Thursday, May 31, 2007

Two Romes on the Mirror: Twin Cities

A couple of years ago I got permission to use my scholarship in a study abroad program in Rome, Italy.

I was excited about the opportunity of visiting my relative's land for the first time, about having the opportunity to come in direct contact with this distant culture that was also my culture, about meeting my far relatives, about traveling, about growing, about everything...

At the same time, I new that since I was only going to be in Rome for a semester, I wanted to internalize and absorb everything as fast as I could: I wanted to learn about the culture, compare “Italian” food in Italy with the one I eat in the new continent, see how Italians lived, how they studied, what it was like to work in Rome…

For that reason, I was eager to find a job in Rome through the Internet. After sending many e-mails, CVs and applications, I got an e-mail from a History Museum that was looking for a communications intern in Rome. It seemed like the perfect opportunity: I was going to be able to practice Italian (very basic at that time), I was going to learn a lot of history about the country, and I was going to gain experience in my field.

A month before flying to Rome, I wrote to the Museum’s managers asking them if they could help me find accommodations in Italy. They cordially responded something like: Unfortunately, we cannot help you find a place in Italy because we are located in Rome, Georgia, United States.

Those few words were enough to kill my perfect plan of having a full immersion into Italian culture. However, they were not enough to attenuate my excitement f traveling to the old continent.

From now on, whenever you are searching for a city in Internet, you should double check to make sure it concerns the desire city, otherwise you might be looking at the unreal reflection of a name that counts twice.

Places on a Mirror (includes cities and states):



Monday, May 28, 2007

CyberShopping in Argentina, Experience Worthy of Surrealistic Life

Address > Enter > Pop. The website that I was looking for opened up. Click-Click. "Awesome! The exact tennis shows I was looking for!," exclaimed my friend, Would you come get them with me?

Jobless, and with lots of free time at that time, I agreed to go with him. Besides I'd never been to the area of Buenos Aires where the store was located and I wanted to explore that part of the city.

After a 40-minute bus ride we arrived at the given address, although wefelt we were in the wrong place: an area of low houses next to the railways. But the address was correct; so we walked about two blocks to thedoor of the "store", a white house built in the beginning of the XX Century.

A guard received us at the door, he asked a couple of strange questions from the other side of the bars, he asked for our ID, wrote our names downin a book and opened the bars. As we walked in, we passed through a metaldetector and the guard searched our bags; the situation was strange and it reminded me of the pre-departure flight procedures.

After we passed these controls, he opened a second door where we found a third door thatseparated us from the tennis shoes. Behind the last door, the stored resembled any regular shoe store in Av. Santa Fe or Av. Cordoba, with shoes and tennis rackets displayed on thewalls, and various people trying on shoes and clothes. However, the atmosphere was tense, and the salesmen kept looking into the cameras and the safeguarded door the whole time. I felt like the protagonist of one ofthose hidden camera prank shows. Only this time, it was no joke; my friendwas as stunned as I was.

After a little while, the storekeepers brought the shoes he had previouslyreserved through the Internet. He paid for them in a hurry and left theplace as fast as we could. "They were the exact shoes I was looking for!" he told me as we were leaving, "and I had not been able to find them anywhereelse." At that time, he was defeated by desire. In his place, I would havesettled for the desire, and from now on I can assure you I will stick totraditional shopping. As of now, in Argentina, Internet shopping is not made for me.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Poppa's Hat Travels the World

Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina

Each person chooses different ways of keeping the spirit of their loved ones alive. Some people keep their pictures or some family item, others transmit special recipes, stories or family traditions from one generation to the other, while others create their own rituals.

For that reason I became curious when I found out that after his grandfather died before going to study abroad in Argentina, Porter Campbell travels around the world with his grandpa’s hat to keep his memory alive.

Laura: When did you Stara travelling with the hat?

Porter: Since I came to Argentina August 2006.

LV: How did you come up with this idea?
PC: Poppa was an inspiration for me throughout my life; it was part of the inspiration to do something on his name. He used to that that hat with him everywhere, so it became his “symbol”, we say. And since he died two months before I came here, it was natural. Although I think the idea originally came from one of my aunts, Connie, or his son Robbie.

LV: Do other family members travel with the hat?
PC: No, just me for now.

LV: Where have you traveled with the hat so far?
PC: Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Córdoba, Mendoza, Mar Del Plata, Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Chile (Chile, Valdivia, Santiago).

LV: Does the hat have a name?
PC: No, “Poppa’s Hat”....

LV: Did your grandfather like to travel?
PC: I think he did, he always traveled to visit his children and his grandchildren. He also had “timeshares” everywhere…

LV: In one of the pictures you can see a ring along with the hat. What’s the story of the “family ring”?
PC: Poppa liked the ring and he bought one for each family member. It is like our symbol, I guess.

LV: Would you like your grandchildren to follow a similar tradition? If that’s the case, what object would they take around the world?
PC: I’d like to pass on the hat to my entire family (from my cousins to my grandchildren), and if someone is traveling to an interesting site I’d like them to take the hat. Another object… I don’t know. I don’t have anything that I carry with me everywhere I go, maybe some day. I think I am going to make a book with all the pictures, and make copies to pass down to my immediate family.

Now I leave you some of the pictures Porter took while traveling through Argentina. Enjoy:

Poppa in Argentina

Aconcagua, Mendoza, Argentina

Cascadita en Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina

Mar del Plata, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bariloche, Argentina

Puente de Mendoza, Argentina

Cerro de los Siete Colores, Argentina

Monday, May 07, 2007

Buses are Argentinean. Read the History

“Did you know buses were invented in Argentina?” I would repeat proudly, with a bit of skepticism, while I traveled. Although I had never been able to find facts to back out this statement, I had always repeated it as a fact…until I found “De los colectivos” an article written by Federico Recagno for the 44th volume of December’s edition of Todo Contol, the magazine for Obra Social del Personal de los Organismos de Control, which confirmed that the bus actually IS an Argentinean invention.

According to the article, in 1920, a group of taxi drivers got together in a bar of Rivadavia Avenue to come up with a new system of transportation that enabled them to more a large number of passengers at the same time, to be able to offset the high cost of taxi-meters.

Recagno affirms that the first car-bus, with “capacity for four passengers sitting in the back, three on the sides, and one next to the driver” circulated through Buenos Aires for the first time September 24, 1928. The trip cost between 10 and 20 cents, and route stated in Primera Junta, passed through Plaza Flores and ended in Lacarra y Rivadavia, one way, and the inverse route on the way back.

As time passed by, this medium of transportation became more and more popular, businessmen started adding bigger cars to fit more people and they assigned new routes around the city.

The car-bus continued to evolve until it transformed into the medium of transportation that we use today, where in Buenos Aires it is impossible to travel without coins clinking in your pockets.

Curiosities about buses in Argentina:
Tulio Montaña = first bus passenger.
Corina Milianazzi = received the first printed bus ticket.
Bondi = name used by people from Buenos Aires to refer to the bus; the word comes from the word “bondinho” in Portuguese that means little bus.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

San Telmo, An Neighborhood of Antiques that Lost its Kingdom to Modernity in Buenos Aires

I confess. I am a Fair’s girl. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t juggle and I’m not into acrobatics, I am a Fair’s girl because on the weekends I like to stroll down the different Artisan’s Fairs that are organized across Buenos Aires: at Juramento, Plaza Italia, Placita Cortázar, Plaza Francia or San Telmo.

Each of the fairs has a unique touch to it. For example, at Placita Cortázar you can experience how traditional art fusions with modern art, and decorative art with clothing items; at Plaza Francia you can see how street artist’s presentations wrap around artisan’s crafts; and at San Telmo you can be the protagonist of how history and tradition mingle with modern society and tourists.

It had been a long time since I had last walked around this area of town, and I was surprised to see how much the Fair that grown and evolved. About ten or twelve years ago, San Telmo, one of Buenos Aires’ first neighborhoods, was characterized for being the host of antique stores during the week, and a renown Sunday Antique Fair where businessmen exchanged and their merchandise to curious people passing by.

Even though nowadays Buenos Aires’ most renowned and emblematic antique stores are still located in San Telmo, as I walked down Defensa Street Sunday afternoon, antiques got lost among rustic and modern art crafts that were sold by street artists. Nevertheless, the neighborhood still conserves a gallery where you can find old and strange objects, some almost forgotten that take you back to your childhood days, and other completely unknown for young generations. Antiques continue to play a central role in the neighborhood, even though they no longer rule the place, and now they have to share their kingdom with modern objects.

Although San Telmo has been modernized in the past couple of years, it still conserves its rough spirit: tango groups fill the streets with profound beat of the double bass, harmonious notes of the violin and the agile two by four of the bandoneón; dancers adorn the cobblestones with firuletes and eights, turns and history; and painters portray moments, figures and people attempting to immortalize the moment.

At San Telmo I enjoy being a Fair’s girl because I travel through time, experiment the past and experience the present changes at the same time.