April 30, 2009

Nineteen More Days

Just nineteen more days in Buenos Aires before we depart to the United States. We miss being with Johanna and Lucy.
We have not seen all are old friends. This is something we would really like to do yet.

Fall has come to Buenos Aires. The deciduous trees are turning color and are loosing their leaves. The mosquitoes are almost gone. The really hot days are no more.

Meanwhile, we keep on trying to Tango. We learn about three new sets of steps each week. Trying to remember them with specificity is quite difficult. But the tango is not really a set of steps. It is a style of dancing based on very old idea: one leads and the other follows. Learning how to lead is not as easy as it sounds. The leader must signal to his partner where to move. The follower must understand the signal and move appropriately. The signals are sent with body motions such as turning the chest or shifting weight. The follower should be able to read the signals with her eyes closed. If you just concentrate on new set of steps without working out the basics within the steps, it does not really help the beginner.

We will try to write another entry before we leave.

Posted by bill at 01:41 PM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2009

Changes in Buenos Aires

Press HERE to view a Flickr slide show.

Betty, Bill and Cherie
Art in Recoleta
Art in Recoleta
Fermin Loves the Cars
Fermin Loves the Cars

One change in Buenos Aires has been our getting out nearly everyday to listen to Tango music or to Tango dance lessons. Like last Saturday, we went to a Milonga. A Milonga is a Tango dance event or venue. Cherie Magnus, an old friend from the BA toastmasters club, invited us to join her and her husband, Ruben. She clued us in on the very old-fashioned protocols that govern behavior in the dance hall. We found our visit to Las Consagrados fun.

Betty and Joaquina
Betty and Joaquina

A week or so back Javier called to say they were going to a park to enjoy the warm, early fall day. In Saavedra Park has a small carousel and a little cars-on-rail, both of which Fermin loves. Betty got some good grandma time in with Joaquina.

We also went to the fair in Recoleta the other day. It was OK but not great. The little city art museum was very good as usual.

There have not been a lot of changes, since we were here last. Still, some of them are worth mentioning. At first we did not think that the world financial crisis was affecting the economy much, and it might not hit as hard here. The crisis has affected tourism. The numbers of tourists are way down. The crisis may not be the only reason for this down turn. Since our last visit four years ago, the cost of everything has gone up between 50 and 100 percent: city bus fares are up 50% and food in restaurants has doubled in cost. Yes, foreign currencies, like the dollar, are stronger by about 25 percent. The net result is the cost of many items have risen from 25 to 70 percent, and that means it costs as much or more than in the USA for much of what people need and want. Given the slow growth in real wages, people are worse off today than four years ago. The changes in costs have moved Argentina from a good value travel experience to a fair experience at best.

One interesting outcome of the rise in prices, in particular the price of a bus ride, has been the shortage of coins. Yes, incompetence plays a role, because it is clear that the government does not have the competence to produce more coins when they are needed. The shortage has led to hoarding. Since we ride the bus everyday and fares must be paid with coins, we must make the rounds at several banks to get change. Why several banks? The banks will never change more than a five-peso bill and often they will only give you three pesos. We need five pesos to go somewhere and return. So, we go to several banks to get change. We end up with a pile of coins and thus we are contributing to the shortage. We have no choice; because no one will give you change. Even when you try to buy something there wonít be change. If change is required, often we take it in extra bread or a banana.

There have been some positive changes: some streets have been repaved; new curb cuts are making the city more accessible to wheelchairs; and hundreds of new apartment buildings have been going up all over the city

Well thatís it for now. There are only a few photos. We hope that you enjoy them.

Posted by bill at 05:00 PM | Comments (4)

April 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Betty


What to do on your SIXTIETH birthday?

Do I send a message about how stars twinkle?
Or do I say
Count your blessings, not your wrinkles.
Or do I say
Another year, another new place that aches.
Or do I say
Better to be over the hill than buried under it.

With age comes wisdom.
You're one of the wisest people I know!
So what happened to me, trying so humorous to be?

Perhaps a love poem will set a better tone.

My Love:
    My heart sings
    My blood flows
    My eyes dance
    My face glows
    When I think of you.

No, no, none of these will do; Let me just simply say:

My Sweet Betty, Have a Very Happy Birthday.


Posted by bill at 01:31 AM | Comments (2)

April 04, 2009

The Tango: Music and Lessons

Our Third Dance Lesson at La Viruta

This dispatch will be short, because we have not had a lot on our agenda.
The one thing that has been on the agenda has been the Tango.

Lorena - Dance Instructor
Lorena - Dance Instructor

We only made it out for live music once. We really liked the live music. I have a Facebook friend, Vivian Scarlassa, who we met several years ago. She put us on a notification list for Tango Jam. This event takes place every Tuesday night at the bar EL Empujon del Diablo, which is located at Angel J. Carranza 1969, Buenos Aires. Many musicians came to the jam. They played as individuals or in a small group. Each group would play two to four songs before the next group got its turn on the stage. From what I understand some bars, such as Bar Sur, provide similar venues every night of the week. We will be going back to the Tango Jam and want to visit Bar Sur, too.

La Viruta Dance Instructors
Lorena - Dance Instructor

We also have started taking dance lessons at La Viruta. We love the club. We have been going there off and on since 2002. The biggest change has been the entrance or cover cost. It has more than doubled in cost. The turn out for lessons seems as popular as ever. They teach the Tango, rock swing dancing and salsa. Hungry or thirsty? There is food and drink to be had here. They have shows later at night, long after we go to bed. I give this place five stars for fun and value. We have been learning to Tango there with lessons two or three times each week.

Group Part of Salsa Lesson at La Viruta

Our dance instructor told us about a practice session held on Monday nights in Palermo. We went last Monday and plan to go the next. The Tango looks extremely elegant. It looks impossible to learn. But the truth is that it is not so hard to learn, although it does take a real change in perspective. Most dancing in the past fifty years has not been true paired dancing. The Tango requires the man to lead with his body movements, especially the torso. The mind set shift is dramatic as is the thought of a woman reading my movements to follow wherever I might go.

We bought some dancing shoes. Betty bought her the first pair of high-heals that I have seen her in for many, many years. No, hers are not very high, but they are a necessity. They make moving backwards so much easier. The soft leather soles on our shoes makes pivoting a lot easier too. For Betty this is critical to reducing stress on her knees and hips while turning.

Not a lot has changed in Buenos Aires since our last visit four years ago. As I mentioned above the biggest change has been the cost of everything. Their inflation rate is quite high, more than twelve percent each year, which means that in pesos most things cost 50% more. In tourist areas and for things that tourists are buying the cost has often doubled. The only positive change in this area for us has been the increase in the value of the dollar, which will buy 20% more pesos. The loss of at least 30% in buying power in Argentina has moved Argentina from an extremely good value to modestly good value for the tourist. They say the peso will fall after their next election. If it does, then Argentina should become a really good bargain again.

I will write another entry this month. Betty and I are planning a trip to Salta after Easter. So, I will try to send a dispatch off right after we get back.

Posted by bill at 02:10 PM | Comments (5)