Friday, December 28, 2012

Planes y aviones

Después de navidad nos pusimos más serios con respecto al viaje y empezamos a organizarnos un poco más. Ya tenemos algo de alojamiento y actividades para hacer en los primeros días.
Lo mejor del día de ayer fue tal vez la comida, que salió de lo clásico: al mediodía nos encontramos con un amigo y fuimos a un restaurante indio que estaba bastante bien pero con precio turista. Y para la cena fuimos a un tenedor libre vegetariano que ya conocíamos pero que está bueno para probar muchas cosas, la mayoría de influencia oriental.


Por la noche fuimos a ver a tocar a la banda Badmanu dónde mi primo toca la batería, en el link hay algunas canciones para que escuchen.
Además de disfrutar de un potente vaso de cerveza, es interesante ver cómo se está desarrollando el arte en Buenos Aires, se notan muchos más espacios que hace algunos años atrás, lo lamentable es que parece que se olvidan del pasado y estos lugares siguen muy pocas reglas básicas.







En fin, seguimos planeando el viaje y este fin de semana nos vamos a Rosario con unos amigos a disfrutar de la playita y relajarse un poco antes de los festejos de fin de año.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Leftovers

Today everyone ate all the leftovers from last night's celebration, including the lost dog, until the owner came to collect her this afternoon. It was much cooler and more comfortable so we spent most of the day sitting around and eating, with a nap, I mean a movie, thrown in the middle. Most of the family joined us again for the day but unfortunately we're still left with many tupperwares of food!

It's back to work tomorrow morning. I made 4 mini-loaves of banana bread this morning but they were all eaten so fast I didn't get any pictures. All the requests for treats from our bakery "Cooki" we had going here a few years ago and the fun I have making food have left me wanting to spend all day with food and open a bakery or restaurant, but I think I better get back to focusing on a programming project.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Feliz Navidad

The family all came over to Diego's parents' house for Christmas today -- in Argentina the holiday is celebrated mostly in the evening of Christmas Eve, with Santa arriving at midnight. They'll be back tomorrow for lunch to help us deal with the enormous amount of leftovers!

We ate, ate, and ate some more, opened presents from under the pine tree in the front yard, and spent a lot of time in the pool since it was still hot even late at night on this 104 degree day. Around 2 am a storm arrived so we all ran inside to escape the strong wind and rain. Probably the strangest event of the day was a dog we assume escaped from a neighbor's house ran into the pool! Diego's cousin Lautaro rescued him and now we have a dog living with us until the owner arrives and notices their dog is missing.




Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Pics

Cooking for Christmas, night swimming, mint Fernet and Sprite.





Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Pics

We've set up a locutorio, an internet cafe, in the dining room; afternoon maté with friends and family poolside; cookie pizza (we've gotten a lot of complaints that we're not baking enough treats this visit so we'll try to remedy that). 





Thursday, December 20, 2012

Papers and Beer

We've been driving to a lot of different government offices this week trying to get our marriage recognized in Argentina; we've tried and failed before but really want to get this done this trip. Actually, we almost got married again here in Quilmes because we were having so much trouble getting our US marriage to be accepted by Argentina but were then told we couldn't do that either. On our drive to an office in La Plata yesterday I snapped this picture of street performers (the two on the left are jugglers, the guy on the right is just aggressively crossing the street). It is pretty common at busy intersections in cities in Argentina to see people asking for money but, admirably, they've found many ways to provide a service in exchange for tips instead of just begging -- dancing or juggling, washing car windows, selling flowers, cold drinks or snacks or other small items are all popular. Unfortunately our trip was again unsuccessful; we were told to go back to the US and get an "apostille" on our documents. Has anyone ever heard of that before? I certainly hadn't, but apparently it is a real thing! I'll be calling the US west coast today once the 5-hour time difference catches up.

While we were in La Plata we found their only vegan restaurant for a late lunch. It is run by Rastas (followers of the Rastafari movement that originated in Jamaica), which apparently embrace a diet called Ital that's not too different from what we usually eat. I guess you do learn something new every day! Here in Argentina it seems like there's a significant Rasta community, more so than I've noticed in the US. They definitely seem to have their own culture; the service at the restaurant was much more relaxed than we're used to, but the food was good.

In the evening we met friends at the Cerveceria, a huge restaurant operating in the original factory in Quilmes, the city where Diego grew up, but the name is more famous as that of Argentina's favorite beer. The story goes that Germans came to this suburb of Buenos Aires and built a German neighborhood including the beer factory, a park, and cute rows of houses, all of which still stand although the actual beer production has moved to a modern facility. It's a favorite meeting spot in part because the beer used to be a killer deal (less than $1 for a Chopp, a large glass), but it's since gone up (to about $1.50), as it seems most prices here have!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bread

One of my favorite things about spending time in Argentina, that I miss in the US, is the preponderance of bakeries. They typically bake most every variation of bread you can think of, from empanadas (tiny calzones ubiquitous in Argentina), pizza crust and calzones, to little cookies and all sorts of pastries that don't have an international equivalent. The most common and popular product is the medialuna, a heavier, smaller version of a croissant. There is one bakery called El Sabor Artesanal that takes the medialuna to another level, offering both the normal and monster variations! See the latter in the photo.



To top off a trip to a bakery, of course one needs to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, so we all went to Porteño Gourmet in Buenos Aires' fancy district, Puerto Madero, to celebrate Diego's grandma Ema's birthday. She loves to go places, so together we gave her a trip arranged through Let's Go Viajes, Diego's sister Romina's travel agency. Let's Go has helped us plan and reserve parts of our trip too; it's so lucky to have a travel agent in a family who all like to travel.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Buenos Aires Traffic

A lot of driving today reminded us of just how different traffic norms are here than in the US! I was once told that it's a bad idea to use a turn signal when you want to change lanes because it gives someone in the next lane a warning to speed up so you won't be able to get in front of them.

Especially going through Buenos Aires, there is a lot of traffic, and what to me seems pretty chaotic, with bicycles and motorcycles cutting through cars, buses, and trucks, which generally don't stay in any specified lane. Even 9 de Julio, famed as the widest street in the world, gets congested (pictured with the Obelisco in the background). I am SO glad Diego prefers to drive, although I would like to practice   using a manual shift once the opportunity presents itself.

All that was (maybe) worth it once we got to Sarki's, one of our favorite restaurants here. They serve falafel with a mystery sauce that always makes us overeat. Highly recommended for visitors to Buenos Aires in the mood for a change of pace for dinner!



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thunderstorm and the Crazy Wok

Summer in Buenos Aires is filled with quick-moving storms, and this morning we were awoken by thunder and lightning outside the window. We spent most of the day outside anyway, under the patio, to enjoy the cool breeze on a break from 90 degree weather.

Diego's dad brought out one of the most unique appliances I've ever seen today, which he says they bought when they were at the beach in Argentina. I call it the crazy wok -- reference the pictures and see for yourself. And, vegan cupcakes for dessert! :)




In our month here in Argentina we have a bunch of holidays but are also planning to make a short trip to Rosario. Any other suggestions for things we should do before we leave? Leave us a comment!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Family Time

Today we swam in the pool, played tennis, and spent time with family. We did serve the plant burgers from my last post and here is Diego's dad's reaction:
Argentine Juan Carlos Lorden, who says food here is pretty basic since the food culture comes from cowboys barbequeing, thinks that vegan food is something rather new and strange. But he says that he would eat the plant burgers from today's lunch because they tasted good even though he's not used to those flavors.

He says he thinks this trip is a little crazy, that we left everything to go around the world, but that it's a valuable thing to do.
Tonight we used pre-pizzas (a very common product in Argentina), already baked pizza dough that you can buy at bakeries, supermarkets, and convenience stores, add cheese and toppings, and heat in the oven. Pizza with the cashew cheese was a different texture for sure but worked for us.


Today is Diego's parents' 34th wedding anniversary! We wish them 34 more happy and eventful years!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Vegan in Argentina: Ingredients for Cooking

As most of you probably already know, we eat almost completely vegan in San Francisco, a plant-food-lover's paradise. But as we travel, things won't be so easy, and we'll try to record our successes and failures here, as a reference point for others to combat cultural stereotypes like the one I was bombarded with when I first visited Buenos Aires, "you can't be vegetarian in Argentina! All they eat is meat!", or as a warning to pack your own snacks if it really is that difficult.

In our first few days here in Quilmes, a Buenos Aires suburb, we've done pretty well both at home and going out, save for trace dairy in premade pastas. It definitely helps that we're already familiar with the food options available so we can suggest a variety of vegan dishes everyone can enjoy (not just salad!). Yesterday we went to both a regular supermarket and a dietetica, a small nutrition store specializing in healthful ingredients and sometimes food-based medicine common here. In our past experience it has ranged from not too difficult to find most non- and low-processed vegan ingredients in Buenos Aires and nearby, to nearly impossible as you get farther away in the Argentine countryside; we definitely ate cheese pizza in Mendoza when times got tough. Fortunately we were in luck, finding raw cashews (expensive but available), tofu that happened to be organic and sprouted so it's extra-firm (find of the day!), and even a powdered soy milk mixture. Almost all of these ingredients were produced locally in Argentina, since imports have been increasingly restricted.

We are often happy to eat just vegetables without investing a lot of cooking time, but here it can get boring quickly due to the standard diet in Argentina-- pizza, pasta, meat, and vegetables, without spices and with everything cooked until it's soft and mixed together. Although there is certainly great food to be had, the variety is lacking.

Today we are making food for a vegan meal Argentines will like (we hope!!):

Plant burgers on whole wheat buns with soft cheese, tomato, lettuce, and avocado
White and sweet potato fries

The fries we make a lot at home, just by slicing potatoes lengthwise, giving them a quick dip on a plate or shallow bowl of oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning, and baking while we make the rest of the meal. The linked burger recipes we are trying for the first time but they seem to be working well so far. The cupcakes have been big winners at home so we're hoping they'll work their magic here also.

We'll update after the meal with the reaction.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Arriving in Argentina

After barely making our connection in Miami, we successfully arrived in Buenos Aires this morning. I wasn't sure if I would have to pay the $170 fee for US citizens for 10 years of entrance to Argentina again because the sticker was in my old passport, but I showed both passports at immigration and had no problem. Once we got to baggage claim, however, we learned that our bags must have had a fight, because while one of the three made it to Buenos Aires, one stayed in Miami and one in San Francisco! The wayward two are supposed to be delivered to us today and tomorrow respectively. As we were leaving the airport through customs, for the first time in my trips here we were stopped and asked to open our bags, but were able to get through it without any fines.

My very last purchase in the US is called the BookBook, a cover designed to protect and disguise a Macbook Air as a hardcover book. I really wanted something to help hide my computer, by far the most important to me and most tempting to steal item I'm bringing for the trip. I was surprised to find few options in a cover style to hide a Macbook's identity, but the BookBook fit the bill. I went back and forth on getting it for months because it is leather and I try hard to avoid animal products, but finally got one at the last minute, and so far it has been great. From security personnel in the US and abroad, to random people in the airport, I can tell that no one thinks it's a computer when I get it out; just what I was hoping for.

Here it is HOT! At least it feels very hot to me. And to help with the disorientation, all the traditional Christmas decorations are out.



CURRENTLY: Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Diego's family
UP NEXT: Around Argentina for a month -- Rosario, Buenos Aires, etc.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hello friends, family, and people on the internet! Today we're at SFO, leaving San Francisco to begin our round the world trip. We'll be in Miami this evening and arriving in Buenos Aires tomorrow, hopefully, since our first flight is delayed.

We love the bay area so it's a bit hard to leave -- the food, the people, the beautiful culture in SF. But in the last few weeks we've gotten a few signs it's time to go, including our bathroom sink ceasing to drain and the driver's car door ceasing to open. So, we've donated the car, sold and donated our furniture, and given up our apartment lease. We're off with our backpacks ready for the adventure to begin!

Currently: San Francisco, California, USA
Up Next: Buenos Aires, Argentina (after stop in Miami, Florida, USA)