Saturday, August 22, 2009

La Visita

My (younger, huge, sweet, terminally cynical) brother Max has come to visit me for 12 days. He got off the plane with one of the biggest Jewfros I've ever seen, and since then we have been navigating post-high school convivencia (living together), language barriers and vegetarianism together quite ably if you ask me. We've walked a lot, ate a lot, and listened to a lot of music...it's helped quite a bit that though his Spanish is meager his knowledge of music, particularly of Jazz, is not, so he's had plenty to talk about with almost everyone he's come across. Empanadas have solved his issues eating outside of the house, and though he hates “wasting” time in the kitchen, he has now officially requested two recipes. Last night, over fondue, dark Quilmes, and lots of exclamations of how wonderful cheese is, we discovered that while I was laughing at Max for his three desert island foods being bread, cheese, and potatoes, two of my three are goat cheese and sweet potatoes...in other words....cheese and potatoes. I'm pretty sure my sister would be something along the lines of bread, goat cheese and potatoes as well. I can never get myself to decide on a third, chocolate, watermelon and figs all being so equally close to my heart. And I did one time tell my old roommate and close friend that I loved Reed's ginger beer more than I loved him but that he should take it as a compliment.

In the end what I find most surprising about our conversation is that our family isn't more obese...

To the pride and joy of the resident Colombian, one of the requested recipes was the ever-present rice that comes with the territory of sharing a kitchen with a Colombian. Any Colombian household I've ever been in (outside of the U.S.) always has a pot of rice on the stove, and accompanies every meal. They even serve rice with pasta-- not pasta as in broken up pasta cooked in the rice, pilaf-style-- but pasta as in a portion of pasta, accompanied with a hefty side of rice. I might not go so much for that combination, nor am I accustomed to eat so much white rice, but I can't deny that it's delicious, especially the bottom of the rice that gets all crusty and browned, called el pegado (the stuck part) (how great is it that it has its own proper name?) On top of all that it's dead easy to make, which is great given that the recipe was requested by someone who normally lives off canned beans and grated cheese.

I will thus leave it to Max to give you the recipe, along with his account of his time here. The other requested recipe, one for lentils with potatoes and caramelized onions that happens to go fantastically with the rice, will be posted soon for our august traveller.


lucidity for me is not conducive to expression. in fact i think this

principle is true more generally for anyone reading this blog as we

are in this zeit (generation? era? i don´t know the exact meaning of

the german so i use it hoping that noone else does either) perpetually

self-conscious, and not only self-conscious, and as we know lack of

sleep relieves at least the first. it is, then, with burning eyes,

moderate zeal, and less sleep (6 AM!) that i attempt to describe my

stay in buenos aires.


i have for the most part stayed within close bounds in argentina, i

came to visit my sister rather than tour the city and i´m content

(more, happy) to spend my time with eva and her almost uniformly

colombian friends. this does however mean that i have spoken to few

argentines (in pidgin spanish, complete with exaggerated "yo"s

pronounced as "joe") and seen little of the city. however i might

venture some thoughts:


first, the city is not beautiful. coming from the airport it looks

like the prototypical third world slum, although surprisingly (for me)

the quality and upkeep of the buildings increases as we approach the

inner parts of the city. the streets are dirty, with discarded plastic

bags and food containers littering the street; more bothersome is the

quantity of dog refuse that peppers the sidewalk with breaks of less

than a block between obstacles. eva has said that the city has fine

older architecture but as i´m sure most of you know i don´t notice

these things being a cultureless nouveau-riche-grade abomination.


furthermore, argentines as a people have a reputation that might

charitably be described as undesirable. the men are supposed to be

lecherous, sexually aggressive, well dressed, and possessing few other

qualities of note. the women are (i am told) dramatic, fickle, and

beautiful and posess a well-developed defensive posture to fend off the instantaneous

(somehow all observers, however relative, agree here)

advances of the men. my interactions with women have not

exhibited this but i have only talked to eva´s argentine friends or

working people so none of this characterization applies as these are

not situations in which romantic interaction is possible. what does it

say about a city (country?) that the main descriptors of its people

are sexual?


annoyances: coin currency is the required tender for bus rides (in

operation 24 hours and the most convenient way to travel) and i'm sure

other essential services, but there is, amazingly to foreigners

including me and seemingly everyone not born in buenos aires, a

perpetual shortage of said coins. the drain on the coin supply would

not of course pose a problem in a sane country, but the government

refuses to mint more coins. this has the effect of driving the worth

of a coin beyond its face value; i am told that bus companies

illegally sell coins to local businesses at 1.5 times their value. the

reason for this clearly unnecessary arrangement is said to be

government kickbacks; so a city of bus passengers must hoard their

monedas to enrich a few (i actually have no idea how many)

politicians.


the food is not great. i take eva's word that most of the vegetarian

argentine cuisine is mediocre but i do like empanadas. i can´t of

course sample the famous meat culture that buenos aires has to offer.

i am spared, luckily, the task of finding decent food myself: eva and

felipe cook and i try to help out. i have a newfound constant craving

for colombian rice; please find attached a recipe so that the reader

can make it for me.


colombian rice


1 cup plain white rice

2 cups water

3 green onions

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon oil


chop up onions, put in pot with oil; saute onions for a couple minutes,

then put in DRY rice. add more oil. saute for a couple more minutes. put in

water and salt, let sit until half the water has evaporated on VERY LOW

heat. once it has, stir a little and put on top. another 10 minutes,

stirring every couple minutes, then ready.


what else does one wish to know about a city? writing this, my

impression seems highly unfavorable, and in fact the most describable

aspects of the city find poor evaluation in my mind. but i think that

i would like to live here or perhaps felipe's alluring colombia. i`ve

had, thanks entirely to eva and felipe, a great time here. eva's group

of friends shows me that even in a city of seemingly (per my earlier

remarks) disagreeable people, colombians can be found; they are

apparently my (and eva's) people. the music scene is lively, the

weather sometimes smoggy but mostly agreeable, and the education,

health care, etc free.


o fate, how dost thou tempt me...but taking one, two years abroad and

perhaps even completing a master's degree (!) do indeed constitute and

direct a life. of course consequences are never foreseeable and living

in minneapolis i might next month be spotted in a crowd and selected

to be a japanese fashion model. so ignore what i've just written and

embrace apathy and fatalism like me. is it better to believe that we

have control over our lives or to accept the truth that every minute

action we commit has the potential to dramatically change our lives?

we of course have a small amount of ability: i can choose to pass or

fail my classes next semester. but everything we do is subject to the

principle so obnoxiously known as the butterfly effect.


digression over, i think, along with this blog post. good night

(morning) unless i still can`t manage to fall asleep. i suspect that

the tea i drank before bed had more than a little caffeine.


love,

max

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