All posts by Damon

Muchas Cosas en una Foto

This picture captures many facets of Buenos Aires (BA).

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Starting from the left, modern high rises next to centuries old buildings still occupied and flying the original flag. Graffiti is common and mostly words. BA is highly literate, there are many bookstores (and CD stores) and a QR code to an app for downloading library books advertised in the subway. Where other countries seem to devalue geeks and nerds, here there is a culture of acceptance where it is fine to be intellectual.

The small car travelling down the street. There are mostly hatchbacks from VW, FIAT, Renault and Peugeot (haven’t seen those dogs in the states since the 80s!), few Chevys and fewer fords. Almost no dodge or Chrysler.

There are buses with white wall tires. There are some classic cars. I saw a muscle car, a VW thing, some VW buses, and some old American trucks.

Breezing past the Curves gym for women (there are also places like in any city dedicated to crossfit, yoga, martial arts, there was capoera in the park, and we saw a homeopathic apothecary from 1895 still operating with modern products).

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The taxi. This is a radio taxi. When in BA  try to get the radio taxis. They use a meter.  Other taxis have the exact same colors but are free to charge whatever they want. You can ask them to use the meter (it will possibly be “broken” or no funciona). Because a cab was over 500 pesos for a 50 minute ride from the airport to where we were staying, we took a bus for 340 pesos from the main airport to another airport which got us very close to our destination. We thought we could maybe walk but then realized it was far, 4 miles. There were bunches of gringos at the airport also waiting for cabs. We waited for over half an hour to get one. After travelling on planes and the bus for 24 hours, we took the first taxi we could. Too tired to check if it was a radio cab, negotiate or ask for the meter to start, he asked where we were going and after we told him he said 300 and we agreed, just so we could get to where we were staying because we had to meet our couchsurfing host and didn’t want to get in any later. 

Huevos de Codorniz

We got to bed last night after taking a bus and a cab to get to our couchsurfing hosts home around midnight after 24 hours of airplanes. We are staying for a few days in a well kept efficiency downtown Palermo and sleeping on a full size futon.

I felt very tired but my mind was still going from the day (I had gotten two long naps on the plane) and I found going to sleep difficult.

Early to rise, we got out on Saturday January 2 to find out nothing was going on until later, so we went to an organic vegetarian restaurant, Esquina de las Flores. The things we wanted to order were not prepared yet, so we got a chance to fumble through the Pimsleur Spanish we’ve been practicing for the last two months to figure out what was available. The high ceiling/balcony facade ambiance was nice, including the Austrians lifting their legs for the water bug and the cat walking around. The food was not bad.

After learning in NYC, Zoe is a whiz with transportation and figured out the subte subway and bus system fairly quickly with Google maps and the city’s app. We walked many miles, only it seemed longer because it is kilometers 😉

We walked through a botanical garden with mostly plants seen in California and a few I hadn’t encountered before. The sections were by continent but when it said America we weren’t sure if that meant north and south. There were two greenhouses that had pretty much house plants like what you see at home depot.

The matte or mate garden was my favorite. I enjoy matte and look forward to having the gourd experience here.  The matte variety in this garden was some of the first to be cultivated.

We saw the Evita museum, the Cinderella woman whom the all powerful dictator found and married to sway the people to his side.  They transformed Argentina into a modern country acting on the world stage. She died at 33 from cervical cancer just like the dictator’s first wife (most likely caused by his giving them HPV).

We walked and saw some more parks, each with a statue of a man on a horse, and the Gallileo planetarium, closed for annual maintenance.

The museum of world religions was also closed, so we went across the street, where hundreds of people were fishing off the cement sidewalk/pier, to the memorial of lost citizens, a waterfront exhibit spanning many acres with several sculptures. In the 1970s the government had killed off upwards of 30,000 people to keep them quiet.

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I thought if you’ve seen one Chinatown you’ve seen them all, but this pedestrian mall of Chinese stores seemed a bit different. Lots of usual schwag and that fish/rice starch smell, but also a refreshingly health focused, organicy store with some pricey quality items. It was bustling.

For dinner went to the grocery store nearer where we are staying and got some veggies and a dozen quail eggs for 20,90 pesos ($1.60, Zoe says they’re  $35 at whole foods).

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We had to look up how to open them because the shell is thinner so it kept breaking into the cup I was cracking them into, and because the membrane is thick so it took some pressure to open but would often squirt out instead of pour. Scissors did the trick, tap near the pointy end and clip it off like a cap.  Quail eggs have twice the nutrition per egg compared to a single chicken egg. With onion, heirloom tomato, and a side of oiled and salted green beans, delicious.

Rolling our sore feet on lacrosse balls to massage them and showering off the suncream, it’s time to see some tango.

Lima, Peru (airport layover)

I’ve wanted to see Peru since becoming enchanted with its botanical riches through the Amazon Herb Company many years ago, the early 2000s.

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We are on a quick layover from LAX to Buenos Aires, so the previous picture is as much as I could see this trip from the ground. We flew over some buildings, some were colorful, none looked like they would hold up in a serious earthquake. Good thing the big ones are reserved for Chile.

The engines on the 767 are large and the wingtips curved to fly faster and quiter.

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Inside the terminal are duty free shops, a ninos en la calle store selling local artifacts made by kids in the street.

Britt Peru was my favorite shop, with camisetas and sombreros, and an area in the back with gourmet foods, herbs, and spices.

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Maca for Men, separately packaged and labeled Maca for Women, and a few other kinds of maca. Chia drinks in clear-sided cans with metal soda can tops. A few other whole dried herbs in very presentable packaging like horsetail (equisetum boliviana), valerian, and special powdered tea.

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Lima, Peru (airport layover)

I’ve wanted to see Peru since becoming enchanted with its botanical riches through the Amazon Herb Company many years ago, the early 2000s.

image

We are on a quick layover from LAX to Buenos Aires, so the previous picture is as much as I could see this trip from the ground. We flew over some buildings, some were colorful, none looked like they would hold up in a serious earthquake. Good thing the big ones are reserved for Chile.

The engines on the 767 are large and the wingtips curved to fly faster and quiter.

image

Inside the terminal are duty free shops, a ninos en la calle store selling local artifacts made by kids in the street.

Britt Peru was my favorite shop, with camisetas and sombreros, and an area in the back with gourmet foods, herbs, and spices.

image

Maca for Men, separately packaged and labeled Maca for Women, and a few other kinds of maca. Chia drinks in clear-sided cans with metal soda can tops. A few other whole dried herbs in very presentable packaging like horsetail (equisetum boliviana), valerian, and special powdered tea.

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Features of Seattle

I last visited Seattle in 1999, as grunge was waning. Now in 2015, it’s interesting to see what’s changed, how coffee and grunge culture have given way to hipster sentimentality.

The classic troll, a sculpture under a bridge attracting many.
(Photo on instagram, link at top right of this page)

Black Sun, a unique sculpture that either inspired a song or was inspired by a grunge song, a circular argument among local music historians.

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There is an entire sculpture park. Zoe took some pictures but I was a few layers short of comfort and had to leave there right quick.

The restaurants are quite wonderful. A locally sourced organic soup and sandwich shop.  For my birthday, a wonderful farm to table place with refreshingly unique ideas and presentation.

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On the garden side of things, I did some landscaping, some days in the rain, every day in 30-40 degree weather.

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The guy I worked with was sorry to see me go, apparently good workers are hard to find anymore.

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Wet, cold weather in Medina, WA

And a unique public Food Forest with strawberry groundcover. Not too much to look at or eat in winter.

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And when the clouds open up a bit, some spectacular snow-covered mountains on the other side of bodies of water. Cascades and whatnot.

All in all a splendid time, certainly not a place to be living in the winter.

Pesos for Dinero

As of the last few days of 2015 the current exchange rate for Argentine pesos has declined to less than 13 per US dollar.

Next week, we want to land in Buenos Aires (late at night after a 20 hour flight) with some local currency to at least get a cab or shuttle from the airport, and we don’t want to be stuck with highly unfavorable tourista exchange rates in the airport.

There is a main nationwide currency exchange house offering hundreds of country’s currencies, but not Argentinian pesos. Red flag? Apparently they’ve done some funky stuff over the years, inflating and whatnot, oil being a main export and it currently being in a market glut, I don’t know the whole back story but I’m sure it’s quite colorful.

So I just happened to see a guy on Craigslist selling pesos de Argentina his dad had gotten while there a couple of years back. He had intended to return but alas, health problems. So his son is trying to sell 27,300 pesos for 2200 dollars which from a quick Google comparison know that he is already wanting $100 too much, but the rest of his ad says he’s willing to make a deal.

So I offer a few hundred bucks for a few thousands pesos. We make the deal at Starbucks.

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I happily go to work landscaping to pick up a few more high value American dollars (most South American countries will accept American cash, and will give better exchange rates on 100s). Zoe and her Google-fu (kung fu for web searches) discover non other than a craigslist peso scam. These 500 peso and 1000 peso bills had all the embossed and hologramed stuff Google told me they should have.

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The white family guy said his dad got these bills straight from a bank, but Zoe makes me take them back, which fortunately the guy does give me most of my cash back, but makes me take the rest in 10 peso bills. I believe his bills were legit (plus we would have come out with $60 worth of bonus pesos), and that he had a great naivete about the trouble he could be in passing off dubious bills. My naivete lies in my blind trust for fellow humans who appear to be wanting to do good and right.

Inspiration for this collection

I’ve decided once again to start a blog to chronicle my adventures. I had always wanted to start one to tell others people stuff. But I finally realized I want a place to memorialize my experiences for myself. Partly from my memory not wing the best, partly from Facebook showing get me things I posted years ago, and partly from cleaning out my storage unit and realizing I don’t want a bunch of photo albums I have to put somewhere that no one will ever see.

So here we go. Not every picture will be epic, but there will certainly be some. My descriptions will occasionally leave out an important piece I meant to convey but forgot or didn’t have time or signal.

And I’ve got all these tools for emphasis

Continue reading Inspiration for this collection