Category Archives: Daily

Uncertainty

Ever since my plane landed back in the States life has been, unsurprisingly, different. And by different, I mean boring. I have made a moderate effort to keep things interesting by taking up hobbies I always promised I’d get around to (learning to knit and play guitar) and doing random touristy things here in Atlanta. The recent warm weather put me in a slightly better mood, but school has really had it in for me this semester. I went in fired up to be productive, efficient, and organized about everything school related, especially since I don’t have a job right now, and it all went to hell in a hand bag by the second week of school and has continuously gone downhill from there.

I have no motivation to do the readings, write the papers, stay on top of email, keep my finances organized and up-to-date, you get the picture. You name it and I have neglected it. And most noticeably is this blog. I’m not suffering from any lack of inspiration–there’s plenty of that going on, just a lot of doubt and uncertainty about my ability to recognize my dreams and see them through to fruition.

No doubt my looming graduation date (December 2009) is doing nothing to help matters. I no longer have any idea of what I want to do with my life. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I have lots of ideas, but none of them are “mainstream” (and thus, my family thinks I’m crazy). I recently took the first step towards moving to Israel next year, and that involved emailing the seminary program I want to attend about the program, admissions requirements, and how much it costs. Given that parents will not be supporting me financially once I graduate means I either need to get a job and save up the money I’ll need for the entire year I’ll be in the program (possibly a little less) or I need to create a somewhat passive form of income. Passive meaning not having to physically show up somewhere to have a little money deposited into my bank account once or a few times a month. Those options are few and far between, but short of a .com startup, it leaves me with selling photography or getting paid to write/edit. I would love to set up an Etsy shop and sell photography prints, but I currently only have a handful of worthy prints and (as mentioned above) a lack of belief in myself and my abilities. All Internet options require lots of time, effort, and dedication–not to mention marketing–before you ever really start to see money, much less the kind I’ll need to live off and pay the tuition for the program for a year.

However, I took the first step towards making one of these dreams come true, so expect a surprise in the next few days (possibly a couple of weeks depending on how much time I have).

“Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is startled, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.” — Robert Collier

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No End in Sight

This blog is not dead, nor have I died, but life sure has been crazy since I left Buenos Aires. Today marks exactly one month that I have been back in the States and while I’m enjoying being back and living a full life, my heart aches to be back in South America or just traveling around every day. It’s an exhausting life but the also most fulfilling I’ve found.

I intended to make a post before the new year between being homeless in Atlanta for two days, moving into my apartment on the 1st, and school starting back up on the 5th, seeing everyone, and falling back into the folds of life in America I haven’t had very much free time. I have lots to tell you all about, including several posts about my final adventures in Argentina, as well as ones from Uruguay that never got put up. I thought for a while about what kind of content I would put on here once I was back living in the States because I don’t want to resort to rambling about my daily life, however amusing or uninteresting it may be at times. I did make a promise to myself before I left Argentina, though, that I would figure out whatever it was that made life so exciting for me there and incorporate it into my life here. That answer meant living more like a tourist: visiting museums, checking out special attractions, visiting theatres and cool restaurants, and the list just goes on. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that living like a tourist just means more of simply living. That could also be reversed to living simply. I intend to do both.

Since that New Year’s post never gotten written I figure I’ll give a basic outline of my “resolutions,” which are really just goals which I can measure based on the calendar year. I vowed to visit more cultural sights in Atlanta and do things that people visit Atlanta to do. Here is my list for the year and I will add it to the sidebar shortly so you all can keep track of my progress over the year:

– check out the Fernbank Museum
– visit the High
– learn to play guitar
– take a cooking class
– run a half-marathon
– go to the Bremen Jewish Museum
– see the Cyclorama
– ride Marta buses
– visit one place in the U.S. I have never been
– get an international driver’s license (with motorcycle class)
– read one book for pleasure every month
– volunteer at least once a month

Also, in order to keep things interesting on the travel front, I have one major trip in the works for this summer out of the country, several smaller trips I plan to take over the course of the year hiking, camping, and backpacking, as well as plans to visit New Orleans again along with one other U.S. city I have never been. Here’s an added catch: I decided it would be fun to incorporate Greyhound and Amtrak into my upcoming adventures, so I’m sure I’ll have stories to tell.

With that, I need to get some reading done before class, but know that I have many exciting posts coming soon!

On Culture Shock

One of the things I think every girl dreads about traveling, going abroad, or simply moving to a new area is having to find a new hairstylist. For the first year after I moved to Atlanta I insisted of waiting until I could make a trip back to Birmingham to let anyone touch my hair. There were occasional times when I’d let my mom trim my hair on the back porch because it seemed silly to pay someone to do that. When I knew I was coming to Buenos Aires–I won’t lie–I fretted about what I was going to do. Going almost 6 months without a haircut isn’t an option for me because I have curly hair that splits easily, whether I fry it by blowing it out and straightening it or not. My mom would love to know that majority of the time that I’ve been down here I have worn my hair curly and even started to like it, but even being extra nice to my hair and making an effort not to straighten it as much couldn’t save me from the fact that I was going to have to get a haircut down here and I could either buy a pair of scissors and trust a friend to do it, or I could brave going to a salon and letting them trim it. I even went so far as to schedule my last hair appointment in the States as close to my departure date as possible to prolong the amount of time I would have to find somewhere suitable here in Buenos Aires.

I’m trying to be less high-maintenance, and I don’t even think of myself as much maintenance in the first place. I mean, I can go camping for three nights and subsequently go without a shower for that entire duration and not be bothered in the least. Sure, when all is said and done I want a shower just as much as the next person when it’s over, but I’m not one to complain about something like that. I do, however, complain about the lack of toilet paper in almost all bathrooms in South America (there is intentionally no toilet paper. It is not a matter of running out or not being able to adequately stock a bathroom, it just, plain and simple isn’t there.). But then, there are people like my sister (hi, Nettie!) who need a shower after driving from Birmingham to Atlanta before she will consider going out to eat. In fact, I distinctly remember my other sister. Sage, balking at her and telling her to take a “bird bath” if need be, but to get real.

But here’s the thing: Argentines don’t have the most “normal” hairstyles one has ever seen. In fact, you might say their entire definition fashion and sense of style has gone the way of the 80’s in North America and Europe. Picture neon skinny jeans, cut up tee-shirts with neon screen printed images, piercings, multi-colored hair, and specifically, hair that has been razored and cut from so many angles you aren’t really sure if it was intentional or just a really bad botch job. And then there’s the guys’ hairstyles which can almost always be summed up in one phrase: business in the front–party in the back. Whoever coined that phrase deserves a high-five because it’s so much fun to say. But it’s true, guys here have mohawks, they have fauxhawks, they have dreads, they have shaven heads with a pony tail of dreads coming out of the back of their head, they have rattails, they have one single dreaded rattail, they have multiple rattails starting from several different places on their head–are you getting the picture? It’s quite unsettling when you first see it. You’ll be walking down the street with your girlfriends completely checking out this gorgeous guy in a business suit and after he has passed and you turn around for one more glance and there it is: three lone dreads gathered up in a pony tail in the back despite the rest of his head being shaven or of a “traditional” style.

So you’re starting to understand my apprehension about getting my hair cut here. It was all I could do to get over the fear that I could very well walk out with a shoulder-length bob and various different lengths of hair all over my head. In fact, I think the only reason I was able to muster up the nerve is because Liz and I had been on one of our all-day lunches in Palermo and were looking for somewhere to get a pedicure. We were told about this place and as we walk in to inquire only the most beautiful of boys is standing on the other side of the door to answer our questions. No, they don’t offer pedicures, so we turn away to continue our search, but not before Liz–who had just gotten her haircut several days before–remarked, “You know, I can get my hair cut again,” and we let out little laughs as we walked away.

A couple weeks later I was in the same area, having just eaten at one of our favorite little Indian restaurants, Krishna, and decided that it was now or never because my hair was starting to look pretty shaggy. I walked back to the salon and went inside to find out how much risking the worst hair cut of my life was going to cost me. I think it was something like a very reasonable $40 Argentine pesos which is less than $15 USD. But what really sold me was the fact that possibly the most gorgeous guy in the world was going to cut my hair (and he was straight!) and his name was Juan Pablo (only the most common name here in Argentina) nonetheless. We chatted in a mix of Spanish and English and I insisted more than once that I wanted just “un poquitito” cut off and nothing crazy. Just snip, snip, and I’d be happy. After he shampooed my hair I sat in the chair with my stomach in a knot. As I watched him cut my hair he did many things differently from my stylist in Atlanta. Besides cutting my hair parted down the middle after I mentioned several times that I always wear my hair parted down the side he swore he wouldn’t make any difference, “Yeah, not the way people here wear their hair it wouldn’t!” I kept thinking. And then, and then, he took a razer to the front pieces of my hair and tapered them. I have curly hair, and word to all stylists out there: you do not let a razor come near curly hair! Period! Especially not to taper the front pieces of it! Razor = frizz. However, I let it go. Hair grows back, I reminded myself. A few minutes later the torture was over. Nothing was done how I’m used to it: I wasn’t pampered, the cut took all of 8 minutes, and I was left to walk out with a wet hair. What more did I expect for AR$40?

But I walked out of the salon happy that afternoon. My hair dried a lot curlier than normal and I have yet to straighten it since I got it cut, partially out of fear for seeing what it looks like straight and mostly out of laziness and not having the energy to fight the humidity that is Buenos Aires in the spring and summer. And now, less than a week before I have to leave this part of my life behind me, I have grown accustomed to the hairstyles here–even fond of them. Since I’m not sure I’ll ever have the nerve to dread my whole head and then shave all my hair off when I’m done with the phase, I have been toying with the idea of creating my own lone dread lock in the back on the underside of my hair as a tribute to how much this experience has changed me and cutting it off when I’m ready for the next part of my life to begin.

¡Pura vida!

I apologize for the blurriness of the video, but it was taken on a friend’s Razr phone. I was having an incredibly good night and the weather was gorgeous. I was so in love with life at that moment (and still am!) and maybe had a glass or two of wine. But definitely only high on life though you may think otherwise. 😉 It was shot in the centro of Buenos Aires near Plaza de Mayo a few weeks ago.

(Apparently with the the free, hosted WordPress it strips my site of any embedded videos. Until I can set up a domain, here is the link the video.)

Checking In

With the advent and now culmination of finals I finally have time to write for this site again. In fact, all told, I think I wrote just under 50 pages in Spanish this month because instead of final exams, Argentine universities prefer final novelas. I kept feeling like I should write a little post just to let everyone know what was going on and save you all from assuming all sorts of crazy things, but the thought of putting some little hiatus post up bothered me. I really want to refrain from posting “filler” content on here as I would eventually like to make this site into a bigger project and a reflection of my writing for professional use as well.

That being said, and since I still don´t have any of the several posts I´ve been written ready for publishing, I figured I´d make a little announcement. In a little less than 10 hours I have a flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. The only plans or reservations I have are a hostel stay for a night in El Calafate tomorrow night and a hostel stay in Ushuaia for two nights on the 9th and 10th of December because my return flight to Buenos Aires is on the 11th. I´m hoping to make some friends who have a tent so I can do a little camping, but there are also refugios (tiny little cabins backpackers can rent) in several of the national parks I will be visiting.

I´m going here tomorrow!

I´m going here tomorrow!

My mom, who is incredible, purchased and mailed me an early Chanukah gift for this trip and the many others that are sure to follow.

Isn´t it beautiful?

Isn´t it beautiful?

That being said, I still haven´t packed and I need to print out my e-ticket. I´m planning on spending at least a few hours one day at a café to sit down and write some posts and document my adventures since I haven´t had any time over the last few weeks. If you´re interested in reading some travel adventures in the mean time there are several sites under the links section of the sidebar that I recommend checking out, especially The Lost Girls since I have the awesome opportunity to preview some of the chapters that Amanda has written for their upcoming book.

Here´s to adventure!

Which is worth more: 1 peso or 2?

One aspect of Buenos Aires that I most definitely will not miss is seeing signs everywhere that read: ¡No guardá las monedas! Or: ¡Colaboré con las monedas! And lastly: “No hay monedas!” These signs are everywhere. You go to the panadería across the street from your house and you will be asked for exact change. If you do not have exact change you more times than not will not be allowed to leave with food. But isn’t it better for the business to make the transaction and have a little bit of money in their pocket as opposed to turning you away, you ask? Apparently not in Argentina. Or when that is the case, for example, when you attempt to purchase a liter bottle of water and an boxed apple juice before class and your total comes to six pesos and fifty centavos you will, of course, be asked to supply the fifty centavos. Assuming that you dont understand him, the attendent will commence to hold up monedas even after insisting that he has none to give you. And apparently if you still don’t have monedas to supply, well, lucky you, you just don’t get any change. So if you really want your purchase? You better cough up those monedas or forfeit fifty centavos, that is actually rightfully yours. When the aforementioned situation happens to you, you will be amazed at your ability to immediately commence arguing–pretty well, I might add–with the attendant in a language you’re still learning to grasp. When this yields no results and you’re more frustrated than one probably should be over less than twenty American cents you settle for a good curse in English since you know nothing insulting enough in Spanish and walk out the door with your overpaid-for purchase.


Photograph taken by Mateo.photo.

(I also remember reading somewhere once–I think it was in Eat, Pray, Love–that Americans are very reserved and cautious when it comes to anger and other emotions, because if you were really mad, you wouldn’t curse someone out in a language that isn’t your native one because it requires you to think about it. I never thought about this too much, but I think it means that I’m either reserved with my anger–or my Spanish is significantly improving. I think I’ll go with the former.)

Back to the topic at hand, Argentines like their monedas (coins) more than anything, and the only way you will ever be lucky enough to get monedas is the off-chance that you go to a restaurant where the menu isn’t priced in whole dollar amounts (good luck), you manage to scrounge up enough after purchasing subte rides (which, if not purchased in increments of 10 must also be paid with monedas), or you ride the bus 9 times in one day and happen to save all 9 of the ten cent centavos you receive in exchange for the one peso moneda you put in the machine. Or you’re lucky enough to get to the bank at some point during their five hours of daily operation between 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, as if you don’t have classes or a job or an internship to be at during the aforementioned hours. Technically they don’t close until 3:30 but, because they can, and because the building is usually packed full at this time, they will often lock their doors beforehand. Oh, and you’re only allowed five peso monedas per day.

Of course you can go to different banks and get five monedas from each, but unless you’re there as soon as the doors open, you’ll have to wait in line for a guaranteed at least 30 minutes. In fact, the other afternoon I was so desperate that I spent a good 45 minutes in line just to receive five monedas. The exchange would be roughly $1.67 USD. Let me repeat that: 45 minutes in line to receive $1.67 USD. That is what my time has become worth in Argentina, apparently. Except, wait, I didn’t actually even make any money! I only exchanged what I already had!

Since having monedas is the only way you are able to get on the bus, and given that I take the bus at least twice a day, but usually four to six times a day, you may be starting to understand my frustration. Coins aren’t prevalent like they are in the States, where if you drop a penny on the ground and don’t feel like picking it up–well, hey, it’s just a penny, right? No, here, you better bet that if you drop a moneda on the ground some grubby little hands will snatch it up before you’ve even noticed it fell out of your hand!

Then there will be times when you’re supposed to be meeting your friends at a bar for some celebration or another and it’s easily one o’clock in the morning. Realizing that you only have fifty centavos in your coin purse begins to put a serious damper on your plans. Feeling hopeless, but not willing to spend $15-20 pesos on a cab, you go into the maxikiosco next to your apartment and beg for monedas. You plead to no avail, until finally the woman behind the counter tells you that she’ll give you a moneda in exchange for that two peso bill. Wait, “¿Cómo?” Yes, the woman did indeed just tell you that in order to receive a one peso moneda you will have to pay her twice what it is worth.

I’ve since decided, that simply having “study abroad” on my resume will no longer suffice. No, I think I will be well justified in writing, underneath the ‘skills’ section, “Extremely proficient in negotiating near-impossible business exchanges in Spanish,” even though negotiating doesn’t necessarily mean you get the best deal. Hey, at least you got that moneda!

Side note: Argentines also like small bills (ie: $5 versus $50) and you can read a comical discussion of this finicky monetary observation between me and my best friend, Carleson, here. If you are interested in learning more about the shortage of monedas in Argentina a quick Google search turns up numberous amusing (albeit, I´m sure, true) theories including but not limited to: the mafia hoards them and then sells them on the blackmarket, the bus system takes them and sells them on the black market, and lastly, that the Chinese immigrants send them to China where they are broken down into scrap metal and sold at a higher cost.

Un conversación en “Spanglish” entre amigos

Emily: [Argentines] can all go to hell over those monedas. It stresses me out every day. Jesus.
Carleson: Jajaja. Viste como a ellos les encantan los billetes chicos. A nosotros queremos grandes, eh? Pero ellos, no. Intentás pagar y te piden billetes chicos. A la mierda. Que sale de los ATMs? Billetes LAR GOS. Repetí después de mi. LAR GOS. Como para sentirnos que tenemos.
Emily: HAHAHAHAHA! COME LET ME GIVE YOU A BIG SQUISH!
Carleson: :)))))))
Emily: Hahaha. And they expect you to go wait in line for an HOUR, che, to get some small bills and monedas… and then they only give you FIVE fucking monedas!
Carleson: The colectivo!
Emily: Do you know how long that lasts me?! A DAY. Before I have to go back and do the same thing again!
Carleson: Estás jodido si no tenés monedas. Y nadie te quiere dar. Las ahorran como si fueran di puro oro.
Emily: Hahaha. Exactamente! I´m quoting you in my blog. Cough.
Carleson: Yo me pregunto por que no tiran algunos de los billetes a la basura y entonces hacer más monedas.
Emily: I´m telling the Internet what you said :))
Carleson: Así se calma la gente, eh? Coolio. But the funnier one the first one.

———————————————-

Emily: [Argentines] can all go to hell over those monedas. It stresses me out every day. Jesus.
Carleson: Hahaha. You´ve seen how they love small bills. We want big ones, eh? But they don´t. You try to pay and they request small bills. Shit. What comes out of the ATMs? LARGE bills. Repeat after me. LARGE. To feel as if we have [money].
Emily: HAHAHAHAHA! COME LET ME GIVE YOU A BIG SQUISH!
Carleson: :)))))))
Emily: Hahaha. And they expect you to go wait in line for an HOUR, che, to get some small bills and monedas… and then they only give you FIVE fucking monedas!
Carleson: The bus!
Emily: Do you know how long that lasts me?! A DAY. Before i have to go back and do the same thing again!
Carleson:You´re fucked if you don´t have coins. And nobody wants to give them to you. They save them as if they were pure gold.
Emily: Hahaha. Exactly! I´m quoting you in my blog. Cough.
Carleson: I wonder why they don´t throw some of the bills in the trash and then make more coins.
Emily: I´m telling the Internet what you said :))
Carleson: So that people are calm, eh? Coolio. But the funnier one the first one.