Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bulletins From BA #01

Bulletins from BA (Buenos Aires) #01
28 July 2012

¡Hola! there... Rodger French here.

Getting settled in the “Paris of South America” has proven reassuringly easy. We scored a nice 9th floor apartment in the posh barrio (neighborhood) of Palermo, a leisurely stroll from the U.S. Embassy. Our balcony overlooks Avenida del Libertador, which, at 10 lanes wide, is still not the largest street in town. (Being a pedestrian here requires keen spatial awareness and choreographic fearlessness.) We’ve scoped out nearby markets, established phone and intertoobz communications, and now await delivery of our worldly possessions by air and sea.

Embassy folk, officers and local staff alike, have been thoroughly supportive and seem somewhat not unimpressed by the fact that A.J. has an accordion-playing spouse. The accordion is, of course, my secret weapon and I intend to unleash its full mojo… just as soon as I resurrect my chops, since moving betwixt hemispheres has not been conducive to practicing, or regularity of any kind. But, all things in due course, as we make Buenos Aires our home for the next three years.

Would that I could regale you with tales of days lounging in the cafés as an International Man of Leisure and nights prowling the milongas as an ersatz gringo tanguero, but such, alas, is not the case. What I can relate so far is that Buenos Aires (BA) es muy grande (very big), muy ruidoso (very noisy), and teems with los coches (cars), los niños pequeños (small children), y los perros (dogs).

[Sidebar: Dogs are ubiquitous here and paseaperros (professional dog walkers), some with as many as 20 pooches on leash, are a quotidian feature of urban life. It is highly diverting to traipse through Plaza Seeber near the embassy, where large, well-ordered packs of wildly assorted canines congregate daily to sniff, woof, and generally enjoy la vida perro.]

Otras observaciones: BA has a bazillion restaurants, and beef hot off the parrilla (grill) is as excelente as advertised. Also, Argentina is awash in Italian ancestry, so delicious pasta and pizza abound. (Regrettably, Argentinians make little use of spices, notwithstanding salsa chimichurri, which is muy bueno.) Mealtimes take some getting use to. An early dinner might begin at 20h00, más o menos (more or less), although 22h00 (that’s right, 10 PM) is more typical. The innumerable milogas, where devotees of tango congregate, don’t get revved up until well after Midnight. Apparently, no porteño (resident of BA) ever sleeps more than three hours at a stretch.

I think I’m going to like it here.

Anne is also finding her groove and the months spent at FSI studying español are paying off. Her accent has been widely praised and she has been stellar in communicating with Señora Esme, our building’s invaluable encargada (person in charge). Inspired by her (Anne, naturalmente), I have enrolled in Spanish class at the embassy, the better to facilitate interaction with the doormen, shopkeepers, and boliviano street vendors encountered on a daily basis. There is much work to do, but by the time we depart post in 2015, my Spanglish should be off the hook. Like, totalmente.

I am also arranging appointments to “take a coffee” with an eclectic assortment of expats, musicians, and other like-minded characters, both for social reasons and the better to connect with people possibly interested in musical collaborations. And, for what it’s worth, my grande scheme includes finding a teacher with whom to study accordion and a tailor to fabricate a custom, tanguero-esque black suit. When opportunity beckons, I intend to be ready.

Finalmente, sí - thank you for asking - we do have guest accommodations: Room for two in actual beds and a third, if one doesn’t mind an actual sofá. (I’ve field tested it; es más aceptable.) We’re not in host mode just yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Onward. (¡Adelante!)


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dispatches from DC #16
11 July 2012

Hello there... Rodger French here.

On the off chance that any of you are wondering what has become of your erstwhile correspondent, please be advised that I am alive and relatively well, notwithstanding a strained gluteus medius and an inappropriately timed head cold. A.J. and I emptied out and exited our excellent digs in Arlington, VA almost two weeks ago and have taken to the open road in a rental car; the “Toaster” (my favourite vehicle of all time) having been sold and destined to an interesting future in Guatemala. Long story.

The highlight of our journey so far was a thrilling nighttime drive through the mountains of West Virginia during the infamous “derecho” of June 29 that took out electrical power for four million people. This qualified as high adventure indeed, in as much as it entailed dodging trees blowing across Interstate 64W.

The rest of the drive from VA to AL via WV, KY, and TN was pretty routine, although we too were subject to triple-digit temperatures and the warmest June in, like, recorded history. But we’ve had some very nice visits with family and are taking care of sundry matters before returning to DC, there to depart for Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 16, a prospect that still seems somehow spectacularly surreal.

We are scheduled to touch down at Ministro Pistarini International Airport on the morning of July 17, there to be wisked away to our deluxe intown apartment, where we will be greeted by a tango orquesta típica and feted with malbec wine and an enormous asado (roughly, BBQ). Or perhaps not… In any event, I will endeavor to establish a high-speed intertoobz connection in our domicile ASAP, the better to start inflicting your inbox with the next edition of these possibly diverting travelogues, to wit:  “Bulletins From BA.”

Speaking of which, we have a new mailing address, complete with a U.S. Zip Code. If any of you decide you simply must send us something – anything - let me know and I will pass it on to you. Meanwhile, be well, stay cool, and look to the southern hemisphere for word.

Onward. (Adelante.)