Category Archives: language

Rainy Day Activities in Buenos Aires

It’s a rainy Monday in Buenos Aires. Luckily, there’s still plenty to do. Here’s our list of “Rainy Day Activities.” Many of these activities are the sort of luxuries I don’t usually allow myself when traveling since I’m on a budget. But a little treat on a rainy day is always welcome. Some of the others are free or cheap, for those counting their pesos.

  1. Catch a Movie
    I love watching movies in other countries. Moviegoers around the world have different customs. For one thing, you can order your popcorn (popchocle) either sweet (dulce) or salty (salado) and you can also have a beer with it. But the main reason I like seeing movies in other countries is because our culture determines how we react, or don’t react, to different parts of the story.  I’ve often found myself laughing out loud when everyone else is silent and scratching my head when the people next to me are cracking up. You can find a list of cinemas in Buenos Aires at Time Out Buenos Aires.Another reason to go to the movies is that it’s a great way to practice your Spanish (castellano). If the movie is in English, it’s typically subtitled in Spanish. It’s two hours of entertainment and a language lesson all in one. And if you really want to test your language skills, check out a local film.
  2. Visit the MALBA
    Museums sometimes make me sleepy. I think the maximum amount of time I can spend looking at art is about two hours. This is why I love the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). The collection is just the right size for me. After wandering through the rooms, I could have still seen another room or tow. I wanted more because I got to see works from artists I’ve long admired like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and because I’d never even heard of some of the other artists like Antonio Berni, Jorge de la Vega, Joaquin Torres-Garcia (from Uruguay). The size of the collection meant that I had the time to stay, observe, take in, and enjoy the works without rushing to the next room because my niece was going to run out of steam. Even my 15-year-old niece loved the art.

    The MALBA Museum in Buenos Aires

    The MALBA Museum in Buenos Aires

    She did run out of steam before the rest of us. So, she went to the cafe to catch up on her summer reading. We found her there pretending to be a local and sipping hot chocolate. She couldn’t stop talking about how it was the best hot chocolate she’d ever had in her life. Then she begged us to stay there for lunch.

    Lunch at Cafe des Arts

    Lunch at Cafe des Arts

    I was skeptical because museum food is often touristy and, well, bad. Not the Cafe des Arts. The chef, Jean Paul Bondoux, is from Bourgogne in France. Not suprisingly, every plate was fantastic. From the sandwiches with fresh salad and crisp french fries to the plate of pasta with mushrooms. It was all delicious.

    Arab Lamb Sandwich

    Arab Lamb Sandwich

    Croque Monsieur at Cafe des Arts

    Croque Monsieur at Cafe des Arts

    Penne con Funghi

    Penne con Funghi

    The museum is open from noon to 8PM, Thursday to Sunday and from noon to 9PM on Wednesdays when entrance to the museum is free (they ask for a 5 peso donation). Otherwise, it costs 15 pesos to enter. MALBA is closed on Tuesdays. From Thursday to Sunday, MALBAcine shows artsy films starting at 2PM until midnight most days.

  3. Hit the Mall
    I’m not much of a shopper, but shopping in Buenos Aires is a cultural experience and I’m all for cultural experiences. If it’s raining outside, you’ll probably want to take shelter in one of the many shopping centers. Here are the two I’d go to because you could spend the whole day there even if you don’t like to shop.
    I’d probably start at Galerias Pacifico because the turn-of-the-century building is gorgeous. The frescoes on the ceiling were painted by five Argentinean muralists.

    Fountain at Galerias Pacifico, by lrargerich on Flickr

    Fountain at Galerias Pacifico, by lrargerich on Flickr

    You can sit in the cafe down near the fountain and people-watch all afternoon, but the main reason I’d choose this shopping center is because on the top floor you’ll find the Centro Cultural Borges. There are art exhibits, live performances of music and dance, and showings of independent films. It’s open from 10AM to 9PM, Monday to Saturday and from noon to 9PM on Sundays. Tickets cost 10 pesos.

    The second shopping center I want to mention is Abasto. While I would prefer to go on a sunny day so that I could wander the streets of nearby Once, if you’re short on time and it’s raining, Abasto is a great option. I like Once, the nearby barrio, because it reminds me of the huge market in Cairo, although it looks nothing like it. But there are blocks devoted to textiles, others devoted to electronics, or to houseware, or to handbags. It’s lively haggling and full of energy. And there are some great Jewish delis in the neighborhood (try the empanadas arabes). Ok, so now that I’ve sold you on Once, let me sell you on Abasto.

    Abasto at Night, by Concepciones Relativistas on Flickr

    Abasto at Night, by Concepciones Relativistas on Flickr

    First off, you’d likely be the only tourist in the mall. Secondly, the building is amazing. Abasto is in the old tango district of Buenos Aires and the shopping center is housed in the old market, El Mercado de Abasto. It’s a very creative way to preserve old buildings whose purpose needs to be reinvented.

    Abasto, by puroticoricoon Flickr

    Abasto, by puroticoricoon Flickr

    Years ago you’d find produce, meats, and flowers. Today, in this beautiful example of Art Deco architecture from the 1930s, you can find Nike, Puma, and many other brands. There are over 200 stores, likely the most diverse shopping center in the city, so there’s something for everyone. For more on the history of the area and the building, read the Buenos Aires Argentina Guide.

  4. Get Pampered
    Well, why not? I’m the kind of person who puts off pampering myself. I say I’ll go, but I really only treat myself when someone else gifts it to me. That said, the only massage I’ve had in Buenos Aires was at Valle Tierra (it was a gift from my swamp sister, Natalia). The massage was excellent. I also liked the decor. It was calming, but not sterile. The furniture, rugs, and pieces of art come from the northern regions of Argentina (think Santa Fe, New Mexico). Lots of earthy tones.

    A couple the stayed with us a few weeks ago on their honeymoon spent a day at AquaVita. After months of planning the wedding and a weekend of serious celebration, a spa was what they needed. They had very good things to say about AquaVita. But I found a review from the Times Online where a commenter had a less favorable opinion. Since the complaint was about the customer service, and since I know that the idea of customer service here in Argentina is very different from the US and the UK, I’d take that complaint with a grain of salt. Or better. If you’re going to a spa, focus on the facilities and the quality of the massages. Ignore the service because you may not be able to relax unless you do.

  5. Have a Tea Party
    Indulge yourself at the Alvear Palace Hotel, one of Buenos Aires’ most beautiful hotels, for afternoon tea. this is a seriously decadent, albeit hoity-toity, experience. L’Orangerie is the restaurant in the hotel that serves high tea. Rule #1: ignore the snobby socialites looking at you because you are clearly nobody they recognize as important (besides, you are important, they just don’t know it). However, if fitting in matters to you, get dressed up and be sure to wear your pearls. Rule #2: only order one full tea for three or fewer people. One is plenty for three people.

    The Spread

    The Spread

    Rule #3: take your time. Just when you think they’ve brought all the goodies to the table and you’ve stuffed yourself full, out comes another plate.

    And then theres the cake

    And then there's the cake

  6. Browse Bookshelves
    I love books. My sister’s attic is full of boxes of books I just can’t part with. One day she’s going to make me decide. To keep my book collection manageable, I now check the book out thoroughly before buying it.  I can spend hours browsing the bookshelves, flipping the pages, asking myself if I can live without this book. My favorite bookstores for a rainy afternoon are El Ateneo, in Barrio Norte/Recoleta, and Boutique del Libro, in Palermo. They offer very different experiences.
    El Ateneo is the most beautiful bookstore in the world. I’m not exaggerating. They took an old theater where tango was once danced and turned it into a massive bookstore, leaving the balconies, the stage, the lighting for the most part, and the magic.

    El Ateneo Bookstore in Recoleta, by longhorndave on Flickr

    El Ateneo Bookstore in Recoleta, by longhorndave on Flickr

    You can have a coffee or tea at the cafe on the stage. I don’t recommend ordering food though. It’s mediocre, and that’s being kind. Check out Argentina’s Travel Guide’s write up on El Ateneo (by the way, Argentina’s Travel Guide also has a pocket guide BA’s bookstores in .pdf format which you can download here).

    If you’re in a more chill mood and if you’re hungry, I’d recommend el Boutique del Libro. The food is much better and it has a grab-a-book-and-a-cup-of-coffee atmosphere.

    Boutique del Libro on Thames in Palermo

    Boutique del Libro on Thames in Palermo

    Plus, they’re usually playing great music. In fact, if you hear something you like, just ask the cashier in the music department what’s playing. The music selection isn’t large, but it is good. I could spend all afternoon here.

So, what are your favorite rainy day activities in Buenos Aires? Did we miss something? I’m sure we did.

7 Comments

Filed under argentina, buenos aires, cafes, culture, food, language, palermo soho, recoleta, recreation, restaurants, shopping, tourism, travel

Argentinean Asado 102: How do you like your steak?

In May, we posted on the art of the Argentinean asado. Today we’ll look at how you can get your steak cooked to your liking. One would think that here in the land of exquisite meat, a simple medium, medium rare, or well done would do the trick. If only that were the case.

I find that Argentines typically overcook meat. Most people order their steak a punto (which should mean medium), but it comes out bien cocida (medium well). 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

 

I like my steak medium rare. Argentine friends have told me to ask for it jugoso (literally meaning juicy which sounds so much better than medium rare). The problem is that there is really no consensus here in Argentina about what the terms mean. When ordering jugoso, I’ve been served anything from rare to well done. 

Image Courtesy of Asado ArgentinaImage Courtesy of Asado Argentina

A few months back, I went to a little-known restaurant I’d been to before with a group of friends. The first time I ate there (back in October when it first opened), I had an amazing risotto with rabbit and vanilla. Strange combination. That’s why I ordered it and it was delicious. Everyone else I was with also raved about what they ordered. So when I had visitors of the sort that want to experience the food and wine here more than anything else, I thought this place would impress them. Wrong.

Three of us ordered medium-rare tenderloins. The waiter and I had this discussion (below), which truthfully should have told me that we shouldn’t order steaks.

     Spanish version:

     “¿Y que coccíon querés?”
     “Jugoso, por favor.”
     “Sangrante entonces.”
     “No, jugoso. Entre sangrante y a punto.”

     English version:

     “And how would you like it cooked?”
     “Medium rare, please.”
     “Bloody.”
     “No, medium rare. Between bloody and well done.”

One steak came out medium rare. The other two were medium well to well. Imagine, one chef prepares three steaks all ordered jugoso in three different levels of doneness.

The meat here really is amazing, so if you’re like me, you will want it cooked the way you like. 

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

Image Courtesy of Asado Argentina

If your Spanish is strong enough, you might want to try describing how you want it prepared instead of using the terms for doneness. Here are some suggestions.

  1. rarerojo intenso y sangrante en el centro
  2. medium rarerosado con y bien jugoso
  3. mediuma punto pero todavia jugoso
  4. well donebien cocida

We’d like to thank Asado Argentina for giving us permission to use these beautiful photos. Buen Provecho!

27 Comments

Filed under argentina, culture, customs, food, language

Che, Ponete las Pilas!

Yes, this post is long overdue. Let’s switch things around this time and start off with some expressions for entertainment. And, since we’ve had a lot of demonstrations (peaceful pot banging mostly), strikes (the ongoing farmers strike), and disagreements (the decidedly inept government of the Kirchners), we’ll use that as the theme. 

First off, our title. The ubiquitous che! Che can come at the beginning or the end of a sentence as a simple interjection, or to avoid saying a person’s name. It’s like calling them “mate” or “dude.” But it is often used as a filler, a meaningless interjection just thrown in there.

  1. che – hey, hey you, man, dude, mate.
    “Che, que esta pasando?”
    “Looks like there’s another demonstration.”         

     “Man, Cristina has really dropped the ball.”
    “Te parece, che?”

  2. quilombo – a mess, chaos, commotion.
    “Che, que quilombo.”
    “No kidding. I’m heading out to the streets to bang pots with the protesters. Wanna come?”
    “Ni en pedo.”
     
  3. enquilombado – a complicated situation
    “Estamos enquilombados!”
    “You said it. The whole thing’s a complete mess.”
     
  4. quilombero(a) – a person who creates a mess
    “Ella es una quilombera total!”
    “Well, either she is or her husband is. Either way, it ain’t pretty.”
     
  5. piquetero(a) – protesters
    “Viste cuantos piqueteros habian?”
    “I saw them and heard them. Pots were banging all night!”
     
  6. ponerse las pilas – (literally, put in your batteries) get a move on, take charge
    “Can she solve the problem?”
    “Si, si se pone las pilas.”

There are some great sites covering Argentinean slang. Try the Argentine Spanish Slang Dictionary, El Castellano’s Dictionary, or Wally’s Dictionary. The last two also have sound files.  

Pronunciation: ll and y

The second most important aspect of Argentine Spanish to learn before you get here is the pronunciation of the ll (as in calle) and y (as in yo). Typically, they are both pronounced like a y in other Spanish dialects. 

Standard Pronunciation 

  • calle -street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the standard pronunciation)

The pronunciation of both the ll and the y change depending on which part of the country the speaker is from. We’ll look at how the porteños pronounce them, since most people will be visiting Buenos Aires and this pronunciation is the one that confuses.

ll and y are both pronounced as “sh” (for example, shop). So, the word calle becomes “cashe” and yo becomes “sho.”

Argentinean Pronunciation

  • calle – street (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)
  • yo – the pronoun I (click here to download the mp3 file and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation)

Here’s a short dialog to get you used to it. Click here to download the mp3 file of this dialog and listen to the Argentinean pronunciation of ll and y.

  • A:     Te llame ayer.
  • B:     Yo tambien te llame, pero me tuve que ir a la calle Ayacucho.
  • A:     ¿Para que?
  • B:     Un juego de llaves.

Translation:

  • A:     I called you yesterday.
  • B:     I called you too, but I had to go to Ayacucho Street.
  • A:     What for?
  • B:     A copy of my keys.

13 Comments

Filed under argentina, culture, customs, language

Vos vs Tú: A Los Pedos

So you’ve been listening to your Spanish lessons as you drive to work or as you exercise at the gym. You practice rolling your r’s in the mirror every morning. You’ve stuck stick-it notes on the items in your house to help build your vocabulary.  As you open the refrigerator, you mouth out the items: leche, agua, huevos, queso, jamon, yogur, uvas, manzanas. You make it a point to say “Hola” and “gracias” to your Latino neighbors. And then you land in Buenos Aires and realize they don’t speak Spanish here. 

It’s Castellano, or Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect of Spanish spoken in the areas of the River Plate, and it can be quite different. Mostly the pronunciation is different, but there are different words too. To me, Castellano has an Italian rhythm with a Brazilian Portuguese softness. Overly romanticized? That’s very possible, after all, we are talking about language, which ranks up there in my top three favorite topics.

So how can you prepare? Maybe we can help.

Vos vs  

In most Spanish-speaking countries, the pronoun for you (informal) is . In Argentina, they use vos. Whether the vos comes from Brazil’s você or from Spain’s vosotros isn’t clear, but don’t worry if you use , Argentines will still understand you. You only need to know that when they use vos, they’re talking to you.

Conjugating with Vos

It would be much easier if all one had to do to speak Castellano were change the  to vos. But as luck would have it, the verbs are also different. For example, in most Spanish-speaking countries to ask where a person is from you would say “¿De donde eres tu?” In Castellano it’s “¿De donde sos vos?” Notice that the two verbs–eres and sos–are completely different. 

There aren’t too many verbs that change so drastically. In most cases, it’s the accent and maybe a missing vowel that accounts for the difference between verb forms and vos verb forms. Actually, the vos verb forms are easier. Drop the final -r on the verb, add an -s, and put the accent on the final syllable. Simple.

Verb                                           Vos                                           Tú

ser (to be)                                   vos sos                                     tú eres

estar (to be)                                vos estás                                  tú estás

tener (to have)                            vos tenés                                  tú tienes

querer (to want)                          vos querés                               tú quieres

venir (to come)                           vos venís                                  tú vienes

decir (to say)                              vos decís                                  tú dices

pensar (to think)                        vos pensás                               tú piensas

 

Castellano a los Pedos

In our next blog post will cover the major pronunciation differences, but to have a little fun before getting serious again, let’s talk about the colloquialisms. 

Argentines have a very particular slang and they absolutely love to use it. Slang makes for some hilarious misunderstandings and that’s half the fun of learning another language. 

For example, a friend of mine got a new job. I called her after her first day to see how it went. She said it was fine, she spent the entire day al pedo. Pedo literally means fart. I had an image of my friend sitting at her new desk with nothing to do and farting all day. People would walk in and think, “boy, the new girl really stinks” or “I wonder what she had for dinner last night.” 

She’s a close friend, so felt I could ask her if her job was so dull that she spent the day forcing farts out to make the time pass faster. She explained that al pedo means something was a waste of time or effort. I still kind of like the image of her there in her new job farting away. In the end, I wasn’t that far off.

Other Pedo Expressions

  1. ni en pedo – no way
    “Hey, want to come with me to the laundromat?”
    Ni en pedo.”
  2. de pedo – by chance
    “So how did a guy like that get a girl like her?”
    De pedo.”
  3. a los pedos – very fast (literally it means to the farts which gives a nice visual)
    “He’s a crazy driver.”
    Siempre a los pedos.”
  4. cagar a pedos – to lecture or chew out (literally it means to shit farts, another visual but not so nice)
    “Did he yell at you when he fired you for farting all day?”
    Si, me cago a pedos.”
  5. al pedo – something that is a waste of time, money or effort
    “That guy just doesn’t get that you aren’t into him. What’s up with all the gifts?”
    Si, el está al pedo.” 

    “Want to come with me to Uruguay tomorrow?”
    Si, se estoy al pedo.” 

16 Comments

Filed under argentina, culture, customs, language