Saturday, September 30, 2017

Northern Argentina - Salta and Jujuy

Northern Argentina, specifically Salta, is a beautiful, colorful, dry part of Argentina and worth the travel time.  While not mentioned in the likes of Mendoza, Patagonia, or Buenos Aires, or even Iguazu, it is worldclass. That photo of the mountains is NOT color-enhanced. It really looks like that!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What a Great Six Months.

Wow.  So the last time I posted was December 29 2012.  That was a long time ago.   And I have a very good excuse.  I don't mean to be typical, but I met someone, just a few weeks after that date.  And I could write thirty pages on why this person is wonderful and rocking my world in so many really important and life-changing ways.  But in the vein of this blog, the better thing to explore is why after this good development, I still was struggling to make my time in Argentina positive. 

My main complaint for the first year was that Argentina is a romantic city, and I would be enjoying it more if I had someone to share it with.  But you know what happened after meeting someone to share it with? I still was having a hard time adjusting to the city, the pace, the traffic, the schedule (dinner starts at 9 pm, parties open at 2 am).  Thankfully I do have someone to explore the city with, to try new experiences, travel and attend fun events.  And with my job as Cultural Affairs Officer, I get to meet so many interesting people and see so many great things that there is never a slow day.  Yesterday is a good example. 

Thanks to my counterpart at the Korean Cultural Center, I got to see Miji (watch them interpret popular tunes with traditional instruments here - Miji in concert).  I would NEVER have gone to a K-pop concert before, but I feel like if I accept an invitation and say I will go, I should go.  And you know what, it was a blast - especially when they did Dancing Queen and Gangnam Style.  So while we are in a very serious moment with the shutdown and upcoming elections in country, I was glad to step out of my comfort zone, try something new, and have a great time.

So it has gotten better, and I have another year for so many new experiences and hanging out with friends...and that special someone.  Note that below is a picture of Miji, not anyone I am dating.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Social Media, Fiscal Cliffs and a song.

All:  So this holiday season for me has been about dealing with being far from family and working to make real connections with the lovely people in Argentina (both my work colleagues and Argentines), reading about the impending fiscal cliff, and thinking a lot about social media. 

I can't explain the last one, it just seems to be fascinating me right now - how we use social media to share good and bad news, how some people update daily musings, or share articles, or just look at other fabulous-appearing lives online.  But either way, the three collided this morning when randomly exploring the zillions of songs I have on i-tunes that I have never listened to, (as I like to call it, SHUFFLE SATURDAY)...the song below came on.  All I heard at first was there will be snacks, there will be snacks.  But then I went and found the lyrics and just found them comments are in parentheses...or just read the lyrics and ignore my musings, I won't hold it against you...

Oh and one last note, isn't it still one of the coolest things in the world that a song can come out of the blue and make you think or see something in a new way, or create a new link in your brain, or send you reaching out...all good things...

Andrew Bird  
Tables and Chairs

if we can call them friends then we can call them on their telephones (um, is this true anymore???)
and they won't pretend that they're too busy or that they're not alone (something we all face)
and if we can call them friends then we can call
holler at them down these hallowed halls (harder if you live all over the world as so many of us do)
just don't let the human factor fail to be a factor at all (even online, there is a human factor...send an email instead of checking a "wish happy birthday" box on facebook)

don't, don't you worry, about the atmosphere
or any sudden pressure change
cause i know
that it's starting to get warm in here
and things are starting to get strange

and did you, did you see how all of our friends were there
and they're drinking roses from the can?
and how, how i wish i, i had talked to them,
and i wish they fit into the plan

and we were tired of being mild
we were so tired of being mild
and we were tired...

i know we're going to meet some day
in the crumbled financial institutions of this land (FISCAL CLIFF!!!)
there will be tables and chairs
there'll be pony rides and dancing bears
there'll even be a band (who will be there to play on this day)
cause listen, after the fall there will be no more countries
no currencies at all, we're gonna live on our wits
we're gonna throw away survival kits,
trade butterfly-knives for adderal
and that's not all
ooh-ooh, there will be snacks there will
there will be snacks, there will be snacks.

and we were tired of being mild,
we were so tired of being mild,
and we were (we were so) tired...

so don't you,
don't you worry
about the atmosphere

Listen to the song here...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

If you feel yourself getting blue over the holidays...

Holidays can be hard, especially away from home.  I read this list today during my Sunday Post Secret ritual and thought it was great advice to get through a lonely or tough day.... great enough to share with people. 

Happy Holidays wherever you are. 
 If you ever catch yourself feeling blue, as we all sometimes do from time to time, here are ten things that if you do three days in a row (I promise) will make you feel better.

1. In the morning write down five things you are grateful for.
2. Think about a random act of kindness you can do for someone that day.
3. Eat well (you know what that means); drink well (no coffee, soft drinks or alcohol).
4. Exercise hard for 20 minutes.
5. Write an old friend an email or better yet a letter.
6. Actively relax, meditate or pray or just sit quietly for 10 minutes.
7. Take a walk in the sun.
8. Watch the silliest movie you can, preferably one you have seen before and enjoyed in childhood.
9. Sleep deep and long.
10. Remember that you are loved (I promise).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Um...Business Class Rules.

I have, on occasion, flown business class.  Back before all the rules changed at the Department of State, if you flew 14 hours, you qualified for a business class ticket.  That meant my flights to and from India garnered me a seat boarding to the left on the plane instead of the right.  I never got to fly upstairs on a plane, I think that is a whole other level, but I did get to fly business twice.

The draconian measures that exist now to reduce costs for travel mean that an upgrade comes with miles only.  So I invested some time in figuring out miles and credit cards that earn points and eating only at restaurants in the points club and ordering online through websites linked from airlines.  However I am no expert, and despite traveling a lot over the last few years to Afghanistan, China and Europe, I only now am qualifying for premier status.  I am officially Silver (or gold or ruby, I am not sure which).  I have no idea what it means, except I do know that this morning when I showed up at the airport at 12:00 am to fly to El Salvador via Panama, I was upgraded! 

UPGRADED!  (Cue choir of angels)

So I am sitting in a lounge now, with dry bagels, free water and wifi, and a sense of being part of the secret club.  I also got a goodie bag with tiny-sized toothpaste and a comb.  This is the life!  I highly recommend it.  I can enjoy this status for one year and although I think the free upgrade was because I just earned this status, it does feel nicer than sitting outside a Cinnabon in the food court.  (Did I mention Panama's airport has a Cinnabon?)

Hope everyone gets to fly business or first class at least once in your life - it makes it all a lot easier.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Transitions - via the Hotel Imperial

First Breakfast not at the DFAC.
Not Kabul. 

After six weeks in Kabul, I needed a fabulous breakfast. This is what I got - at the incredible Imperial Hotel in Connaught Place.   The civility of this hotel after the chaos of Kabul was a bit jarring, but I always have needed to ease myself from one reality to another in order to manage all the change I face.

Whenever I leave a country, I need to stop somewhere else on the way, even for just a night, so I can process.  I don't think the mind was meant to switch country, time zone, language and job all in the same time - and with my job, sometimes that happens overnight.  So I have found ways over the years to make those transitions easier. 

When I left Florida to start working in Washington, D.C. at the State Department in 2001, I took the train instead of flying.  I was leaving behind my life in Gainesville, a life I loved, and a person I was crazy about. I couldn't stand the idea of just showing up in D.C. for a new job without taking a little time to ease out of Florida and into the next step.  So I took the overnight Amtrak from Florida to Virginia. It gave me 20 hours to slowly move away from what I knew into what was next.

Good place to think about what comes next.

I did the same thing when I moved from Bolivia to India in 2003. I went to Gainesville to touch base with one of my favorite places in the world (Gainesville always makes me feel more like my best self).  Then I took the train from there to start training in D.C. and think about Bolivia and what was coming next.   

 So coming out of Kabul, I like to go through India.  When I leave Buenos Aires, I like to stop in Florida and see my family. When I go back to DC, I stop in Gainesville.  I have all these places I am attached to now for various reasons, and I use them as anchors, and points along the way to help me make these crazy transitions.  And there are people who help too, people who knew me in Kabul, or India, or Gainesville, or Ft. Lauderdale, or maybe more during an important phase of my life that bridged many places.  But all of these things keep me connected.  It also makes me long for those places and people, but I focus on the connections.  Always focus on the connection.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Teatro Colon - A Reason to Visit

I had a fantastic tour of Teatro Colon.  We saw the incredible restoration as well as checking out the rehearsal room of some of the dancers.  It is an incredible building, one of the best known theaters in the world. Built in 1908, Teatro Colon had the best acoustics in the world up until the 1940s.   Prior to the 1940s.  Many of the world's best singers, dancers, and classical musicians in the world have performed here. In my nine months I have seen opera (The Merry Widow), the National Symphony Orchestra from DC (visiting from Washington on tour) and ballet (Carmen).  I hope to see many more because it is really one of the best venues in the world - and it is a serious reason to visit.

No detail left untouched.
One of the windows inside the theater.

The box seats at Teatro Colon.  National Symphony Orchestra is warming up on stage. 

Teatro Colon dance company rehearsing for an upcoming show.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Officially Worn Out of Traveling for a While

I cleaned out my wallet after returning to Buenos Aires from Kabul via India and Germany.   What I found was money from SIX different countries: 

  • United Arab Emirates Dirhams
  • U.S. dollars
  • Euros
  • Indian Rupees
  • Argentine Pesos
  • Afghan Afghanis
  • One lone Rwandan Franc
I am ready to live with just one currency.  Please.  At least for a few months.

Monday, October 1, 2012

An Important Lesson - We Have No Control.

Before Friday I had a lovely dining room. It had a ceiling, a carpet, nice furniture, and a little bit of sun shining in through the windows.  I enjoyed sitting there, having dinner parties and dumping my stuff on the table everyday after work.

But around 5 am I heard a huge noise.  My first thought was someone had kicked my door in so I took a moment to freak out.  But then I went out to my living room to check out what happened.  This is what I found.  I just stared.  I would pay a million bucks for a video of my face at that moment.  Then I started to laugh.  Not the reaction I expected, but I have learned that when it truly is impossible to do anything, you might as well grin and bear it.

Nothing caused this.  No construction upstairs, no water damage, no earthquake, nothing. It broke the table, the chairs, put multiple holes in the wood floor and covered everything I have in a thick layer of dust.  And it just happened without any known explanation.  Kind of the way things happen in the world every single day.  
I thought to myself, well, the universe definitely has something to teach me.  Your life can be going along and then suddenly, in an instant, the sky can fall. I actually felt lucky that this lesson came in the form of a ruined dining room instead of a health scare or death of someone I love. Maybe it could have been a little less dramatic, but hey, sometimes I need to be hit over the head.  And thankfully, I wasn't under this when it fell because it probably would have seriously hurt me. 

I have been trying to make my time in Buenos Aires work for me. I had grand plans of having a great adventure here, and instead have found myself working hard just to adjust to a new country, job and lifestyle. I feel like the one thing that helped was feeling settled in my house - and waking up to the sunrise, coffee on my deck, reading on my sofa.  This is how I do the moving - I make the place I am my home.  But maybe there are other ways to feel at peace where you are.

And so, in order to teach me a lesson, the ceiling fell.  So what am I learning?   Adaptability, patience, flexibility, tolerance...and that we have NO CONTROL.