November 25, 2005

A Minnesota Thanksgiving

Snow Already
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We have not been up to a lot since our return. I have been trying to get my airplane back into operation. This has required having a mechanic check it over and getting insurance. Neither has been completed yet, but I am hoping for next week. I have also talked to flight instructor, so that I can do my biennial flight review in the near future.
I did some yard work. Luckily there was no snow on the ground last week. So, I was able to get most of the leaves up that still needed to be moved. They are in two large piles out in the garden. I also got the rain gutters cleaned out. Finally, I started to move outdoor furniture into my porch. It all seems to be coming right along and none too soon with the snow coming today.
Betty has been in a super-house-cleaning mode. There was a lot of work: cleaning and scrubbing, and rearranging furniture and going through closets again.

One of the things that has surprised me the most is how different the traffic is in Minnesota. First, there is hardly any traffic. I find myself asking, "Where are all the cars?" It is such a breeze to get around; I love it. Oh yes, the roads are in fantastic condition and design compared to Argentina.

Another surprise was the ads in the Sunday paper and on Thanksgiving Day. We never saw anything like it in Argentina. When you are away, you forget how different some everyday occurrences are. Dozens of store ads is one big difference.

Sometimes I wonder about my own intelligence. Thinking about our return to the states and Minnesota for the holidays seems a bit crazy to me right now. You might ask: Why is that Bill? The answer is "The Weather." The days are already quite short with the sun coming up at 7:23 AM and setting at 4:36 PM. A quick calculation will tell you that there are 9 hours and 12 minutes of daylight possible each day. Truth is nearly every day has been overcast, which means that it has been very dark here. And then there is the temperature. The past week it has in the 40's, or about 7░ Celsius, for daytime highs and as cold as 10░ at night. That is -12░ Celsius. Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was no exception to the cold weather with a low of 11░ and a high of 22░, or in Celsius it was between -11░ and -5░. Then the snow started this morning. It started with fine, light flakes that floated ever downward until there was four inches on the ground. Yes, I must question my ability to make good decisions, when I leave a warm, sunny, sunshine filled land for this black hole of weather.

Carving Time
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Hot Cross Buns
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Betty and Birgitta in the Kitchen
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Gitta, Brian, Judy, Alex and Betty
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Before the Feast
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The Feast
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Turkey Day Ads
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Still it is good to be with my family again. My daughter, Birgitta, is as perky as ever. It has been fun to be back with her. My son, Dain, flew from Los Angeles to Minneapolis on the weekend. He is staying at a hotel, which is a bit odd to us. But I guess he likes it that way. He has been over a few times and that has been great. His partner, Marleta, has been in town too, visiting her family, although it has not been all fun for her - because her grandmother died last week.

Yesterday was a very special day; it was Thanksgiving Day. Betty went all out to cook a fantastic dinner. She roasted a beautiful fresh 24 pound (11 kilo) turkey with sage dressing. She made mashed potatoes and gravy, and candied sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans, and fresh bread rolls. Birgitta made Brussels spouts and I made red cabbage with cranberries - yes I mix the two ingredients. Then there was dessert after dessert. Betty made pumpkin pies and a beautiful carrot cake; and with Birgitta's help Betty made her first ever cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, that was fantastically delicious. Birgitta mulled some cider for those who wanted it. Most of us drank wine. Thank God we brought home some good Argentinean wine. How I love the Malbec!

Dain and Birgitta and Betty and I sat down to enjoy this wonderful feast. Our good friend Alex St. Croix, my brother - Brian, and his wife, Judy, joined us for dinner. Brian and Judy had question after question about Argentina for us. We tried to answer them and to shed a good light on the land that we so much enjoyed for the past year. As usual I ate too much. It is hard to stop when there is so much good food. Brian and Judy had to depart about 5:00 PM so they could visit her brother, Dave. About an hour after they left my sister Gay Lynn came over to enjoy dessert with us. She stayed for hours and we talked and talked and talked. That is what happens when you don't see each other for a year. I love my brothers and sisters; and it is great when you see them after being apart for such a long time.

Today has been quiet for me, but Betty and Birgitta went shopping. Today is the second biggest shopping day of the year and they heartily joined in. I tried to fix a TV that broke down while we were in Argentina, but I had no luck and we will have to trash the set. In the evening we joined Dain and Marleta at satirical comedy show that poked fun at US politics. The ensemble, called the Capitol Steps, has been satirically making fun of our national leaders since 1981. Birgitta found it hilarious. I would say my response was more reserved. Sometimes I think that our political system, especially at the national level, is so sad, so sick that it is hard to laugh at. You can judge for yourselves, if you download one of their song parodies at their web site.

Posted by bill at 11:35 PM | Comments (7)

November 15, 2005

Back to the USA

The past week has been all about getting ready to leave and saying goodbye to Argentina and our friends.

Bitch
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People came by to pick up the things they bought in our online moving sale.
Ingo and Elisa came by. They got a few extra things. Like all of our friends, we will really miss them. Others came to take the vacuum cleaner, easy chairs, a sofa and straight chairs. Finally on Saturday, the futon went to Pablo Laurito and our bedroom set was pickup by Arturo, Marisol's son.
The strangest part of the selling our stuff came on Thursday. While I was out with Daniel, Paula came by to pick up a small table, Betty's bike and the kitchen stuff. I had met Paula at a Talkarama meeting, she seemed nice and had come by early in our sale to claim the items. She had also been at our big party the week before, having enjoyed our hospitality greatly. Betty had gotten everything ready and it amounted to several boxes. Paula's friend got it all for 100 pesos and we had paid several hundred pesos for originally. I had asked Betty to only keep one pan, so that we might be able to cook on our last two days. Paula saw the pan we held out when she first came. She went off on Betty, when she did not get it. She insulted Betty up one side and down the other. She even began to try to say some mean things about me. She was a total bitch! In Argentina we are known as very generous and loving people. Betty told her to get out of the house and if she didn't want the gear, just to leave it. Finally she took the stuff and left. What a bitch!Betty was quite upset. She is not used to people calling her stupid and evil and a liar.

Press HERE to see a slideshow of our final month in Buenos Aires.

Bill, Betty and Bebe
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Bill, Ernesto and Brad
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Laura and Her Dog
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Savino and Bill
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Bill, Laura and Brad
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Laura and Bebe
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Daniel
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One day I made it by the gym to say goodbye to my trainer Daniel. I had not worked out for a month. I have put on some weight in the past month. I should not have quit. My only excuse is that we have been so busy with all the last minute visitors and getting read to leave.

On Wednesday, the 9th of November, we met with Maria Ines and her son. Luke had asked us to join them as he looked over her apartment for a possible rental in the future. It was great to see Maria Ines and Nicolas for the last time. After the meet, Luke and I went out for lunch in Palermo. I love that neighborhood. It would be the last time I would visit it and it would be the last time I will see Luke in months to come.

Later on in the evening, we had dinner with Laura's parents - Beba and Savino. Her brother, Ernesto, and her friend, Brad from Arizona, also were there. The food was fabulous. It was Ukrainian food, varenki with chicken broth - along with some good fried chicken. I had not enjoyed a meal as much as this in months. You might ask why that is. Simple, I love ethnic food, which is a rarity in Argentina, and it was so wonderfully prepared. It was a great night with family and good conversation. We could not have asked for more.

On Friday night we visited Pablo Laurito's house where he lives with his parents, Mario and Maruca. Our friend Daniel was there as were Elizabeth from California, and Pablo's mom's cousin, Mónica and her boyfriend, Matías. Pablo lives in a suburb that I think is called Hurlingham. It seemed like it took forever to get there, probably because we took surface streets. Their house is new and beautiful. We had a wonderful meal. Particularly great was the homemade lasagna. We also ate way too much: chicken, salad and strawberries for desert. It was wonderful. We had a fabulous night with good people.

About mid week the packing and getting ready was in full swing. We were pretty stressed all week long. Trying figure out what to keep and what to leave behind was not so easy. And most everything needed to be left behind.
Saturday was moving out day. We were packed and all the things that we were giving to Javi and Guille were boxed up. We sent our last email messages and made our last call to Birgitta on the VOIP phone. I had wanted to go to the horse races, but I missed them. It was just too late in the day by the time we got to Javi's mother's house. Still we had a nice lunch and a nap.

Betty, Maria Luz and Bill

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Guadalupe, Marita, Betty,
Maria Luz, Bill and Alberto

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Saturday evening, we went to Talkarama. A train breakdown forced us out of the train and into a taxi, but eventually we made it. We chatted all night with our friends then had dinner and went home about 1 AM.

We had a lazy Sunday afternoon with Javi and Guille. Javi made an assado. How I love the meat in Argentina! US beef is good, but not up to the standard of Argentine lomo.
Laura stopped by for a last visit and to say good bye to us. She is one of the kindest and most openly friendly people we have had the good fortune to meet. We will both miss her.
In the evening we went to dinner with Alberto and Marita and their children: Javier, Maria Luz and Guadalupe. It was wonderful to be with them. We will miss them and their thoughtful conversations.

We rose at 3:00 AM Monday morning. We had a 6:00 AM flight to Sao Paulo. Everything went well, getting there and getting off on the first stage of our return home. Two hours later we were in Sao Paulo. An hour later we were on our way to Miami. Eight or so hours later we were in Florida. The only hitch at the airport was the AirTran weight restrictions. We spent 20 minutes rearranging out stuff so that only one bag was over weight. It really pissed us off. The different standards that they had came as a great surprise. Four hours later we were on our way to Atlanta. Then we waited again to catch a flight to Minneapolis. We arrived about 12:30 AM in Minneapolis. It was 2:00 before we got to bed, some 28 hours after getting out of bed in Buenos Aires and 30Ôł×C lower. It is cold here and it will take some time to adjust to it.

These will not be my final words on Argentina. In the weeks and months to come I hope to write a series of commentaries about the country. They will be available at my web site.

Posted by bill at 01:37 PM | Comments (5)

November 08, 2005

Winding Down with the Canadians

The Nicholson's Story

It was Friday Sept. 23, 4pm Happy Hour. The last of our summer guests had left & Jim & I were so tired that we decided to open a bottle of wine & go to Bill's Blog...Off we were in Argentina! The vivid descriptions, of Bill & Betty's adventures caught us off guard! For the next 3 hours & another bottle of wine we got to know them all over again. We saw their decorated new home, their new friends, their favorite haunts & restaurants, their parties and oh how the time flew! I looked at Jim and said "let's go!"

After a few e- mails & phone calls Bill & Betty guided us through some planning such as; buy your internal flight tickets before you leave your own country, hotel arrangements for Iguaz˙ & Mendoza & they reserved our B&B in BA before we got there too.

We left Edmonton on Oct 15th & we were drinking wine with Bill & Betty in their sunny garden on Sunday the 16th @ about 3pm & the wine kept flowing! We were somewhat guarded at first, after all, we had only spent a day together < a great one at that> in Karlovy Vary last Aug 04, touring the Moser Glass factory , drinking a few beers & talking a lot ..But with the wine that perfect Sunday pm in BA, we caught up where we had left off; it was a great welcome for us Canucks!

We had our first taste of Beef & I couldn't believe how good it was! The restaurant was quaint & the meal was superb. Off to our B&B & 4 days of exploring BA. We loved the Cathedral with San Martin the great hero's tomb guarded by two soldiers of his regiment, Florida street, where the Tango dancers were, Recoletta & yes I went to see Evita's grave! Also enjoyed the Museum of Art & The Melba Museum, the Japanese Gardens, the San Telmo district, LaBoca area & we felt safe & took the subte & taxis, not expensive. We met Bill & Betty at the Armenian Hall & took Tango lessons! Jim & I were in the beginner's class & Bill in the advanced class, he cut up a rug!! WE enjoyed the traditional Parrilla, the Mate, the wine but most of all being with Bill & Betty to share it all! Betty taking photos of the whole thing! Jim was asked to dance, & he was very flattered until Bill told him that young girls liked to dance with older men because they were the ones that usually knew how to Tango!! Ha!

We flew to Iguaz˙ Falls & spent 3 days enjoying The Flora & Fauna! The falls are majestic & the walkways easy to maneuver I even touched the spray of the Devil's Mouth! It always amazes me, back in Edmonton it is fall & cold & here the further north you go the warmer it is! Spring time I love IT! The Grand Hotel & Casino Hotel was superb & we saw a most spectacular Tango show! The men can really lead! Back at our B&B in the Belgrano district in BA we were invited by Pablo the eldest son of Christina, the B&B owner, to join him at the horse races. We bet, we lost, but what a great day! Staying in a B&B has great advantages, a tourist gets to be part of a family & really get the feel of a neighborhood.

On oct.19th we flew to Mendoza the wine area near the Andes & Chilean border. Our 5 days there were filled with wine tours, & we tasted & bought wine to share with Bill & also visited an Olive Plantation & bought Oil. We toured the Andes on the region's western edge and we were awed by the changing colors of the 3 ranges. The massive Aconcagua Mountain, as it is called, rose up to great us at 6960m the highest peak! We enjoyed Mendoza very much, the walks to Independence Park, near our Hotel Internacional, the nearby Restaurants, but especially the people. Jim bought a couple of pairs of shoes, lovely leather, 80 pesos cheaper than on Florida Street in BA

Back to BA, we stayed in the Palermo District, at the Christopher Colombo Hotel for a few days, to give Bill & Betty some time to finalize their trip home & then we moved in & the fun "with Bill & Betty" began! Sounds like a first grade reader eh? I had to put in an EH? They were organizing furniture sales and we met a lot of nice people at their English club night. On Saturday, Nov. 5th, preparations for the party were in full swing! Bill cleaning, Betty preparing her famous Potato salad < the Germans thought it was Manna from heaven > me chopping veggies & Jim preparing Hamburgers. Betty decorated the garden with lovely jar candles & the mood was set!

The guests arrived & I counted over 50 people, Bill & Betty are greatly loved & admired. I observed genuine love & admiration for Betty & Bill & they will have left a great impact on their Argentinean friends! The party broke up after 4am!

We spent our last Sunday at a Market in BA, walking, eating& shopping for last minute gifts for the Grandkids. Thanks to Bill & Betty we had a trip of a life time, and I can't even describe, in a narrative, how much it has meant to us to have been so well "looked after" & included in their last days in BA.

Thank you so much Bill & Betty, Tks for your good humor, your generosity of spirit, your "Joie de Vivre ", your incredible knowledge &selfless time devoted to our comfort. We are looking forward to reciprocate with good ole Western Canadian Hospitality next summer in Edmonton!

Lovexx Lise & Jim Nicholson

Little Feet in BA
by Luke Rader

Hola friends,
I'm still feeling a little out of it, because Argentina is at the bottom of the earth. You have the feeling of being upside-down, like a fruit bat hanging from a limb. All the blood rushes to your head and there is less for your feet. So, your feet shrink. My feet have already shrunk a half-size. I used to wonder about why Argentinean men had small feet or why certain men's shoe shops only stocked size 8╬ę shoes. Now I know: at one time Argentinean men wore hats, but their heads expanded and they had to give up on that. This condition does not seem to effect the women. Maybe it's because of the water density in their bodies.
Un hug y beso,
Luke

Before I get into heart of my entry, I want to tell you about the story that Luke Rader wrote. He has begun to write a series of very funny little stories about Argentina. They are extremely fanciful. I think that he refers to them as urban myths. Whatever they are, they are funny and I love them. I have included the outline of the first one that he sent to me in this entry. I hope that you enjoy it too.

Steve left jus three weeks ago. As I said in my last entry, no sooner did he leave than the Nicholsons arrived from Canada. Jimmy and Lise are a delightful couple and good company. We took the opportunity to visit some new restaurants with them. Like a day or so after they arrived we went to Polermo with them to visit Social Paraíso. It was a lovely old restaurant with excellent foods and wines. Later that night we stopped at Olsen's for a drink. We took them to La Viruta one night to try the Tango. They came over and spent a day with us between their visit to Igauzu and their visit to Mendoza. The really loved visiting both places. When they got back from Mendoza, they decided to step up a notch and stay at a hotel in the Palermo neighborhood. We had diner one night with them near the hotel at La Cádedra, another very fine restaurant. They moved in with us just last Friday and stayed with us until they left on Monday

Press HERE to see a slideshow
from Jim and Lise's visit.

With Jimmy and Lisa at Social Paraíso
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Olsen's Wall Fountain
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At La Cádedra
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During the past three weeks I have had lots to do. Some of what I have been up to has been pure fun, and other things preparations to leave. The primary preparation has been my electronic online Moving Sale. I created a web page that had pictures and prices for all our stuff. I created an ad on Craig's List for Buenos Aires and then posted a link to my web page. Yes, Craig's List has listings all over the world. I mentioned my Moving Sale in my last BLOG notification and soon I began to get calls. I have sold just about everything. And people will come later in the week to pickup what they have not taken yet. This Saturday everything will go and we will have to move out, not because the rent is not paid but because there will be no bed.

Dancing at La Viruta
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The other thing that I started doing about a month ago was going to a Saturday evening event called Talkarama. I have met a lot of interesting people on those Saturday nights. Daniel and Pablo had asked me many times to join them at Talkarama.. They are a couple of my best friends here and it was inevitable that we would start to hangout on Saturdays. We meet in Puerto Madero and talk from 7:00 to 9:30. Then we usually head a half-mile or so to a restaurant in San Telmo. After eating many will go to one of the hundreds of great pubs in San Telmo. It makes for a great evening of socializing. On one of those Saturdays Betty came with me. We did not join the others afterwards that night, because we had a dinner date at Don Ernesto's in San Telmo. We had dinner with Marisol and her son Arturo. Maria Ines and her son Nicolas and his girl friend were there too. Marisol had also invited one of her best friends and her son. Arturo had decided to buy Dain's camera and our bedroom set and we closed the deal. So, Saturdays have been a lot more fun this past month.

A Recipe for Salsa Cruda

Mix the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 kilo firm, ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno chile, seeded, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • You can also add some garlic,
    but make it with out garlic the first time.

Saturday we hosted our last party in Buenos Aires. At least 50 people came. We tried doing less and having more fun at this party. It seemed to work. Jimmy and Lise Nicholson were a great help. Jimmy did the grilling of the hotdogs and hamburgers. I had made a huge pot of Texas Chili the day before. Laura brought Ukrainian dumplings. Marisol and Maria Ines brought some interesting food too, most notably an eggplant dish that was great. I also made Salsa Cruda, which continues to be very popular among some of my friends. I have included a recipe for it. Many people brought wine. We drank more wine that ever before. I tried to get people to drink the hard liquor we have, because it ain't coming home with us. It was absolutely great fun. They ate everything that we prepared. The chili went first. The other thing that was different about this party was that people started bringing their friends. So there were a dozen people that came that I had never met before. I will let the pictures below tell the rest of that story.

The last guests left a little after 4:00 AM. I was exhausted but still could only sleep about five hours. Despite dragging we took the Nicholsons to the Mataderos Fair on Sunday. It was our last visit there, so I bought lots of stuff. We had a great meal. My favorite foods there are the country dishes like a stew called Logro, and empanadas and humita de choclo.

A Note from Jimmy in BA

Hi Bill,

I am running a little late due to all of the foreseen and unforeseen situations that arise when one returns from three weeks in Argentina.

Lise and I arrived at the BA airport after about 27 hours of air travel and airport waiting rooms. You could say that we were not as fresh as daisies but handling the jet lag reasonably well. We negotiated, probably the worst deal in taxi history with the remise counter and were on our way to join Bill and Betty. After 45 minutes we arrived to a gracious welcome, a splash of water to our faces, we were ready to get re-acquainted,

The Bill and Betty residence is well set for an afternoon welcoming "tea" and we were immediately treated to good wine, good cheese and good company. It was as if we had not been apart for one full year and, as we became more and more refreshed with each introduction to new Argentine wines, we relaxed in the comfortable courtyard and confirmed that we had made the correct decision.

As we were staying at The Acacia B+B, as arranged by Betty and bill, they drove us to our lodgings and left us and introduced us to Cristina, Who was to look after us in first class style during our stay.

During our stay we had the pleasure of Bill and Betty's company and also were able to get good travel advice and direction. We shared many wonderful meals of Argentine beef and Mendoza wines and not just a few laughs. We enjoyed the eclectic style of our host couple as we discussed everything from family trees to sudoka. The time flew and we were back and living with Bill and Betty in their comfortable house for the last three days of our stay.

The event of our trip was about to occur as they were planning a final party for their friends. Happily for us, we were included in this Barbeque party cum major social event. Bill had invited about 50 of his friends from all walks of life. I guess that the party was successful as around seventy people arrived, bearing gifts of wine, food and smiles and good humour.

During the day Bill and Betty cooked, cleaned and organised while Lise and I were delegated to prepare food. My job was the barbeque so I mixed the hamburger into patties with special ingredients of onions and cilantro and received my orders from Bill to handle the cooking detail as well. This I had done on many occasions, but not recently on a special grill (adjustable in height) placed over a good cooking fire and coals of argentine variety. I was happy with this job, because it would put me in a position to meet all of the guests and spend a little time with each.

I was inundated with orders and the barbeque was a great success. I actually got a few compliments< which, of course inflated my ego. The people were ALL wonderful and I especially enjoyed meeting the abundance of beautiful and well spoken women of all types' sizes and life styles. Needles to say the party was a great success and will remain in people's minds and conversations for a long time to come.

Bill and Betty have attracted a great variety of strong, capable people into their circle of friends and, because of that and the energy that they have brought to BA, will leave a legacy of positive influence and even lifestyle changes on the people the befriended on their short stay there.

Lise and I feel blessed to be considered as new members of their eclectic group and are waiting to have them on our own territory so we can return the favours.

Thanx again Bill and Betty for EVERYTHING!! Kisses!

Jim

Yesterday in the morning, I transferred my car to Javier. He will need the four-door sedan when the baby comes. In the late afternoon, we drove the Nicholsons to the airport. I know they had a heck-of-a-time. We enjoyed their company and becoming good friends, too.

Luke, Jimmy and Matias
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Marisa and Marisol
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Lidia and Me
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Lidia, Betty, Elisa and Ingo
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Laura and Lise
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Irish Tom and Mario
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Lidia and Susana
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Martin, Jimmy and Matias
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Andrea, Esteban,
Sergio and Pablo

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Guillermo, Esteban and Nicolas
with Four Ladies

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Mario, Gonzalo, Andrea, Monica,
Sasha, Carrina and Gustavo

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Pato, Gonzalo, Gustavo,
Ingo, Elisa and Daniel

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Me and Abraham
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Gustavo, Javier and Guadalupe
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Griselda and Daniel
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Guilad, Betty, Tom and Marina
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Betty in Black
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In the Garden
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Sergio Olinski
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Mariana Passo
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Daniel Grimberg
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Posted by bill at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)