Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday musings

Well, I am doing this blog aloft, somewhere between Santiago, Chile and Toronto, Canada -strange feeling indeed.
The month in Argentina has flown by and now all that remains are the memories and they are all good ones. We walked a million kilometers and my feet and aching feet can attest to that!
We saw many sites and attractions, met many outstanding ,friendly and very helpful in our poor attempts to speak Spanish. They must have had a few chuckles at our expense.
The zoo, Eva Peron grave and museum, the Recoleta cemetery, the \United Nations stainless steel flower, the botanical gardens, sidewalk bazaars, sidewalk cafes and strolling troubadours – the list goes on and on. All equally fine and all well worth seeing.
This week while on our morning walk, we saw a half dozen ambulances go tearing by us and I said to my wife “There must be a big accident somewhere”. Little was I to know that indeed there was an accident and it involved the subway system and over 50 people died as a result. Blame is being focused on the fact that the cars themselves were over 50 years old and the union blames cutbacks on servicing and new equipment purchase for the crash.
As well a cruise ship had to return to port as one attendant died of norovirus and 10 more were rushed to hospital for treatment. We also saw a purse snatching one night and we were actually reassured by the event. Nearly every apartment building has a locked entrance that needs either a passkey or you have to buzz via intercom someone to open the doors to admit you. As well most have an on site door man to add extra security to the building. The purse snatcher made off with the purse for about 10 feet before at least 6 men gang tackled him and held him for the police, who showed up within 5 minutes. Rather impressive we thought.
Perhaps the most endearing memory I will have of this great city is that of the attitude of the women there. They seem truly comfortable with themselves and their posture and gait reflect that fact. There was an inner strength to all of them and I admired that.

As for news on the rest of the world, well I have to tell you that CCN,BBC,Al Jazeera international, they all are shitty. For a whole month all I got was Syria, Republican nomination race, a smattering of Greece and that was about it.
What a colossal waste of time these networks are. I really cannot add anything new or useful based on the precious little that I was able to discern.
So – that is it for this week. Next week I will have had a full week of real news to review and to talk about with you.
So until then,
take care out there,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday musings

Well, week three is in the books and today we are finally having a bit of down time as it is raining off and on – the first rain (except for the one late night monsoon early in the vacation) since we came to Buenos Aires.
We went to the Zoo and the Eva Peron Museum this week and that was something.
The zoo was enormous, it took over two hours to stroll the grounds and even then we did not see all the attractions.

The thing that struck me the most was the number of fanciful utility buildings that were built in the 1800's to house things like pumping stations and the grand design of them.
We even saw a model shoot at a carousel - and this was the first carousel I have ever seen!

At the Eva Peron museum we actually were in a building that once was converted from a rich persons home to a shelter for homeless families and single mothers – just take a look at the stove used to prepare meals!

I learned quite a bit about the social programs she and her husband, Juan Peron spearheaded aimed at the poor, and the children of Argentina.
Strangely though, for a woman of the people, it seems that all her dresses were from Christian Dior!

The other night my wife wanted to have Italian for supper and off we went. Well, her spaghetti apparently was wonderful, my lasagna was another story indeed. Sometimes not being able to properly translate a Spanish menu can come back to haunt you and in this case what I thought was a meat based dish turned out one that was 90% spinach with a thick cheese spread for a topping – sigh! Oh well, sometimes things just are not meant to be so right then and there I made a solemn vow to stick to steak for the duration!
On to world news – such as I can find.
The federal elections in Russia are in early March – where have the first two months of this year gone? I think that Mr. Putin will return as head honcho for a third term. However I believe that he will find a different Russia than the one he presided over before. That is now the is the Internet and the infamous social network Twitter. As we have seen in the Middle East, these instruments can be big shapers of domestic opinion and, in cases, of discontent and forces of change. He will have to behave a little less autocratic now than what he has been used to.
I see the public relations campaign against Iran and its' nuclear industry is heating up. Interesting how it resembles that what was used to justify the invasion of Iraq isn't it?
It seems that the cold snap in Europe is slowly easing. Good thing as the continent really is not prepared for winters such as those that normally occur on the Canadian Prairies – this year being an exception however.
The Pope has installed a number of new cardinals this week. I saw a brief clip of this on CNN the other day, the robes, the ceremony, the jewelry – what a collection of pompous old men stuck in a world over 400 years ago. Do they still think that by putting on red hats that they are relevant to their flock? An order restricted to men – with a history of predatory tactics on young boys, opposed to woman's rights, birth control and say that they know how to counsel married couples? This tired old institution needs to change or will eventually be kicked to the curb by a society ever changing by social media and the day of instant world communication.
Syria – what more can be said? Slowly but surely this country is falling into the abyss. Civil war is now imminent and its leader continues to deny that there is fighting going on in the land – even while video smuggled out on YouTube shows that that is untrue. Now China is starting to slowly withdraw the steadfast support it was had, can Russia be far behind?
Well, that is it for this week, time to take the umbrella and go out to the local cafe for a breakfast of medialuna's and orange juice. Medialuna is a form or croissant and tasty as all get out.
Take care out there,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday musings

Hard to believe that the vacation is half done already. The two weeks have flown by.
We took a cab from our flat in Recoleta to the Buenos Aires Rose Gardens in Polermo. For a 1/2 hour ride it cost 40 pesos or $10.00 Canadian -quite the deal. And I have to tell you that if you have heard any stories about the way cab drivers navigate here, they are all true. Zipping in and out of non existent gaps in the traffic – it made the old heart flutter a couple of times.

After that we walked about a kilometer to the Japanese Gardens and what an oasis of serenity it was.

Now, knowing a little more of the city, I was able to instruct the cab to a return destination that cost half as much as the ride out. Even old farts like I can learn a few tricks.
I should give a shout out to KHK in British Columbia, Canada because I thought of him when we visited the grave of Eva Peron – she would have made a good German he would say!

Food- oh my, we decided that even though the flat has a kitchen, that this time while on vacation that we would only have breakfast at home and eat supper out every night. What a wonderful plan. What a mistake – it will take months for my ever expanding waistline to contract back to normal I am afraid to say. Steak, steak and even more steak – this country really has the best steak in the world and every place where I have had one, I have never been disappointed.
And please do not get me started on the desserts- take a look at the torte I had Saturday – truly mouth watering and full of goodness and calories!

Today, Sunday, we are off to San Telmo to the Craft Market and that is where deals are to be found on nifty items – I am a little dubious of this, for if this market is like the one here in Recoleta, all items will be the same price, same design and same manufacture. But hey, this is the case at any market in a large city in the world. I think the true bargains are in small town markets instead.
Back to the real world. Somehow the struggles of the rest of the world seem distant here in Argentina. There is more concern over the status of the Malvina Islands (Falkland) than over the middle east it seems. And the story in Syria just seems to get worse and worse. All the pious rhetoric of the world, led by the American President Obama does not hide the fact that nothing is being done. Why? Maybe because the country is a big client of Russia and China perhaps?
Speaking of Russia, it was interesting to hear from Mr. Gorbachev again. It seems that be believes that Mr. Putin has exhausted his credibility with the Russian people and should remove himself from the next round of elections.
In the Maldives the president resigned and then a few days later said he was actually forced out by a coup – say what? This story will bear watching.
And in Greece – the sad saga continues as the country continues to lurch towards a probable default and bankruptcy. You look at the reasons for the drama and there are many. People blame the unions for being greedy and overpaid, they blame the size of the civil service, they blame the costs of pensions and social programs. Yet, in all this, how come no blame has been assigned to those in power that signed off on all these expensive drains on the economy? How come they are not punished as are the poor, the retired and the minimum wage earner? No jail for them, no cash penalties – nothing. Seems a bit unfair doesn't it?
Lastly, I have to comment on the weather here in Buenos Aires compared to that in Europe. Here we have had nearly every day at plus 30 range -even up to 42 one day, nice light breezes and only a couple of nights where it rained like there was no tomorrow. But what the heck is going on in Europe these days? Snow, ice and bitterly cold days - it almost seems like Canada in the winter. Yet this year Canada, at least in Saskatchewan, is having a wonderful winter with only a few very cold days and very little snow. Strange times indeed.
Anyway, that is it for a short column, time to head to the market!
Take care out there,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday musings

Hola from Buenos Aires mes amigos!
It is hard to believe that already one week is over on the vacation. I am really not too sure of where to start but I think I will comment on the news briefly and then a little about the week that was for us here.
News is very limited here in B.A. Obviously the majority of stations are in Spanish and since my Spanish is limited, I am forced to rely on three English speaking channels. One is CNN International-from London. The second is BBC International from London and the third is Al Jezeera from -you guessed it, London.
All three present a limited view of the world news. Indeed I am able to gather more from my home city in Canada than I can from them. It seems that events in Syria are coming to a boil and the United Nations is stymied in any efforts at all in terms of issuing condemnation statements- tell me again how this will help the civilians being shot again?- by both Russian and Chinese veto’s. Something tells me that when the dust settles, that the survivors will remember how the world ignored them.
There was a serious set of riots at 2 soccer games in Egypt with 70 some killed and more in the riots that followed. Some say the military set this up but I think it probably was done by militants determined to reshape the country into their vision of Egypt and to the devil with other peoples opinions.
Over in Russia it seems that Mr. Putin is headed for re-election as President but there is a more vocal opposition now and they do not seem hesitant to voice their opposition to him and his policies. Perhaps he will not have such an unopposed control over the government as before and will be more accountable to the people, and that is a good thing.
OK, enough for the world, let us talk about Buenos Aires.
My wife and I agree that this city reminds us of Paris but without the snotty people that live there. The people here are great to deal with. They are unfailingly polite and try their best to understand our fractured Spanish. I had my first steak dinner tonight and oh boy, wow is the only word that can describe it. This was followed by a portion of ice cream that was made the proper way- with real cream, I could feel the waistline expanding.
I am attaching a couple of photos just to give a glimpse of a small part of what we have seen so far.

The top one shows the view of our street as you come out of the front doors of the apartment building. The second is the grill at the restaurant where I had my steak- this is the unit where the meat is done on. Indoors and over blocks of wood. You can see on the left a slab of lamb, then in the middle are sausages, and the right are chunks of meat.
Oh yes, the weather has been great with the temperature in the day reaching plus 31c (plus 42c with the humidity) and clear skies. Except of course the one night when we went out for supper (around 8 is the norm here) and were sitting outside having our first course when the heavens opened and the streets were flooded within minutes. I saw one of those pylons used for traffic direction float merrily along a newly created stream in the street beside our table. The storm lasted for 2 hours and the 25 minute walk back to our apartment was like taking a very warm shower. All that was missing was some soap and a towel!
Well, that is it for this week, I apologize for a short column but there is a cold drink (Coca Cola that is) waiting for me on the balcony and my wife and I will be sitting there watching the busy foot traffic go by for a while. Until next week,