Monday, May 28, 2007

Buenos Aires Spanish Program

Spanish Class
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis
Los dos semanas pasadas, asistí una escuela en Congreso para aprender Español. Me gusta mucho, y quiero sugerir a todos quien quieren aprender castellano en Buenos Aires. I am feeling really excited about how much Spanish I've learned, I am still humbled by toddlers who can speak better than I can, but I can actually kinda have conversations instead of just nodding my head and smiling vaguely while I wonder what's going on.
I liked this school because they let you sign up anytime, for just one week at a time, which works well with my erratic work schedule. It's cheaper than taking private lessons and it's fun being in a group class! There are up to 5 people per class, and for around US$100 per week (it's cheaper if you continue for several weeks), you get 4 hours of class each day: 2 hours of grammar and then 2 hours of conversation. It is also nice that they cover some tenses and grammar used by other countries outside of Argentina, not just the idiosyncratic Rioplatense castellano spoken here. Fun times!!

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Estancia Santa Rita
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis
Emily came to visit and we did lots of fun and exciting things like eating steak, and eating ice cream, and eating Peruvian ceviche, and eating facturas, and eating empanadas, and looking at lots of museums and having fun exploring the city despite a bit of rain. We went to visit Estancia Santa Rita, about two hours outside of the city in Buenos Aires Province. In the summertime estancias are a common way for middle-class Porteños to spend a day or a weekend in the sunshine and fresh air, riding horses or lounging by the pool. There is a crowd of Estancias all around the city, and most are still working ranches, as well as weekend destinations for city-dwellers and tourists. Buenos Aires and its residents seem to really celebrate horses and gaucho culture. In addition to riding, the estancias offer colonial architecture (sometimes overnight accomodations), beautiful lawns and walking paths around the grounds, and tasty asado (traditional Argentinian feasts of grilled meat).

Estancia Santa Rita
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis
Estancia Santa Rita was built in 1790; another guest told us that the current owner is an architect and together with his creative wife and daughters, he made some fanciful renovations and additions in the past 15 years, resulting in the sort of art-nouveau-castle pink tower complete with swirls and mythical sylvan statues decorating the outside. The result is a little bit silly and weird but I admire the creative spirit that went into it. There seems to be some construction going on to one side of the house, so I guess more imaginative additions are coming soon.
We shared the estate with just six other ladies, all visiting from either New York or London. We enjoyed such ladylike activities as eating super tasty meals of home-grown meats and roasted vegetables, wandering the lawns and gardens in front of the pink castle, lounging about drinking wine or tea, riding horses, knitting and reading by the fireside. The paths were pretty muddy and the mosquitos were ferocious so we didn't go for a hike in the woods but we did get to see the grounds on horseback. I'd never been on a horse before and it was fun! My horse knew that I wasn't really in charge of him so he kept trying to wander off and munch on tasty bushes and trees, but he was otherwise a nice relaxed fellow and it was not scary at all and our rides were really the highlight of the trip. It was a very girly, deluxe way to spend a few days, and sauntering around the pampas on a horse made me feel like a little Argentinian gaucha.

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route 7
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis

We've had lots and lots of visitors and travels lately. First, Drew and Stacey came to visit and we took a trip West across Argentina, to Mendoza and the Andes. We rode an overnight bus for 13 hours and woke up pretty well-rested, thanks to big comfy recliner seats, in the lovely city of Mendoza. Then we rented a car and drove out of the city on Route 7 which goes out through the wine country, up into the Andes. We stopped at the border

las cuevas
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis
crossing, but Route 7 continues down the other side to Santiago, Chile. Along the way we stopped at Potrerillos and looked at the man-made lake. We rode up a chair-lift at Los Penitentes ski area. We ate lots of meat for lunch in the town of Uspallata, which we read was the location for filming Seven Years in Tibet (I haven't seen the movie but the town is lovely). Then we stopped at Puente del Inca, a natural bridge and hot springs next to an old Inca building. We passed Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain peak (6,962 m / 22,841 feet) outside of the Himalayas. We stayed the night in the tiny mountain ghost town of Las Cuevas. In the morning we got a ride up to Cristo Redentor de los Andes, a giant statue high up on the Chile/Argentina

way high up
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis
border. We drove back to Mendoza city the next day and stayed there for a night. We wandered around the small city, ate some amazing seafood, went to San Martin park and visited the architecturally interesting but totally creepy natural science museum.

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MOTHRA larva

I don't know what this thing is but it crawled under the door of my studio and it was kind of cool but I think it wanted to eat me. I calmly removed it to the other side of the patio and it CAME BACK and crawled in under the door AGAIN!! then I had to drop it onto the neighbors roof. Please notice my hand next to the monster, for scale. Can anyone tell me what this thing is going to be when it grows up?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tom Yum or Cahn Chua Ca (sort of)

tasty soup
Originally uploaded by elizajanecurtis

I've fallen in love with the tiny Chinatown of Buenos Aires, which is about 3 blocks in Belgrano next to the train station, on Arribeños and Mendoza. Most stores in Buenos Aires have a limited variety of food, so Chinatown is the only place to buy lots of the things that I miss from home. My favorite markets right now are Casa China on Arribeños and a bigger place (I think it's called Asia World Market?) around the corner on Mendoza. Both places have everything you can imagine in packets and jars and boxes. Casa China has more bulk dried goods and homemade cookies and herbal remedies and on the weekends they sell *really* tasty vegetable buns and some kind of fried balls and noodle soup and other delicious vegetarian street-eats, from a window facing the sidewalk. Asia World Market has a bigger selection of fresh veggies (6 kinds of mushrooms, lemongrass, galangal, fresh herbs and greens, lots of fruits that I can't identify) and a huge meat-and-fish market in the back with tons of slimy tentacles and fish heads and fresh everything on ice. They also have bulk frozen dumplings in big wooden barrels and some fresh bakery goods.
A craving for some Hot & Sour soup gave me a good excuse to go to Belgrano. I was remembering the soup I used to get every day from LaGuardia Grill in New York, plus some really tasty soup I used to eat with Emily at Da Lat in Worcester. I'm not really sure what's the difference between Vietnamese or Thai Hot & Sour soups(?) so I looked up recipes for both and mixed them together with some other stuff I remembered from my favorite soups. I just used whatever ingredients I could find, and it tasted SO steamy and spicy and good!
* around 1/2 chicken on the bone, with skin
cut off the white meat and chop it into little bits and set aside. drop the rest of the skin/bones/carcass into a pot of water (around 4-5 cups of water), add plenty of salt, a bit of pepper, and simmer. Add all the vegetable scraps (onion skins, celery top, etc) as you cut the veggies. Add to the broth:
* two cloves garlic, chopped in half
* sprig of cilantro
* 1 tablespoon tom yum (hot pepper) paste
* 3 or 4 quarter-inch chunks of fresh ginger
meanwhile, cut into small peices:
* medium sized filet of white fish
mix in a small dish:
* 2 Tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)
* ½ teaspoon black pepper
* juice from one lime
pour 1/2 of this over the fish, stir it up, and put it in the fridge to marinate. pour the rest over the chicken pieces, stir it up, and put it in the fridge.
cut up all the vegetables while the stock simmers. After 1/2 hour add to the stock:
* 3 stalks lemon grass, crushed and chopped coarsely
* 2 chunks of lime rind (just the dark green part)
* 3 tablespoons fish sauce
after all the vegetables are chopped, taste the broth, add salt or more hot pepper if necessary. strain the broth and toss the bones and stuff. Then add:
* ½ teaspoon grated lime zest
* 1 teaspoon chopped green chile pepper
* 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
* 3 tablespoons lime juice
let it cook another 5 mins, then add:
* 1 small or 1/2 large onion, sliced in wedges
* fresh pineapple chunks
* sliced bamboo shoots
* 1 stalk celery, sliced
* kernels from 2 ears of fresh sweet corn
* 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
cook it another few minutes and add:
* 1 fresh tomato, seeded, cut into thin wedges
* 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
serve hot! on the side, serve as toppings:
* 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
* 1 sprig fresh basil, chopped
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced

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