Spanish word of the day: Dale!

January 19, 2009

This word is one of the most flexible in the spanish language. It is used to cheer on your favorite sports team, flirt with girls, tell some one to hurry up. Just about every situation where you want to be loud and induce a quick response in another human being.


But I think I have the most appropriate definition for this word, a definition that holds close to the literal translation and also allows me a bit of sentimentality for a phrase we used at home. Dale, roughly translated, means:

Give ‘er.


Siguiendome al ritmo de Buenos Aires

January 19, 2009

I don`t whats clinging to me so tight – the city, the heat, the spanish, the endless night. But it seems like i have to claw my way out of some suffocating embrace before I can breathe some words onto paper.

And when I`m finally here, I don`t know how to summarize all that has happened in the past week. I feel like the chronological approach might drown me. So how about a few moments? Highlights? Bloopers?

Why not start with the meat of it. When I first heard about what a big role steak played down here, I only accepted the idea to a limit. I mean, at the end of the day, cow is cow no? The only parallel I can make is religion. Kind of like ‘connected to the earth,’ but there is none of the obscuring, mystical language around eating meat that you might associate with Native Americans relation to their food. Maybe the parallel to the Inuit is more precise. Imagine ordering snow on a menu in Nunavut and discovering you had 50 distinct options. And the menu was written in Eskimo.

Don’t be mistaken. It’s not even as simple as ordering a chunk of meat that looks good on the barbeque. I made the fatal error of ordering a ‘morcilla’ – a dark, brownish-red colored sausage that had caught my eye roasting away seductively on the parrilla. Maybe because I consider my palette to stray towards the more adventurous side I took no notice of the glances of warning offered to me by the Argentines sitting at my table. But it seems in retrospect that quite a few people tried to warn me off.

I cut through its tough, blackened skin and took my first bite of its contents – a reddish, pasty substance. Both texture and taste left me shuddering. My tongue tried desperately to push the foul food to a corner of my mouth where it couldn’t be tasted. 

“No te gusta?” I was asked by a smirking Argentina girl across the table from me. I thought I had just ordered a sausage. I wasn’t ready for a gastronomical adventure. “In Argentina, we eat all parts of the cow. Incluso el ojo.” I knew I wasn’t eating eye sausage but she seemed to be intimating that I would be put off even further if I knew what exactly I was eating. “I tell you after,” she offered with a conspiratorial smile.

I ate about a third of it before repulsion or exasperation got the best of me. I turned to look down the table with my hands already held up in a double-u at my sides in the universal sign for ‘what’s going on’. My questioning eyes were met by a humored Australian who seemed to be enjoying watching me eat my schadenfreude sausage.

He winked at me and asked gleefully: “How’s the blood sausage mate?”

Blood sausage. Morcillo. Blood carefully fried and congealed and fried and congealed until it resembles a semi-solid meat paste. In other words a giant, sausage-sized scab. You can taste the iron.

Yum. But I guess you have to take religion with the good and the bad.


January 19, 2009

Sabemos que los latinos quieren estar muy dramáticos, muy teatrales, muy emocionantes. Algún veces, nosotros lo aprecie, otro veces puede parecer muy tonto. Cronica es un canal de noticias que muestra las historias de eso tipo. Muy divertido.
Un ejemple chistoso (aunque es un poco racista y obscuro):

`Dos personas, un boliveano, mueren en un accidente terrible.` 

Tres personas murieron. 

On the sensational Argentine news channel ‘Cronicas’, there was a recent news report that highlights certain South American discriminatory tendencies.
“Two people, one bolivean, die in car accident.”
Three people died. 

First night out

January 11, 2009


A British ecologist, a gregarious Brazilian girl, and two incredibly good looking canadian twins brought to you by Quilmes. Argentine beer. 8 pesos per bowling pin. That includes a three peso refundable bottle deposit.

Banda sonora

January 10, 2009

Ok. I know I have always been the go-to guy for providing a well-researched, heartfelt playlist for a friday night party or my best friend’s wedding. But maybe I can change. Maybe I actually have discovered a couple songs that you haven’t.

Anyways. Enough with the apology. Here is my soundtrack for my first week in Argentina and its partly inspired by a my new Uruguyian friend, who has shown me the generosity of not only sharing his wealth of cultural knowledge on Uruguyian rock (yes, the do have electric guitars in Uruguay. Since the late 90s I believe.) but actually went out of his way to buy me a CD.

Put it on your iPods. Tell your friends. Tell your mothers. Make love to it. Here goes, mi banda sonora:

1. Being Here – The Stills Oceans will Rise

2. One Day Like This – Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid   (Kind of sounds like Chris Martin from Coldplay, but he succeeds with his modesty where Coldplay failed by trying to right every song as an anthem. This song especially has the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away with mind bullets. The power to move you.)

3. California One – The Decemberists Castaways and Cutouts 

4. Middle of Nowhere – The Hot Hot Heat Elevator

5. Corbeau – Couer de Pirate Self-Titled Album. (You know when you find something accidentally that’s so good you hold on to the naive belief that you discovered it? And even when you know you didn’t, you still don’t let go of that belief? Kind of like 8 year olds who think they discovered masturbation. Or Italians who think they discovered ‘the New World’. Well, Christophe Colon didn’t have to let go. SO WHY SHOULD I!!!)

6.  Radio Gaga – Queen (Inspired by an Argentine documentario of Queen I saw on TV). 

7. Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio Return to Cookie Mountain 

8. Solo – No te va gustar Aunque Cuesta Te Ver El Sol (Uruguayan Rock/Ska/Punk. The vocals have a clean ring to them (which is good for my spanish) con cantantes bastante emocionante.)

9. Esta cancion – Silvio Rodriguez Dias y flores (the legendary poet of Cuban (post?) independence)

10. Limon y Sal – Julieta Venegas MTV Unplugged (kind of a spanish version of Carla Bruni. Very lyrical and dulce. Although as far as I know she isn’t married to a high ranking government official and despite my most adamant, unfiltered google searches does not seem to have ever appeared naked)

11. Verte Reir – No te va gustar Aunque Cuesta Te Ver El Sol (To See you Laugh.)

That’s it. As I continue to mooch free CDs off of impoverished latinos, as my corazon continues to espanolpomorphize, as my circadian rhythm takes on the peculiar qualities of the spanish beat,  I will come back to you with more scintillating music to cumplear your hearts, minds and hard drives.

La Habilidad a Negociar

January 10, 2009

In search of our next well cooked morsel of cow muscle, I ran into an expected South American challenge. Funnily enough, this time it wasn’t a problem of language, but a problem of negociation.

I searched the web and found a celebrated parrilla called El Mangrullo. Being the type with a perhaps Asbergerian focus once I have a set goal, I meticulously drew out a small map with un sendero that would wind its way to the restaurant through the busy pedestrian avenue Florida – where street vendors ostensibly sell brand name clothing and hand crafted mate cups – through the historic plaza de Mayo, and would finish with a flourish of San Telmo cobblestone where scruffy, shirtless men cat-call elegant women from their crowded stoops.

Our newest cotraveller, Elissa, had just arrived from Quebec. We had dragged her out of bed to join us for dinner. As we approached the restaurant, she was still looking a bit groggy and started to grow mutinous as we rounded corner after corner. “It’s just around the next corner,” I would repeat time and time again with decreasing certitude.

Finally we arrived at the 700 block where the resto was meant to be located. It was nowhere to be seen. For a moment, just for a moment, I let up my stride and let a shade of doubt enter my expression. My head bobbed with uncertainty as I looked searching from the street numbers to my map and back again. It was enough for him to pounce.

“Que buscas?” a voice projected from across the interestion. Before I realized what was happening, a burly man accoutered in tight jeans, unbuttoned plaid shirt, and a dirty gorro, approached my slyly. “Que buscas?” he repeated as he pulled an ipod earbud out of his ear. I noticed his belt was arrayed with multiple mobile communication devices.

I tried to muster a tone of certainty, unsure of his intentions, “Um, Yo busco el restaurant ‘El Mangrullo’, pienso esta en ese calle…” before I could finish we was already half way done persuading me to try another restaurant. His restaurant.

We stood outside an eating establishment as fancy as it was empty. Common sensically, I took that as a bad sign. As the last 10 years of economic prosperity have shown (minus a couple of months that proved the opposite), its best to follow the herd. We had passed several restaurants on the way that needed nothing more that the clanging and bustle of animated young portenos to be alluring.

But in my innocence I thought I’d give him a chance to say his piece. “Debemos tratar ese restaurante. Es el mismo de El Mangrulla.” He was urging us to enter the nearby restaurant, acting as a persuasive version of the North American ‘man with sign’.

I was confused by his language. He seemed to be saying that his restaurant was actually El Mangrullo. I thought perhaps the name had changed, but I was also growing wary. So I asked him if it was exactamente the same (mismo) restaurant. Very directly.

He allowed his first, albeit the slightest, twinge of honesty. Instead of saying they were the same restaurant, he roped in his word choice to ‘bien parecido’. Now he was claiming that they were very much the same.

I rolled my eyes with impatience, but by this time, the girls – who were too hungry (and perhaps too wise) to care about the masculine import of my negociation and had bellies too impatient to wait out the epic Guerra between con-man and turista – were already edging towards the door.

In short, I gave in. Despite recognizing the ploy and even calling him on it, Canadian niceness and the war of attrition that hunger launches against the will did us in. Not to mention the weakness inherent in the female sex…

We ended up paying too much for impatient service in an empty restaurant. But hunger sauce made the food, which was tasty enough, and the cuenta (bill), easy enough to swallow.

The score is Buenos Aires 1, Adrian 0. But I think I’m learning quickly. I hope I’m learning quickly. Tanto por mi orgulloso como por mi cartela. As much for my pride, as for my wallet.

Dogs in La Boca

January 8, 2009


The one in the middle actually only had one eye. Keeping it classy.

The one in the middle actually only had one eye. Keeping it classy.

We weren’t sure who had it better off in the poorer areas of Buenos Aires. The dogs or the children. The majority of each species seemed either malnourished or maimed. Or both.