July 31, 2005

Venezuelan Photos

Press HERE to see a slideshow of pics from Venezuela.


In some ways July was a quite month for me. In other ways it wasn't.
Betty left for ten days in Venezuela. She went to join our friend, Guillermina, who had gone to take a class to use some new scientific equipment. Guille had left on the 3rd and Betty left on the 7th and they returned on the 17th. I did not get many details about the trip. She spent two days in Caracas, then they went to the beach and national park before coming back to Caracas the day before their return. They spent time on the beach and saw some of the national park. She took lots of pictures and they come at the end of this entry.

While she was gone, I pretty much went into hibernation. I had thought I would be out every night partying. But no, I hardly went out. I did make it out my Toastmasters meeting and to one English club meeting and one night at La Viruta. . But I was mostly hanging. I also talked to a number of my friends in the States. Mickey Turk called and so did Greg Speltz. The daughter of a friend of Greg's was coming down to Buenos Aires to study Spanish and the Tango for a month. Her name is Allyna Steinberg. I talked to her on the phone too. She had arranged to stay with a family in the city center.

However, I was not totally alone all the time. A friend of mine, Jeff Roberts, showed up, almost out of the blue. He had been staying in Brazil with his wife for the last several months. I guess Brazil and the place he was at was getting old, and he had spent a week in Morro do Sao Paulo, one of my favorite places in Salvador, Brazil. I asked Jeff if he had read my stuff on Morro at my web site; and no he had not. Man, what a coincidence that he should find the same delightful little village that I had three years ago. Anyway he wanted out of Brazil for a few weeks. I knew that he was thinking about coming from an email. Then a day or so later, he suddenly appeared. The thing was I had not sent him my address. He found the place by looking at my pictures on this BLOG. One photo had a street sign in it. He had the cab driver bring him to the sign, and then asked a shopkeeper where was my "big American friend.". Moments later he was knocking on the door. To be honest I did not see much of him. He quickly discovered the public transportation system, which he used to explore the city all hours of day and we hardly saw him.

Allyna and Jeff

Allyna and I went out to the La Viruta. Jeff met us later. He tried the Tango, but I don't think that it is his bailiwick. It was fun. We have seen Allyna several times since she arrived and I have talked to her several times on the phone. She has really made the most out of her stay here.

Agentinean at Mataderos

We had a nice dinner on the 24th with Allyna and Jeff as the guests of honor. Our friends Päivi and Santeri, and Corina and Mario came over too. We roasted two chickens with sage dressing. We had invited some Argentinean friends over too, but they had caught something so they could not make it. Too bad too - because sage dressing is unknown here. Betty a made her sour potatoes, but the sour cream here is not really sour - so they lacked a bit of punch. However we did not bake all the potatoes. We left some of them in the frig for about a week. Then we baked them up, now they were sour - just perfect. We asked the guests to bring some wine that they liked, and we drank good Argentinean wines all afternoon.

A few days later, Jeff was off to LA and southern California. His parents live there. I think he will be there a month or two. He will eventually head back to New Zealand, where he has been living for so many years now that he talks like a Kiwi.

Meanwhile Allyna has been having a lot of fun, meeting lots of people and going out a lot. We went to the Mataderos Fair today. It was a great warm day and one of the best times for me at this fair. I bought a number of things. I love it because it has such a country feel with great live music and people dancing in the street.

Betty's Venezuelan Photos
There are a lot of photos here. They are thumbnail photos.
To view the full-size photo, click on it. To get back to this page click the back arrow on you browser.

Storm over Caracas
Small Costal Village
Bus Stop
Choroni Shops
Harbor Walk
Along the Coast
of Venezuela
Morrocoy National Park
Bird Island
Fishing Pelican
On the Bayou
Bird Sanctuary
In the Surf
and Sand
The Beach
More Beach
and Even More
Guille's Eden
Posted by bill at 09:42 PM | Comments (1)

July 05, 2005

58 and Still Going Strong

Last Saturday, was the second day of July, my birthday. To celebrate my birthday, I have always loved giving my friends a chance to have a great time by throwing a party. This year was no different. This BLOG entry is all about the party. Press HERE to see a slideshow of birthday party photos.

One of the nicest things that happened on Saturday is that both my children called to wish me a Happy Birthday. Birgitta is a regular caller, but Dain is not. I really liked talking to him. Both will be visiting us in the next three months. My sister, Gay Lynn, called too. In the background I could hear Randy and Doug and Carol all singing me Happy Birthday. Sweet!

The weather on Saturday was a godsend! It got hot and warm. It was so hot and humid that every sidewalk was covered with condensation. We cleaned, and went shopping, and prepared food. As evening approached it cooled down enough so that the condensation on the pathways and floors dried. Still it was perfect weather. Before the party we thought that no one would want to be in the quincho, but - in fact - that is where everyone wanted to be.

Irish Tom

In the states, it is always easy to put together a menu. Here it's a very different case. First it is winter, not summer. So, barbecued chicken and a keg of beer are not the typical choices. And I always want to have food that is North American, which includes Mexico, so that my friends can experience some new flavors. Most North American food is classified as exotic here. Unlike Betty and I, who love to try every new food we encounter, most Argentines do not jump for joy when they find a new food. Knowing their love for meat we thought they would like, but had never had before,: a real smoked ham or a turkey both of which Betty prepares so magnificently - the ham with the skin scared and clove pushed in and that fantastic mango chutney and plum jam glaze and the turkey with all the trimmings including sage dressing. Alas such products are hard to find. I finally found a local shop that could get the ham. Problems were the cost at 36 pesos ($13) a kilo and minimum purchase of a whole ham - about 7 kilos or $85. The turkey would have been easier, but still not all that easy - and the Tom turkeys weigh up to 50 pounds. We settled on bife chorizo, a whole salmon and southwest chicken chili. I prepared the chili the day before. It was a pretty good recipe that I found on the internet. I also made two dishes of corn bread. I did not get a chance to explain that this was bread to be eaten with the chili. So almost nobody ate it and those who did were disappointed, because they thought it was cake. I also put out sour cream, and again nobody put a dollop on their chili. Still everybody loved the "soup," even if it was a bit hot (spicy). Of course, I had toned down the heat a lot - know the Argentine aversion to items that are picante. I cooked the beef and the salmon on the grill. Bife chorizo is wonderful tasting piece of meat. It comes in long strip 6 to inches wide and 2 Ω to 5 inches thick. The piece I had weighed about nine pounds and was about 14 inches long and cost about $17. The salmon was about five pounds. I have learned to grill the meat long and slow on a real wood charcoal fire. When I cut the bife chorizo, it reminded me of the butter-knife steaks that they served at Murray's years ago.
Betty made her potato salad that is loved by most people. Two of our German friends, Mario and Corina, raved - saying that it was so German. I guess they miss home. I thought that I might not do the salmon, since our guests seemed well fed and happy. But Alberto asked me to prepare it. This was truly a whole salmon- head, skin and all. So, I covered it with a bit olive oil and salt, stuffed in some lemon slices, and then I put it on the grill. 45 minutes later, I pulled it off. Now this was the exotic type of food that Argentineans must love. I say this because in no time at all, they had devoured it. It was fantastic, so moist and flavorful. I guess it is rarely done on the grill here, and that is what made it exotic. As usual, we had plenty of tater chips with dip, nachos with salsa cruda. You cannot buy dip here and making it is a bit problematic, because dried French onion soup is not on the shelf here. I made the salsa cruda from an old recipe that I have used for years. The only unusual thing about it was that I had to use canned jalapenos, instead of fresh ones. We think that it is a bit strange, that Argentineans do not drink booze like we do. But most folks will take a glass or two of wine. So, even though, the soda that we had on hand should have been enough - it wasn't.

Ignacio and Javier

I tried to be the good host. It was tough to do, because there was so much work to do, getting the food out, and grilling the meat and fish. Finally, I got a chance to sit down and enjoy the party. Read on to hear all about my birthday party. I hope that everyone really enjoyed themselves. If they didn't, it was not for our lack of trying.

Many of our friends came: There was Javier and Guille, my oldest and dearest friends in Buenos Aires.
There was Mario Tschunke and Carina. Betty met Mario at her Spanish classes. They are from Germany and lots of fun. Mario has organized a group of folks that live in Buenos Aires and belong to an internet network called OpenBC. They meet at a bar in Recoletta. OpenBC is like LinkedIn, that a lot of people I know in the states belong to and where I am linked in. I went to their first meeting in BA. T ey were almost all German or German speaking. We drank, chatted and had fun. After the meeting, several of us headed for a good nightclub in downtown BA. I don't know much about Carina. I know she is good-looking and very intelligent. She works for a company that builds and furbishes hotels. She is a project manager for furbishing the new Hyatt hotel.
There was Irish Tom. We met him at one of Päive and Santeri's soirees. He is one of the most charming men that I have met in years. I know that Betty was really taken with him. And I too find his grasp of the language, his ability to spin a yarn and that wonderful Irish lilt to be captivating. Betty cannot wait to introduce him to Birgitta. I wonder why?
Another friend of Päive and Santeri is Marina Sagredo. She is a budding cosmetologist. I think that she wants to work in the theatre. She, too, is a charming and sweet person.
Marisol and Marie Inez are two of our oldest friends here. We got to know them when John, Matt and Steve visited. I was sorry that their boys, Arturo and Nicolas, didn't make it. I suppose they thought that we would just be a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. Or maybe they are just not used to partying with their folks. Marisol and Marie Inez brought a good friend of theirs, Stella. I was so sorry that I did not get much time to talk to her. I would have liked to know her better.
There were a number of the English Group members that came to the party. I will try to list them and I hope that I don't miss anyone. There was Laura Battaglia, Päive and Santeri, Daniel, Guilad. Rodrigo and his parents - Mará and Alberto Silveire, Monica, Pato, Patricia, Andrea, Estaban and Pablo. We know Laura, Päive and Santeri best. And the rest of the club members we are getting to know better and better.
There were also a few members of BA Toastmasters Club. I joined the club a couple of months ago. They are a wonderful group of Toastmaster. They have a lot of energy and I think that they are building a great club. Alberto was the first of them to arrive; in fact, he was the first person to come to the party. Later Ignacio and his wife came. And not long after that Diana, Cecile and Lidia arrived. Ignacio is a new member and on his way to being a great communicator. Diana and Cecile are new too, but Lidia is the grand dame of the club, having been in the club for a long time and playing a fantastic leadership role.

Some people brought gifts. I never expect them, so they come as a surprise. It is nice to get a book or a CD with Argentine music. People brought bottles of good wine and someone gave me a bottle of homemade coffee liqueur. Another gave me a box of chocolate Alfajores. One person gave me a scarf - something I can surely use given how cold it is today. One of the books is by Felix Luna,Short History of the Argentineans. The most unique gift is a book that Päive and Santeri wrote, which explains their philosophy of living. It was originally published in Finnish and is called La Habanera - The Escape from the Rat Race. You can download LaHabaneraEn.pdf here.

I said thank you to all who brought me something when they came.
And again I say THANK YOU to each and everyone that brought me a birthday gift.
We hope that all who came had a great time!

The party finally broke up about 4:30 in the morning, only because I could not stay up a minute longer and headed for my bed. Betty and I slept until one in the afternoon. We cleaned up the place on Sunday.

Pato and Pablo
Rodrigo, Irish Tom, Osvaldo, and Daniel
Alberto and Guillermina
Guilad, Marina, Päive and Santeri
Mario, Corina, Betty and Marisol
Corina and Marisol
Diana, Cecilia and Lidia
Laura, Monica, Patricia, Andrea and Estaban

Life returned to normal on Monday. We didn't make it to the gym, but we did go out for a long walk. Betty and I did some volunteer work again. Today we worked out at the gym and I wrote this entry.

Betty is going to Venezuela for a week. She is leaving on Thursday. I will try to get her to write a report upon her return. I would like to go skiing in Bariloche while she is gone, but I may put it off until later in the month. Man, skiing in July or August, what an outstanding idea! Well, it might not happen - but, oh, what a grand plan.

Posted by bill at 07:51 PM | Comments (4)