other opportunities that would have put me in a different direction. Not necessarily a better direction just different - I just need to learn to accept and enjoy the direction I am headed.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fall Forward

Normally, I don't put up cheesing pictures of flowers on my blog but every once in a while you see something that represents something else. For the Southwestern United States moving from summer into fall means our release from the air condition enclaves that we retreat to in the late spring. Suddenly I new world opens up, and we are free to plan outdoor activities and our houses are larger because we can have backyard barbecues. There is a rebirth of vegetation as temperatures cool sufficiently for them; therefore I am posting the blooming of the bird of paradise in my courtyard to celebrate the approaching autumn and all that it means - cooler temperatures, bigger houses and more time with friends.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dugout Seats

I know that I am long overdue to put a post up on my blog, but sometimes you run out of things to say. I finally did something a little more exciting then surfing the net. A week ago Saturday, I went to the Diamondbacks and sat in the most amazing seats. A friend had planned a birthday party for her husband and bought the "dugout suite" which is really just an extension of the home and visitors dugouts at Chase Field. We sat on the Dodgers side and were able to experience the game like I have never done before. We even got to see (and hear) a tirade by David Wells the Dodger starting pitcher after he had a tough inning. He ended up breaking a chair. The D-backs won, and really started their final drive to the playoffs with that series. Hopefully more exciting times lie a head for them. Thanks to Chase (my friend not the bank) for being so generous with the ticket.