What is precious enough to Argentine history to encase in glass? The summertime home of ex-president Sarmiento, found along rio Sarmiento in the Tigre delta. We passed this in the boat on the way to visit a friend who has a house next door to a school that Sarmiento founded--far far from any cars or roads. As the sun set, we sat on his private dock and exchanged pleasantries with the local grocer, handyman and lay-neighbors as they rowed or motored by. For a little more Sarmiento, back in the city, we took Avenida Sarmiento to get to a practice race in Parque Sarmiento, sponsored by Nike (which rhymes with "like" here).
Updating this site hasn't become a daily habit yet. But yesterday we really had an excuse not to post: Buenos Aires was hit by a 22-hour tormenta (ok, storm—but doesn't it sound better in Spanish?) Lots of rain and wind. Flooded streets and tree branches everywhere. But the worst for us was about 12 hours with no electricity (nor phones) in our apartment. After Spanish class, we huddled at a favorite local restaurant/cafe with our work as the rain pelted the skylights overhead. Then we spent many hours in the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes (free admittance) and in internet cafes trying to keep up with work e-mails from the U.S. of A. We hit a second museum (Malba, still my favorite) in the evening, where there was a benefit auction for Ramona. Actually, we hit a third museum after that: Museo Renault (a future post will have to explain).
On Saturday, we journeyed across Rio Plata to Uruguay to get our passports stamped with a new 3-month visa. As we'd been warned, Uruguayos take the stereotypes of Argentines just one step further by sipping more mate and eating more meat. (More on this from Ian soon.) But it was easy enough to spot Argentines relaxing in their Gaucho boat with their soccer hair blowing in the river breeze... It was a perfect, sunny, sixty-something degree day spent on rented bicycles, exploring a deserted bullfighting arena and buying a cowhide to bring home.
The photo of Ian that I thought I'd taken in this same spot atop Cerro Catedral doesn't exist. I blame the whipping wind for confusing me. That's Lake Nahuel Huapi behind my shoulders. My credit card bill just confirmed that our lift tickets cost just $23.89 per day. Extras: Rosehip tea $1, new ski hat $5, new friend to invite us to his country club's polo fields $?...
The headline is, trust me, meant sarcastically. Still, it's kind of cool that images of the GoodAirs posse can now be found on several Argentine websites, and that we run the gamut from running clubs to night clubs.. And damn do we look good!
Cintra y Ian, quienes son de EEUU... FCMax.com
Amigos de Grant Proyecto V
Cintra Scott y Ian Mount ambos periodistas de Nueva York... FCMax.com
Last Sunday, at the 5th birthday party for Nestor and Marcela's son Mati, I botched the pronunciation of the birthday co-festee, Antonella, by calling her An-to-neyjsh-a (the Argentinian pronunciation) and not An-to-nel-a (the Italian one). The night before, I managed not to flub "fusilli," which is pronounced foo-see-lee, not foo-see-jshi (as one would expect by Argy rules). Both of these led to what is now a common occurance: we now spend large fractions of our day discussing language with other people, whether it be by receiving the mildy condescending, "Noooo, your Spanish is very good," or, on a more etymological level, learning why so many words that end in the usually-feminine a--like el problema or el sistema--are masculine (because of their Greek origins, we're told).
A recurring theme that comes up in such discussions with Argentines who wish to, or have, learned some English, is that English is simple in form (I walk, you walk, he walks, they walk--not too tough) but almost impossible to pronounce because of its lack of any hard and fast rules (explain beer, bear and ear). Spanish, on the other hand, has a bazillian (trust me, I counted) verb forms, while its pronunciation is incrdibly simple and rule bound: save for a few words of Italian origin (which is for immigration reasons more of a problem in Argentina than other Spanish-speaking countries), if you know the rules, you can correctly pronounce and spell any Spanish word even if you've got no clue what it means.
This in itself is interesting to note, but it made me think about a cultural artifact of the English-speaking world: the spelling bee. Without the irrational rules of a mutt language, is there any reason to put quivering ten-year-olds on stage and demand that they spell out esoteric anatomical terms? Without spelling mistakes, on what failures do the expression-snobbish dub someone "poorly educated"" (It seems to be failure to use the subjunctive.) And could the 2002 documentary Spellbound have even been made, much less nominated for an Oscar, in a Spanish-speaking country?
The answer to that question is apparently 'no.' Asking our Spanish teacher whether spelling bees existed produced a shake of the head and the dictum that, "If you can pronounce it, you can spell it." A search for the movie in Spanish (it's called Al pie de la letra, or At the Foot of the Letter) turned up a few reviews but not much more. But the modern journalist's crutch seemed to prove the lack of a weird subculture of competitive orthography (thank god): a Google search for two Spanish traslations of spelling bee--certamen de ortografía and concurso de deletreo--brought up 35 and 151 pages respectively, while spelling bee itself pulled up a whopping 611,000 hits.
... with my water and health insurance bills in hand. It would have been hard to imagine this just a couple of months ago, back in Manhattan. Ok, some of the problem with this image is semantic: "Disco" is the name of our local grocery store, where you can buy yummy $2 wines, sacks of yogurt, racks of meat. And because we're "Disco Plus" members, we earn points with purchases to be redeemed for magazines, backpacks and sauté pans. (Ian really wants a sauté pan, but I have a thing for backpacks, so we’ll have to discuss that when the time comes…) Disco is also the place where one can pay household bills. Today marked our first payment for OSDE, our health insurance here, with limited coverage back in the U.S. of A. Per month, we each pay $166 Argentine pesos, or $58 U.S. dollars (same symbol for both currencies = a little confusing at times). If I’m not mistaken, this plan includes visits to private hospitals, dentistry, psychotherapy… After freelance writers’ health insurance in NYC, this seems too good to be true, so I may need post an update once I’ve actually sampled the services.