Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Post Game

I've been home for a couple of weeks now. All of my time has been spent doing repatriation tasks. I've purchased a house, a car, a computer, a phone, and new furniture. I got my taxes submitted. I have been to doctors and dentists. We've had family dinners and I've caught up with a few friends. It's been a dizzying few weeks so unlike the first part of my 2012.

As good as it is to come home, inevitably there's a bit of post-travel blues. I like who I am when I travel and I always notice that there's an inner battle when I get back to reality. My wanderlust-fueled self is resisting the idea of signing up for a mortgage and thinks I belong back on the road, preferably near a beach where I can live on a few dollars a day with minimal possessions. My other half is excited to get settled in a house and start the next chapter of my life...and start saving for the next trip!

I've noticed a few things since I've been back. For one thing - for the first time in 4 1/2 years, I can understand almost every conversation around me. My Dutch was hopeless but I've missed not hearing Spanish around me all the time and I'm forgetting a lot of what I learned. I need to try to keep it up.

I've also noticed how awkward Canadians are when they greet each other! In Holland it was 3 kisses, in Europe and Quebec it's 2, in South America it's 1 and here...0, unless you're really good friends. It's so odd to me now. It's funny that a custom I grew up with now seems foreign. Yet this is one of the joys of traveling! It's sad that we don't kiss when we greet each other. It's nice. It's warm. By contrast we appear cold and stuffy!

Taking a step back, I can really reflect on how lucky I am. I am so grateful to have had the time to take this trip. To go and see and do and experience. I am not meant to live out my days putting in 60 hour weeks in the office. I work to live and there are so many fun things to do to make the living part more exciting. I really believe that contrast is the essence of appreciation and by traveling around you can appreciate differences, open your eyes to new ways of thinking and doing things, and recognize what you love so much about Home.

And there really is no place like it!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lo Bueno Dura Poco

Lo Bueno Dura Poco is the equivalent expression to 'All good things must come to an end'. Damn. I guess it had to happen some time. I suppose I was ready to go home, ready to start the next chapter of my life. Still, I had to remind Mom and Dad that the reluctance I had in leaving Argentina wasn't because I didn't want to come home but rather that I didn't want to leave there.

And so my last day in Buenos Aires was spent breaking a sweat trying to stuff my two suitcases full of things I'd accumulated over four months. I don't know what I would have done if Guille hadn't taken a bag back to Canada with her a few weeks ago!

Then it was off to Palermo and Mama Racha's for Guille's birthday lunch. There were a lot of familiar faces with all of Guille's friends and family that I'd met during my time with her here. Last count I think there were 18 'big kids' and 8 little kids, it was a big crowd!

The afternoon was almost like a final exam in my Spanish class! How well would I do in a large group understanding and speaking spanish? Well enough to get by and surprise one of her friends that I'd really only been learning for the last four months. That was the highest compliment I could have received. Of course now I'm worried about forgetting it all!

My last day in BA was a beautiful, sunny warm fall day. The leaves were turning yellow. Everyone was out in the park playing and drinking mate. The street vendors were doing good business around Plaza Armenia. That's the way I'll remember it until I get the chance to go back and make new memories there. And I'll definitely go back!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mop Up

With little time left, it was time to 'mop up' those few outstanding items on the list of things I wanted to see before I left Buenos Aires. Off I went today to the Plaza de Mayo to check out El Cabildo and the Casa Rosada.

The Cabildo in BA was a much bigger production than in Montevideo. So much so that I could only digest a portion of the information they presented. It being solely in Spanish didn't help either.

The view of the Plaza de Mayo from the balcony of El Cabildo.

The view of El Cabildo from the Plaza de Mayo (white building on the left).

I took a free 45 minute tour of the Casa Rosada which was really impressive!

Aside from being a spectacularly beautiful building, I particularly liked the press room with black and white posters of influential women in Argentina's history.

An art gallery decorated in the colours of the Argentinian flag inside the Casa Rosada.

President Cristina's desk in Casa Rosada.

I met my friend Mariano in the afternoon to go down to The neighbourhood of Boca to check out the infamous Caminito.

For 'la ultima cena', my last supper in BA, Guille, Alé and I went over to Puerto Madero to an Italian restaurant. It was a great excuse to take out my new, fabulously beautiful green heels (zapatos con tacos altos). Needless to say that after wearing flip flops and sneakers for four months I had to move slowly!!! ;o)

Friday, May 4, 2012


Today was site-seeing day. Javier and I started the day at the Solis Theatre.

There was a photography exhibit that was worth checking out before moving on to see Palacio Slavo, the city's tallest building.

Then we hopped on a bus to Parque Rodo which was a little oasis in the city. It has a lake with paddle boats and lots of green space which I always love.

After we stopped for lunch we headed down to the Costanera, the seaside boardwalk. While there are lots of apartment buildings along the main road, the area has a really nice vibe to it. It's not obnoxious like Cancun or anything. It didn't hurt that it was a glorious day! Summer-like in Montevideo. Winter-like in Colonia. What a difference a week makes!

Our final stop, before heading back to the ferry terminal, was the 'El Cabildo', the old town hall. I enjoyed seeing old photos of Plaza Constitucion and the some ancient artifacts, but I admit I expected more. From what Javier said, Uruguayans don't dwell too much on the past. Many don't know much about their own history so perhaps it's not surprising the Cabildo was a bit lean on history and memorabilia.

While it was a long way for a short amount of time, it was nice to see more of Uruguay and hang out with Javier. Besides, I really wanted to take advantage of my time here. I can't believe it, but Operation Penguin ends in 48 hours when I get on a plane bound for North America. How strange it will be to be Home again!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tienes que ir

The words from the lady in the tourist centre in Colonia were stuck in my mind. You have to go, tienes que ir, to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I didn't make the time to go when I was in Colonia last week. It was a challenge enough to get there that I wanted to stay put, thanks very much. That said, my 'FOMO' still kept me wondering about the city.

While I'd originally planned on spending the full week in BA, I opted to 'pop over' to Montevideo for a couple of days mid-week to satisfy my curiosity. Javier is from Montevideo so I knew I'd have a guide and wouldn't be stuck in the touristy spots. It's so much easier to get a feel for a place with local guides.

It's 'only' three hours by boat but the Buquebus company makes the check-in and customs fairly painless. Besides, there's wifi on board. I could easily waste that time in an Internet cafe! Sad but true. Might as well be en-route somewhere.

Montevideo is a capital city but it's a fairly small one. It felt like a town compared to Buenos Aires which was actually refreshing. There were only eight attractions listed in the Frommer's online guide but there's so much more to the city!

The hotel,

and the view from the balcony.

I met Javier for dinner at this funky pub called Matteo (after some famous Uruguayan singer) in his neighborhood. Good food and great music. All good.

The old city gate by night.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I've been meaning to...

...do a lot of things in Buenos Aires. I've always had plenty of time...until now. Gulp. I hear the clock ticking so it was time to make the time to see the things I'd been meaning to.

I was on my own today to zig and zag in the general direction of the green part of the city north of Avenida Del Libertador. The bus dropped me at the Plaza Italia and I headed up to the Parque 3 De Febrero as the first destination.

There were tons of runners, bladers, and cyclists out enjoying the sunshine. The rose park, El Rosedal, was unfortunately closed up for some reason but I enjoyed my wander around the lake and popped in to the Museo Sivori. The museum was a manageable size and was full of funky modern art some of which I really liked.

The next stops were the Japanese Garden...

....and MALBA. MALBA is the museum of latin american art in Buenos Aires. The building is sleek and modern with three floors to explore. I didn't linger too long any any one piece and am certain I didn't give some pieces more than a passing glance. There were some fascinating pieces which really caught my eye. Then there were many others that were just plain weird or disturbing confirming that I'm not a huge contemporary art fan. Just like with opera, I'm optimistic it'll grow on me or I'll have some epiphany about it! One day...

I opted to have lunch in the MALBA restaurant. It was very tasty, but on the expensive side. I needed the energy as I still had much ground to cover. The Floralis Generica, a gigantic steel flower which open in the morning and close at night, was next.

Once I'd seen all of the above, it was time to switch gears and get into shopping mode to pick up a few things before I head home.

By the time I got home at 19h, I was shattered! It's just as well that Guille's birthday dinner was going to be homemade instead of going out to a restaurant. We had malfatis and pankekes con dulce. Yum yum. While I still got to bed earlier than I would have if we'd gone out to a restaurant, 2AM was still late, especially since I was catching a ferry to Montevideo early the next morning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sunnies and coffee needed!

We asked for a late checkout. We needed it. We were moving pretty slowly once the alarm went off just before noon. Good thing today was a chill day with no real plans other than meeting up with Guille's mom and cousin and his family in San Isidro at Bike&Coffee, our favourite little restaurant.

While I'd planned on sitting quietly at the table caffeinating, the twins, Lara and Camila, had other plans for me. I got an earful from the munchkins about this and that and everything else! They talked a mile a minute and I kept having to ask them to slow down. It was cute to see them so excitable. Inevitably their energy was contagious and I had a great time playing with them. As always, I do my best to encourage mischievous behaviour in all little people!

After lunch we all hopped on board the Tren de la Costa to Tigre.

We checked out a different part of town where they had more boat rides, playgrounds, boardwalks and parks. It was really pretty but Guille and I were both lugging around our overnight bags on little sleep and we were pooped. Plus I talked in Spanish about 90% of the time so my brain hurt too!

Playing with our food! Copo de azucar=barbe-à-papa=cotton candy...or in this case, a decent moustache!