Friday, June 23, 2006

Plaza Italia

In our continuing effort to photograph all of the plazas in Mendoza the three of us visited Plaza Italia a couple of weeks ago. Plaza Italia is probably the second most visited plaza in Mendoza and while it has a certain beauty to it, it differs from Plaza Espana in two ways:

First, where Plaza Espana attempts to glorify the presence of early Spaniards in Mendoza, Plaza Italia makes no such attempt. In fact, it has been really hard to determine when the Italians first arrived in Mendoza and what they have contributed to the city. But, after much considerable research we have found the answer. There were two waves of Italian immigrants to Argentina in the last century. The first was in the late 20's and early 30's. This group was made up of mostly socialists and communists who were fleeing the fascist government. The second was in the late 40's and early 50's. This second group was primarily fascist sympathizers who were fleeing the socialists and communists who were in charge of Italy at the time. So, sometime in the late 40's they all got back together in Argentina. That probably goes along way to explaining the varied political leanings in Argentina. And, you can imagine the first time the group of Italian expats met in Mendoza – “Didn’t you used to try to oppress my family for our political leanings?”

Second, where Plaza Espana has beautiful tile work, Plaza Italia has great sculpture. The centerpiece being the sculpture of a woman riding a horse coming out of the fountain. It is an interesting piece and takes a couple of looks to realize that it is indeed a woman on a horse. But, once you get the idea it is quite pretty (some photos).

That is about it for this Plaza. Next on our list is Plaza de San Martin, one of several hundred memorials to the Protector of the Andes. More on that in a couple of days.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Vamo, Vamo, Vamo Argentina

”Some people believe futbol is a matter of life and death. I'm very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Bill Shankly, Manager, Liverpool FC (English Soccer Team)

Welcome to our life in Argentina during the World Cup. While I have always thought of myself as a fairly big sports fan, nothing in my past prepared me for the World Cup in Argentina. I thought it was pretty amazing that on a Saturday afternoon the streets were empty and you could barely order a pizza – but that was just the warm up. No one here was that excited to beat the Ivory Coast after all – I mean the challenges facing the Ivory Coast are pretty legendary. And, Argentina only scored two goals (to the Ivory Coast’s one goal).

But following the 6-0 whooping that Argentina put on Serbia/Montenegro you would have thought that the Argentine government had found a way to resurrect General San Martin himself. The streets were filled with people honking horns, running around draped in the Argentine flag and wearing jester hats in the Argentine colors. I think the closest thing I can image in the US would be living in Phoenix when the Cardinals win the Super Bowl (but we all know that is never going to happen).

While I agree a big win like that in the World Cup is a big deal, I guess no one here is taking into account that Serbia-Montenegro was without three of its best players or that the Serbian government recognized Montenegro as a separate country one week prior to the game. You have to think that having your country come apart the week before a match would hurt team morale some. On the other hand it could create a great rallying cry “this is the last time before our divorce”.

An interesting side note: the star for Serbia-Montenegro was a young man named Milosevic. I have heard that name somewhere before…..

Anyway, without saying anything to offend our deeply nationalistic soccer friends (if we have any such friends) we have become Argentine Futbol fans for the year. Mia proudly wears her Argentina camioseta (t-shirt) and I wear my Argentina training shirt on game days (Jan wears black because black doesn’t attach her to any nation/state and allows her to continue to fight the oppression inflicted by hegemonic power systems). Even Mia’s school got into the act with all of the students watching the game and painting their faces. As we drove past another school the entire student body was standing on the street jumping up and down singing “Vamo, Vamo, Argentina”.

I have to admit I am not a Futbol/soccer fan and never have been, but being here during the World Cup is as much fan as I have ever had rooting for a sports team. When Argentina wins everyone in town is celebrating including us (I don’t know what will happen when they lose). We are still rooting for the US team to make a comeback against Italy (so we can hold our heads up in this soccer crazed world), but rooting for Argentina is an amazing amount of fun.

OK enough of that. I am off to get our flag waving (Argentine flag that is) kid from school.

Vamo Estados Unidos! Vamo Argentina!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Mis Amigas….(written by Janalee, so she thinks it is not funny). This Month’s Food and Wine piece

Just a short note to share two adventures with friends…

The first took place in late April, when my friends Karen, Margot and Sarah flew down to celebrate Margot’s 40th b-day. I met the girls in Buenos Aires, where we spent two whirlwind days shopping and sightseeing, sin ninos. It was GREAT FUN – we strolled the streets of Palermo Soho, and savored all the wonderful little shops and cool new restaurants. We stayed in an amazing place called Hotel Bobo (named after – David Brooks book, Bobos in Paradise), where each room is different and fun. Sarah and I decamped in the Minimalist Room…

On Friday, we flew to Mendoza, and had a wonderful time touring bodegas, including Domaine St. Diego – (some photos), the only terraced vineyard in Mendoza. Specially designed by local wine legend Angel Mendoza, the vineyard is truly spectacular, each rock wall was built by hand. Later, we had lunch at a very special place called Almacen Del Sur, where all the ingredients are grown on the property. They created a fabulous birthday cake for Margot –with quince, peaches, meringe… we were happily stuffed at the end of the day.

The second adventure occurred just last weekend. My old friend Emma, and her friend Hilary, arrived via bus from BA, which, as Emma says, “was BY FAR the best form of public transportation she has ever taken….” The bus line features fully reclining seats, movies, dinner and champagne, all for about $30 US.

On Saturday, we got up early and journeyed to Valle de Uco, where the Vines property is located, very near the Andes. It was cloudy at first, but as the day wore on, the sky cleared and the mountains were out in full-force. We had lunch at Altus, a new bodega which features a small, intimate restaurant run by a local chef. We were invited to the open kitchen to watch the chef prepare a series of delectable appetizers, including grilled polenta with locally-grown sun-dried tomatoes, and tiny bowls of pumpkin soup, all cooked over an open-fire. The main course included a lentil stew… And the desserts were “to die for.” Here are some photos of the day. We celebrated Vince’s birthday later in the weekend, and had a lovely time just catching up. (Editor's note: Janalee forgot to mention the wine of the month which is the Altus Torrentes -- great white wine with a great fruit flavor.)

I miss my buddies already!!!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Funny, or Not, Here I Am

The strangest thing that has happened to me since we moved to Argentina is the reaction some people are having to this blog. While we were in Virginia a couple of weeks ago several people mentioned that they read the blog (that is surprising in and of itself). Almost every person also said "I had no idea you were funny". Me either (or me too -- I just can't decide which).

The reason it seems so strange to me is because I feel like I have a really hard time being serious. So, I decided to ask a couple of people I have worked with whether or not I am funny -- here is what they said:

"Your humor is dry -- like the desert"

"Someone takes you seriously? Who?"

"Its not that you are funny, its that you say whatever you are thinking. That surprises people."

So, there you have it. A post that has absolutely no purpose other than the fact that I just happened to be thinking about it, so I said it. Janalee is sitting next to me wondering why I am not writing about the wonderful day we had at a vineyard today. No reason really, just wasn't at the top of my mind.

I will be here all week, don't forget to tip the waitress.

Small World pt. 4

So, I am once again astounded by the fact that it is such a small world. A friend of a friend is staying with us this week and just happened to mention that her mother grew up in Utah. I asked her where and she said, "a small town - you have probably never heard of it". It turns out that her mother graduated from Orem High School -- the same high school that I graduated from.

A coincidence? I think not. Perhaps Mendoza is really an island, and we are not visiting here, but our plane crashed and now we are part of a psych experiment. Or, maybe I have been watching too much Lost on my Ipod (I may be in South America, but I can still download things....).

Alright, gotta run. I am "watching" game six of the Suns/Mavericks playoff series on my computer -- you gotta love technology!