August 31, 2005

Birgitta and Betty

Betty's Story about Birgitta's Visit

I had been waiting for a visit from my kids for months. Finally, Birgitta was coming to Buenos Aires. I started bugging Bill to leave for the airport. I wanted to see her. He didn't want to leave for the airport too early and then have to wait. Little did we know, the flight was an hour early and not reported on the web site. Birgitta was waiting for us. It was wonderful to see her.

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With just two weeks in Argentina, I wanted Birgitta to get a good picture of BA and some of greater Argentina. After settling in and showing her our casa, we went for a walk through the Villa del Parque area and then took the train to Retiro and downtown. We walked through Plaza San Martin and to the pedestrian shopping street, Avenida Florida. Birgitta was surprised at the low prices on shoes, handbags and anything leather. We walked around and she was able to get a good feel for the city. We walked through the Gallerias Pacifico shopping center and to look at the painted ceiling, ala Sistine Chapel. Pretty impressive!

Over the next couple days we visited other barrios of BA. We went to ferias in Palermo, Mataderos and Recoleta. Birgitta wanted to buy a leather jacket for herself and for her boyfriend. From the bus I usually ride, I had noticed an area where there were a lot of leather shops. We went there to check them out. We hit pay dirt. There were several blocks of great leather stores with many styles of coats and jackets. She chose a very casual jacket that fits her lifestyle.

I think it is important for visitors to see Igauzu Falls, so we visited the tourist information office and then went to the bus depot. We bought tickets to leave Wednesday the 17th of August for the falls. We slept during most of the 17 hour bus ride and arrived on Thursday morning. At a travel agency we inquired about accommodations and on a whim we had them check the Sheraton in the national park. As it happened, they had a room facing the falls at a price we could afford, so we took it. It was a bigger splurge than I am used to, but it was worth it. We got there early enough for breakfast and then started walking through the park. Bill and I had been there before, so I was able to navigate us to the sites and really enjoy the day. We both got a little sunburned and had a wonderful day. When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that this was a night for the full moon hike in the park. Five nights a month the park allows visitors to walk to the Devil's Throat to see the falls under the full moon. It was a perfect night, clear and not too cold. We were out for about two hours and it was very memorable.

The next day we walked the third circuit to the lower falls. Here you really feel the power of the water as it pours down from the upper level. It is a beautiful walk. We took lots of pictures. As usual, Birgitta berated me for being such a lame photographer. Good thing we use digital cameras or it would have cost a fortune in film. This was a wonderful day for me. It has been a long time since Birgitta and I have spent so much time together. I really needed it. We took the bus back to BA and got home on Saturday morning.

During the following week we showed Birgitta other parts of the BA: La Boca, San Telmo, Tigre and the river. Bill complained that Birgitta and I were just shopping. Yeah, we went to a lot of shopping venues, but Birgitta and I share an interest in and an appreciation for fashion and design. Argentina has some of the finest design of furniture, home items and clothing in the world. It was fun to share it with her.

The final weekend we had a party so our friends could get to know her a little. It was a lot of fun and the weather was nice. Birgitta left on Monday night and I already miss her. Of course I can talk to her on our VOIP phone, but I am ready to go home to Minnesota.

Arrival at EZE
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One of the biggest problems with living in Argentina is that our family is so far away that it is difficult to travel to see them and visa versa. This is especially true for our children. We really love and miss them. Even with our VOIP phone where we can talk whenever we want, it just is not the same as being with them.

Thankfully our darling daughter, Birgitta, was finally able to visit. She has been visiting here the past three weeks. She arrived on August 11th and she left on Monday. It was a good visit, especially for Betty. They were thick as thieves, shopping and exploring the city together. They also went up to Iguaz˙ for two days. They took the luxury bus and stayed at the Sheraton, where they got a room with a view of the falls. In the city we went to a number of street markets from Recoleta to Mataderos. We bought lots of neat curios.

My New Leather Sports Coat
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On her last Saturday, we threw a big party. It was tons of fun. People must be getting use to our style of party, because everyone really seamed to enjoy it. We grilled hamburger, hotdogs and a big salmon. God, how I love the fresh salmon! Betty made her famous potato salad and Birgitta made pumpkin bars. Pablo, a friend from the English group, brought his guitar. We were treated to a room full Argentineans singing Argentine folk songs and then some from Pablo's favorite American song writer, Bob Dylan. It was very unusual to have a roomful of happily singing Argentineans. I really loved it. By the wee hours of the morning there were a handful of people sitting around our dinning room table. We talked Argentinean politics. It was one of the most interesting discussions that I have seen here. It was clear to me that the progress is slow here and that the cynicism of Argentineans about their future is overwhelming. Still, I am always heartened when people openly and honestly discuss their vision of reality, because it is the first and most critical step in change. Without a common view of the problems, solutions never follow.

On Birgitta's last day, we headed back for the leather district and to buy her boyfriend a leather coat. Luckily, I was with them this time, and I got a beautiful coat for myself. It is a suede sports coat made of goat leather: light, fashionable and, to me, extremely beautiful.
We got Birgitta to the airport about 8 PM and she was soon on her way. It was a wonderful visit.

Birgitta's Story about Her Visit

When I boarded the plane to Argentina I was not sure what BA would be like. All I knew for sure was I wanted to see Iguazu. The city itself is a lot like NYC with lots of foot traffic. We went out that first night to Florida Avenue. I was freezing. The weather left a lot to be desired. Cold with a high humidity, it left my bones aching. I picked up both a pair of boots and a scarf to help with the cold. The following day my mom and I went to the leather shops to get a warmer coat for me. I learned quickly that the Spanish I spoke was a very different language than the Spanish spoken in BA. We sat at a little café and I had my first taste of empanadas and the Argentinean coffee. Both were wonderful.

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The following days were filled with some intense sight seeing. We went to several different fairs. Spent a day walking thorough downtown, past the pink house (the same as our white house) and had lunch at the oldest or first café in the city, Café Tortoni. We took the subway and rode the bus and with those we were able to get anywhere easily. After I'd been there a week, my mom and I boarded the bus for a long, 19-hour ride to see the falls. When we got to the city of Iguazu, we went to the tourist office to book a room. By sheer luck the Sheraton, which over looks the falls, had a room with a view. It was expensive, $190 a night - but this once-in-a-life-time chance was worth every penny. The view from the room was amazing. The falls go on for a good mile or more. As you walk along the trails there are several to see, little to big, fat to skinny, soft and slow to the true throat of the devil. It was amazing! Breath taking! Stunning! That night we were invited to do a late night lunar walk to the falls. Again by luck we happened to be there during the full moon. The water rumbled but with the light of the moon looked amazing. Iguazu is a do not miss in your lifetime place. My photos will never do it justice.

When we got back to the city, the days finally caught up with me and I came down with a chest cold. It was a bummer to say the least. My dad took me to this dance school in the basement of a cultural center. It was so cool. They were having Rock-n-Roll dance lessons. It was so much fun to watch and the music was excellent. Then we did Tango lessons. I have to say the tango is wonderful to watch but the music gets irritating fast. My parents threw a party the next weekend. Everyone was great and I had a ton of fun. There are many things to say about Argentina both good and bad but the one great thing for me was the people. Oh and the men are HOT!


The View from Their Balcony at the Sheraton
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Birgitta's Photos from Iguaz˙:
The first four are small movie files. If you have the right software they will play. They are quite large and will take some time to download. Do not attempt to download them without a broadband connection, unless you have lots of time. Be patient and you will be rewarded with a 30 seconds of live action. The roar of the falls on them can be clearly heard. The rest are thumbnail photos. To view the full-size photo, click on it. To get back to this page click the back arrow on your browser. Press HERE to see a slideshow of all her photos.

The Devil's Throat
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Miles of Falls
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And Rainbows
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And More Outpouring
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On the Bus to Cataratas
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Wildlife
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Lizards
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And Birds
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Betty at the Sheraton
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View from Their Room
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Another View
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Birgitta on the Balcony
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First the Train
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Then at the Throat
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of the Devil
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You Meet the Power
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Old Walkways
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And New Walkways
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Leading through the Jungle
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To the Falls
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Betty
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Birgitta
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Headed Back to BA
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On the Luxury Bus
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Posted by bill at 09:57 AM | Comments (9)

August 09, 2005

Costume Party

Allyna Steinberg and Us at Cafe Tortoni
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Allyna Steinberg left Buenos Aires yesterday. As I mentioned in my last entry, she spent a month here having fun. She devoted a lot of time to making friends, learning Spanish and dancing the Tango. She is a pretty, sweet young woman. We took her to the airport, but not before stopping at Cafe Tortoni. Cafe Toroni has been operating for more than 150 years in the same location. Its décor has not changed in all those years and one feels as if you stepped into the mid 1800's when you enter. There is a small stage in the back where there is an occasional Tango show. In another room off the back sits two large old pool tables. One can find a good cup of coffee here and a nice sandwich. So Allyna departed and she is in New York as I write.

Birgitta also is in New York. She wanted to fly out of New York on her way to visit us. Yes, she is coming and will be here Thursday morning.. We are so excited that she will be with us for the next three weeks!

This past weekend, our friends Santeri and Päivi had a birthday party. They say that they are seventy, that is their ages added up equal 70 years. It was a costume party. I cannot every remember getting an elaborate costume for a party before. But we dutifully complied and won the door-prize for the best costumes. We were transformed into the Irish Nun, Sister Elizabeth, and Julius Sundstromus Caesar. We took a lot of pictures of the festivities. With the help of PhotoShop, I was able to get most of them to look pretty good in spite of all the smoke. What smoke? you ask. From the smoke machine they had running all evening. The evening was a lot of fun. I hope the captionless pictures that follow tell the tale. Press HERE to see a slideshow of costume party photos.

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Posted by bill at 03:44 PM | Comments (2)