29 October 2010

rainy day in BA

"She's a Kansas princess, crazy mothertrucker, undercover lover,
Thick southern drawl, sexy swingin' walk, brother she's all. . ."
-Jason Aldean, "She's Country"

In the end, a trip to the zoo was inevitable for me and my American charges. We piled into a taxi and showed up about 10 minutes early Thursday morning. People were gawking at the kids' ridiculously fair hair while we waited in line (sometimes people ask me if my husband is blond, or if the kids are albinos), but there were also several mothers who offered to help me control the stroller while we waited (did I mention that the family's top of the line, two-seater, Hummer of a stroller blew out a tire last week, so we're using their backup, which only has room for one child? Yeah).

Both the kids were young enough to get in free, so mine was the only ticket that needed paying for. No problem; the parents had given me a generous quantity of pesos to cover cab fare, zoo tickets, a snack, and any other expenses that might arise. Free trip to the zoo? Yes, I do love my job.

"Are we gonna see the giraffes today?" the three year old kept asking. (Apparently, the family
had been to the zoo once already, and the giraffes had spent the day hiding in their barn.) "Honey, we are going to see everything in the zoo today, don't you worry," I reassured her over and over.

First up were the flamingos, and the ducks, swans, geese, and turtles that shared an unenclosed pond with them. Yep, unenclosed. So there were ducks with pink face warts chasing us around all day. They really have a thing for letting animals just sort of roam around the place- there were also these things running around that looked like mutated rabbits. And all of the enclosures seemed either super old school or ineffective. . . I feel like the Buenos Aires Zoo is setting itself up for a lawsuit.

I started to make a list of all the animals we saw, but I realized I didn't know all of their names. And then I started to think about how to describe them to you. And that made me think of this clip from the Mighty Boosh, which is a British comedy series that partially takes place in a zoo. The manager of the zoo, a guy named Bob Fossil, doesn't actually know the real names of any of his animals, so he gets creative. Anyway, I think it's hilarious.

Seriously, though, there were macaws, and skunks, and coatis, and striped hyenas, and zebras, and rhinoceri, and elephants, and chimpanzees, and orangutans, and so many more things. And yes, there were giraffes. Except when we got to the giraffes, the three year old suddenly stopped caring. So we walked on to the rainforest, grabbed some popsicles, and then tried to exit the zoo. Except the exit I'd planned on leaving through was closed, so we had to backtrack through the entire zoo to the entrance. As a result, we were about 20 minutes late getting home. I told the parents that it was my fault we were late and they didn't have to pay me for the extra time, but they said it had worked out fine and paid me extra. I really do have the best job ever.

Friday was rainy. The kids and I attempted to go to the playground, but just as we arrived, it started to rain, so we sat on someone's stoop and ate our snacks before heading back (but at least their two-seat stroller was fixed). We spent the rest of our time coloring, reading Where the Wild Things Are, and building things with Duplo blocks. And the little one actually let me change his diaper! He even giggled when I saw the mess he made. The only struggle was when I tried to put his pants back on, so he ran around in his diaper the rest of the time.

When I got home, I had an email from the single dad asking if I could come over and watch the boys while he had a business dinner. He asked if I could be there around nine, but didn't give any specifics about when he'd be back. I need the money, and what could be easier than watching tv for a few hours while three boys under the age of six sleep soundly?

Maybe that sounds like a trick question. I know if I were reading this I would expect the next sentence to be about how they were little terrors and it was so not worth it. But it was worth it. I walked over and arrived at nine, hung out with the kids and their dad while they got ready for bed, he left around 9:45, I spent the next 5 and a half hours seated on their couch watching Eastern Promises (one of my favourite films), SVU (never fails), Scrubs, the Soup (I laugh in spite of myself), Will and Grace (it's been too long), and my first episode of Deadwood (gee, people in the Old West sure did swear a lot).

And I was paid much better for it than I would have expected, but a) I was watching three boys aged 2-6 by myself, b) it was the weekend, c) It was THREE IN THE MORNING BY THE TIME HE GOT BACK, and d) it was super late notice. Oh and also e) I am a hella qualified sitter. So I would say I deserved it. I mean, we did discuss my usual rates, and I mentioned that they vary depending on the situation, but he also threw in that his maid only makes 1500 pesos a month. For working eight hours a day. And that would not even cover my rent. But apparently she found such compensation unsatisfactory, as she had quit earlier that day when he asked her to stay and watch the kids that night. Cue Lizzie.

So all in all, it was a good night, plus he paid for my cab fare back to my house. Because I was not about to walk 40 minutes down the streets of Buenos Aires at three in the morning.

So yeah, I might use the money to buy some clothes, so I can look a little more professional and whatnot (I'm not sure jeggings really inspire confidence), and I definitely need a cell phone. Anyway, I have the whole weekend free now, and I'm so looking forward to having nothing to do!

27 October 2010

more adventures in babysitting

Don't tell me not to fly; I've simply got to
If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you!
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade?
-Don't Rain on My Parade

We were hoping to go to the zoo today (the kiddos and I, that is), but just as we were getting ready to leave the house, I remembered something. "It's Census Day," I said. "Won't it be closed?"

Census Day is apparently a big deal here in Argentina. Everything is shut down for one day, no one goes to work, and the streets are empty except for people with plastic satchels that say "Censo" on them going door to door. The Subte was very nearly empty, which was delightful considering I usually have to stand for the duration of my morning commute, and my afternoon commute as well.

But the Census did put a damper on the kids' plans for the morning. The 3 year old in particular was really looking forward to going to the zoo- she made nearly a full recovery from her illness when she heard that was on the schedule for the day. We held out hope that the zoo would be open despite the Census, reasoning that we'd keep our zoos open in America on such a day just for those parents who didn't know what to do with an extra day at home with their kids, but we also devised a couple of backup plans. These were:
  1. The botanical gardens across the street from the zoo, and
  2. Any of the many other parks in the area
With this solid plan of action fresh in my mind, I hailed a taxi, and piled the stroller, diaper bag, and both tots inside. I asked the driver if he thought the zoo would be open, and he said definitely not, so I asked if he thought the botanical gardens would be open, and he said probably not, and then suggested that we try the Japanese gardens, because "You know how those Asians are, they always stay open on holidays."

I decided to go with it, because we all know the only place you can get anything to eat on Thanksgiving and Christmas in the States is a Chinese restaurant, although I really didn't think the gardens would be open. At least we would be near other public playgrounds and things if the Japanese gardens were closed.

And of course they were closed, so we just got out there and wandered around the perimeter of the Rosedal (Rose Garden) because its gates were locked as well. We played around the lake, and watched goslings and ducklings, and the 3 year old thought she was going to vom a few times, and then we climbed trees and THEN I CHANGED THE 18 MONTH OLD'S DIAPER. It was an ordeal, I'll tell you, with him screaming and squirming and locking his legs so I couldn't lift him up by the ankles to clean him up. There were tears shed, wet wipes thrown, and rude glances from passers-by, but I got the job done. And I tell you what, that kid was rashy. I think he fights diaper changes because he associates them with diaper rash, but it's a vicious circle. He's not going to get rid of that diaper rash unless he lets us change him. But try explaining that to a kid who's a year and a half old. And thankfully (or not, really), he did the same thing when his mother tried to change him yesterday, so at least she knows that it's not just me making excuses or something. The kid is genuinely very, very difficult to get changed.

When we got back to the house, their dad asked what things were like on the outside. Apparently the ex-president of Argentina died today. (Interestingly enough, he was also the current First Spouse.) We weren't sure if we should expect riots, or celebrations, or what, but in the end I don't think people could be bothered with actually doing anything on their day off.

Anyway. What else is new? Oh, there's a new poll at the bottom of the page for everyone to enjoy. I want to thank everyone who participated in the last one; you can see the results on the 'Results of Weekly Poll' page. If you have more poll ideas please let me know because I'm not actually that creative.

Happy Census Day!

25 October 2010

adventures in babysitting

She take my money when I'm in need
Yeah she's a triflin' friend indeed
Oh, she's a gold digger
Way over town
That digs on me
-Kanye West, Gold Digger

Did you know that there's actually a channel on Argentine television that shows nothing but cattle running? I kid you not. Every time I've turned it on, my eyes have been met with a bovine stampede. I do the rounds, check out a little Law and Order or the Office, and then by the time I make it back to the Cow Channel, the cattle are running the other way. It's intense.

I'm waiting to complete my second interview with the nanny agency, but that's moving ahead at least. I also just got an e-mail from the American family asking me if I could increase my hours! How great is that?

I got to spend some quality time with the 18 month old yesterday, because his sister was sick. We took a leisurely stroll down to the park, stopping at any store windows he pointed at. He loves trucks and buses and things like that, but he also pointed quite enthusiastically at the window of a lingerie shop. I guess he's well on his way to becoming a typical, red-blooded, American male.

When we got to the park, he beelined for the swings, and I discovered that he's learned a new word: "Push!" The other day, he said "Higher!" for the first time too. I think he's mimicking his sister, but it's still so exciting that his vocabulary is expanding so fast. (His parents told me that my name was probably his tenth word- how cool is that?!)

The little guy's favorite pasttimes, besides the swing set, include throwing sand, tackling me so
that I become covered in sand, dropping things in the sand, and building things out of sand. But at least he doesn't usually bury things in the sand, like the surprised-looking blond kid who frequently shows up at the park and asks about everything, "Que es eso?" ("What is that?") Before you can answer, this little McCaulay Caulkin-lookalike has already pointed at something else and repeated the question. It's great that he's curious about the world and all, but I really don't think he listens to the answers, because I've explained to him about a dozen times what my camera is, and he still reached into my purse yesterday to play with it. Then he grabbed my coloring pens and buried them in the sand while his mother watched, and I watched his mother, waiting for her to step in. (Took her long enough.)

Um, what else. . . I realized last night that I miss baseball (and softball, naturally) a lot. And I miss baseball players a lot. Like a lot. I guess that's one thing I'm definitely not going to find here. Along with Target, Ruffles, Forever 21, grits, H&M, all the clothes I've accumulated over the years which are currently in Kansas, and my family. Boo.

Went to an outdoor concert sort of thing on Saturday night. Klezmer. It's like Jewish fusion music. There was some North African and Spanish influence I think. . . anyway, it was intense. And then Dave and I saw like 500 people dancing Thriller and joined in.

Yesterday we hit up the Recoleta cemetery, where Evita is interred. They're all about tombs and mausoleums up in here. It's very mysterious and somber. Many of the tombs have fallen into disrepair and you can see the coffins inside of them. I've heard you can also see bones in some parts of the cemetery, but I didn't, and I think I'm glad I didn't. Because that would have been yucky.

23 October 2010

car seats: what fresh new hell is this. . .

"Something has to make you run
I don't know why I didn't come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don't know why I didn't come. . ."
-Norah Jones, Don't Know Why

I went to Palermo Soho today to meet a single
dad and his kids so he could see if I'd be a good fit for babysitting. I have to admit, I was a little nervous when his e-mails said things like, "I'm on good terms with my wife but need someone to watch the kids while I have them" and "Please send me a photo with your CV" made me a little nervous. Then I googled him, and found some encouraging information (he's a real person, not a creeper, and he owns his own company), and checked the address of the apartment (a good neighborhood), and I changed my mind.

In the end, I didn't even have to go up to the apartment straightaway. Instead, I met him and his three sons at the barbershop across the street (the daughter is too young to be away from her mother for very long). We talked there for about an hour while the boys were having their hair cut, and then he asked if I'd like to hang out with them for a bit, and we ran some errands and went to McDonald's and I built a Lego police station with one of the boys and played catch with another. I ended up staying for around three and a half hours, and he paid me 50 pesos for that amount of time, which I think is pretty fair considering it was supposed to just be an interview and he also got me lunch. Honestly, when I heard he was a venture capitalist I was hoping for a little more money but in all fairness, I'm basically being paid to hang out with him and his kids. Plus he's going to talk to his wife about how much to pay me the rest of the time so hopefully she'll be good to me.

I also applied to work for a nanny agency this week. They have a very strenuous application process- first there's a basic application, then there's a skype interview, then a much more detailed application, then an in-person interview, and finally a PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION. Intense, right? So far I've completed the two applications and the skype interview, and I'm waiting to hear back about a formal interview. Working for an agency would be nice because they'd find work for me and also screen out any potential creepers.

In other news, the garbage strike appears to be over! And might I add that the garbage collectors here are a relatively classy bunch? They whistle at me less than both a) their American counterparts, and b) other non garbage-collecting Argentine men. It is appreciated.

Oh gosh, what else. . . my two American charges have been good. They are just very, very naturally adorable. The 18 month old (and he officially turned 18 months just this week, the very same day that my dear baby sister turned 18 years, what are the odds?!) has been a bit fussy with me lately. He won't let me change his diaper at all. And I don't like that, because if I've actually bitten the bullet and decided I'm going to change a diaper, I need to get it done and over with before I change my mind. But we still have lots of fun, and I know they like hanging out with me as much as I like hanging out with them (which is a lot).

So I'm continuing to string together jobs, all the while working as a freelance essayist and editor online. Oh, and I'm going to be putting the link to my Zazzle store up here soon. I know it looks like I'm selling out, but I've had that store open for about two years now, selling prints of photographs from my travels as well as t-shirts and other random things, and it's been moderately successful. I don't expect my family to buy anything from it, but I know I can get more traffic to this blog by linking it to other webpages and that's going to somehow benefit all of us. . . right? Anyway.

21 October 2010

el sabor de buenos aires

  1. The trash men are on strike as of earlier this week. Naples flashbacks won't stop. . .
  2. A pedestrian was hit by a car on my street a couple of days ago.
  3. I was at the park with my kids the other day and among the flock of pigeons that attacked us was a parakeet. A bright green parakeet.

19 October 2010

licensed to ill

Well, now, don't you tell me to smile

You stick around, I'll make it worth your while

Like numbers beyond what you can dial

Maybe because I'm so versatile. . .

-Beastie Boys, Intergalactic

I would have written much sooner, but I’m having a tough time logging in to blogger.com soooooo take it up with them.

Anyway, in the last week, I’ve made no progress on anything. I babysat a couple of times for an American family, which was awesome, but it’s not going to pay the bills. . . or all the rent. Dave showed up and promptly interviewed for the gig in Uruguay. He got it; I didn’t. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

I’m doing a little freelance writing, but I’m mostly spending my days watching Gossip Girl. Productive use of my time, I know. But I consider it an investment in my future, because when I am rich and have moved to the Upper East Side in New York, I will know how to conduct myself. Or. . . not conduct myself, I guess.

And I forgot to mention, I am in love with Buenos Aires. I get this city, I know how to get around it, and I’m showing other people how to get around. Dave and I are headed to Al Carbon, which is one of the restaurants that I went out to a couple of times with people from the hostel. He wants one of those famous Argentine steaks, and Al Carbon is one of the best places to get them (keep that in mind if you ever come to visit.

Lastly, I think I’m going to move the poll to this page and just show the results on the other page, because I can actually put a poll application on this page and not on the other (as far as I know). Enjoy.

12 October 2010

wait til i get my money right

I'm gonna update you now whether you like it or not, because it's been about four days and, gosh darn it, I must have done something interesting in these last four days. . . right?

Well, as you can see, I made some changes around here. Added more pages, changed the background, widened everything. The last time I redesigned this blog was, well, never. I'd had the same leafy green bar at the top and the same color scheme and the same fonts pretty much since I started this. But I wanted it to be wider, and I wanted more versatility, and these were things I couldn't get with the other template. I'm still not sure if I like this one, though. I'm trying to keep it all summery and vibrant, since that's kind of the theme here, but I don't know. There may be more changes yet to come.

I also added new pages. It might be a little gratuitous to put up a whole bunch of pics of myself and write a cute little bio like I'm a real writer, and maybe I only added those pages because I could, but guess what, I like them, so I think they're staying. And if that bugs you, get a load of this: I'm gonna add some more pointless pages today, just for kicks. Silly stuff, too. Stuff that's there just for the heck of it. So start likin' it. . . or else.

What else. . . oh, so I'm about this close to actually making money. Cupcake gig fell through (and if you ask me how or why, I will honestly have no good answer for you because I sincerely believe that I was born to deliver baked goods), but I've been in contact with some families who want me to babysit their kids, and I'm pretty darn excited about that. I love that people are actually willing to pay me to just chill with their kids, and play games, and run around, because I would do that for free. But don't tell them, because I need the money.

I also had an interview today for a camp counselor gig at a summer camp in Uruguay. It seems pretty similar to what I've been doing in Italy the past two summers, so I think I've got a pretty decent shot, but then again, there are only four spots. Fingers crossed. I've also applied to be a freelance editor and proofreader, a study abroad coordinator, an English teacher, travel writer, and waitress. So we'll see, I suppose.

The BA is being pretty good to me. Dave gets here in a couple of days and then I will have one more friend in this town, which will give me a grand total of two friends here. . . not counting some guy named Hipolito who gave me his card on the subway and told me to call him, because his English could really use a teacher like me. (It wasn't even his card, it was a tailor's card that he'd written his name and number on the back of.)

I would say I'm just about a pro at using the Metro system, but almost every time I make a bold statement like that, something happens to put me in my place. So if I were to say that I'm a pro at using the Metro system, I would most likely be mugged at gunpoint or find myself lost on the wrong side of town (and then also mugged at gunpoint).

Anyway, that's about all I can think of for now. If anything interesting happens, you will be the first to know.

08 October 2010

life in west palermo. . .

Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing, I said nothing can take away these blues. . .

-Sinead O'Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U

Life's good in the hood- the hood being the outskirts of Palermo, where I am currently residing. It's also sort of near Recoleta. But I think I've mentioned that.

Palermo's usually considered a good area to move to because it's been inhabited by affluent types (wait, what am I doing here?) ever since the famed yellow fever outbreak of way back in the day, when those who could fled their homes along the river in the neighborhoods of San Telmo, San Nicolas, La Boca, and other places in favour of higher ground, where there were fewer mosquitoes and thus less risk of contracting the disease. The houses they left behind were soon overrun by the lower class, who fit entire families into single rooms, so that there were sometimes 20 families living in a house with one bathroom (basically it sounds like they were living in hostels). And there's your Buenos Aires history lesson for the day.

Anyway, sometimes the people of Palermo like to reminisce and relive the good old days, when their neighborhood was more exclusive, and they'll do exclusive, rich sorts of things. I've actually heard the clip-clop of horseshoes on pavement twice this week as families of means drove carriages down the street.

Had somewhat less pleasant visitors to the street a couple of days ago, when a man with two pit bulls (and another, less intimidating dog) waited outside my door for about 10 minutes. Did I mention he was shirtless? That was strange. And a little scary. I took this pic out the bathroom window.

Have I mentioned that the men here are very straightforward? Even more so than the men of Spain, and much more so than my dearly missed suitors in Italy. I expect to hear things said as I walk down the straight, hear kissing sounds, car horns, that sort of thing. The other day a guy poked me in the chest with a flyer he was supposed to be handing out. "Seriously?!" I exclaimed, turning to him and throwing my hands up. He looked a little bit surprised that I actually called him out on it.

Then there was the guy today who actually set down what he was carrying to watch me walk past and groaned in Spanish, "Ay, mami, you're killing me with those legs! Oh, you're killing me! Stop it!" I think part of it is that I'm wearing shorts when other people think it's cold- but if it's mid-60's and I'm already wearing a sweater and boots, you'd better believe I'm gonna be plenty warm. Too warm, actually. Still, I appreciate my legs being noticed (never happens), and I got a laugh out of the whole thing. Win-win.

What else. . . there are so many beautiful murals in this town! Even the political graffiti is elegant and vibrant and inspiring. I've included a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Some news on the job front, it looks like I could get some work as a freelance editor, and I just had a couple contact me about babysitting, so that's all promising! I'm looking forward to this weekend- not for any particular reason, because being unemployed means I can do whatever I want whenever I want to do it with no regard to the hour or even day. But it's still nice to say that it's the weekend. More soon!

07 October 2010

job-free's the way to be

Well actually, as it turns out, it's not the way to be. I can think of a whole bunch of great things that it's good to be free of- STI's, Brazilian creepers, bed bugs- and I wouldn't really include jobs on that list because, as we all know, being job-free frequently correlates directly with being money-free. Which will then likely lead to being food-free, place to sleep-free, and life-free.

Don't think I haven't been looking. I'm sending out 5 or more emails a day to prospective employers, but I usually don't hear back. I did, however, have an interview two days ago to be- wait for it, wait for it- a cupcake deliverer, and I'm optimistic about that.

In other vagabond news, I am now somewhat less of a vagabond, as I have a place to live. An apartment somewhere between Recoleta, Palermo, Almagro, and Villa Crespo. All pretty decent areas. It's right next door to a church for evangelical Christians of the Asian persuasion, and across the street from what appears to be a taxi company, in a fairly quiet residential area, between two of the busiest streets in Buenos Aires.

My room is very big, and very airy, with a king-sized bed and a wall of cabinets and closet space. I do have to share a bathroom with the owner, but she's usually at work by the time I wake up. There will be another American girl moving back into one of the upstairs bedrooms, and people have been coming by to look at the other rooms.

Here's what my room looks like:
That would be my king-sized bed (really two twins pushed together) which I moved to the corner, which I may move back to the center of that red wall (I'm currently exploring my options). That comforter is just so comforting- laying in that bed is like burrowing into a mountain of marshmallows. It's fabulous.
And that would be my quaint little sewing machine of a desk, with some art supplies on it.
I was blown away by all the storage space too!

03 October 2010

i never liked gnocchi

"My, people come and go so quickly here."
-Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

So, what's happened since I posted last? I can't think of much, even though it's been a week. I've seen plenty of Buenos Aires, I've looked (unsuccessfully) for a job and (semi-successfully) for a place to live, and I've met some really interesting people. And I never did solve the mystery of that boy in my bed. The other girls had no idea who he was and assumed he belonged to me (which he certainly didn't).

One night, as I was playing cards with a couple of the boys, a Brazilian guy approached me and basically started raving about my blue eyes and asked if he could take a picture of them. I tried to explain that they are, in fact, green, and I hate it when people think they're blue, but he just kept repeating, "Yes! The eyes blue!" and told me people back home wouldn't believe it. We tried to distract him and get him to leave but in the end we had to just let him have his photo. It was so strange. He had a 17 year old wife or fiancee and said he couldn't wait to show her the photo of him and I holding hands looking like we were engaged or something. So, so very, very strange.

I'm not done talking, but I do have to go just for a bit. I'm looking into moving into a b&b/guesthouse-ish sort of place, so I have to run and check it out before I, you know, hand over my cash moneys and all that. More later.