25 Nov 2007

Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay

In the present moment, Nov 2007
Last Wednesday was time for my visa run across to the border once more. This is my 2nd trip to Colonia, Uruguay. Both times I chose Colonia de Sacramento over the capital, Montevideo because its closer. The two visits can't be more different. The first time I visited Colonia, it was raining heavily. Gray, windy and freezing cold. We sought refuge in a restaurant and I saw nothing.

This time, the skies over Colonia were kissed by sunshine. Blue and clear, with the warm blue of your lover's eyes, the corners crinkled with a smile. It is simply, beautiful.

It took 3 hours from Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento in Busquebus. The fast version makes the crossing in an hour. I took the normal vessel which is more than comfortable. Besides, there is no hardship in spending 3 hours on the waters on such a day like this.

The historical quarter of Colonia del Sacramento, located at the tip of a peninsular and surrounded by water on 3 sides, was declared as a UNESCO heritage site in 1995. The historic portion of Colonia is reminiscent of old Lisbon, built in the Portuguese style of houses and cobblestoned streets.

As I am writing this, "La Sirène rouge" (The Red Siren) is showing on telly. The quick glimpses of a small Portugual coast town was reminisence of what I saw in Colonia.

Colourful houses on winding streets.

The Rio de La Plata is so wide that the town appears to be coastal.

Colonia de Sacramento was founded in 1680. It was the only Portuguese settlement along Rio de la Plata and for years was at the frontline of the turf struggle between Spanish Argentina and Portuguese Brazil around the Rio de la Plata region. Similar to the British and Dutch squabble for colonial supremacy in South East Asia in my part of the world.

Understandably so. Who would want to give up land under your feet and skies over your head as magnificent as this?

Up the road. Just a normal weekday lunch with friends and family.

Beautiful day, beautiful people. MOUTHWATERing cars.

To me, bougainvilleas are the stunning visual extravaganzas of the Mediterranean.

It also reminds me of home. Of the bougainvilleas we have in our garden of this exact colour, in the house of my Papa and Mama.

A totally charming cafe restaurant slightly off the main section of the historical quarters.

I must try it the next visit.

My visit to the Museo Del Azulejo (Casa Portuguesa), The Tile Museum. Inaugurated in 1988, it is a typical Portuguese construction of the 18th century. The walls, a beam and part of the floor are original. The collection houses French, Catalan and the first Uruguayan tiles. The Museo is not big and the tile collection fits into 2 small rooms. Perhaps some visitors may be disappointed. But I enjoyed the visit. Look what I saw!

El Azulejo en la Arquitectura
Rioplatense en los Siglos XVIII y XIX (18th and 19th Century)

Pas de Calais

I was able to take photos of these few tiles because at first I didn't see the sign that photos were not allowed :P

Azulejo estannifero de archilla modelada, sellada, pintada con oxidos de estano, cobalto y/o managaneso, con plantilla calada, mano alzada y/o arista, Francia, 1840-1900.

Such tile decorations were all the rage during the era, used widely to beautify walls, floors, windows etc. I was told that the tiles were imported into the country through Montevideo and then to other cities and town. The winds of fashion changed at the turn of the 20th Century, and inevitably the importation stopped.

Here are the seals of the French tile makers.

I only got as far as the French tiles before I was caught with my camera. All the tiles shown above are French.

The tile plaque of Paseo de San Gabriel. You can see a prevalence of such tile works throughout town.

Other tile works showing maps of the town and the Rio de La Plata.

Colonia de Sacramento revisited
Colonia de Sacramento is a lovely place, a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. Before I visited, some reviews said there are not much to see or do in Colonia.

Perhaps, if what you are looking for are a checklist of "sights" to cover. However if you just want to enjoy the feel of a relaxed Sunday afternoon by the sea free from the urban jungle, a day out basking in the sunshine dining with friends and family and enjoying life, this is where you can come, any day of the week.

The "riverview" proved too tempting, I spent the rest of the afternoon outdoors at the restuarant El Torreón relaxing with my cigarettes. Such are the pleasures of life.

Final note for the road

The day in Colonia was exactly what I needed to relax and take my mind off weightier worries. A old dance injury made a reappearance a month ago. The first time when it happened 2.5 years ago, I was out of action a good part of 6 months. Thinking of the slow recovery and struggle I had to go through to regain strength in my foot makes me shudder. To date, my foot has not recovered. I still can't wear heels.

I hope, like my experiences in visiting Colonia, my foot injury will once more see the beautiful sunshine after the rain.

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17 Nov 2007

A Whole Heap of Tango Festivals

In the present moment, Nov 2007
Recently it seems that everywhere I turn, I am surrounded by a dizzy array of upcoming tango festivals in Buenos Aires. Likely this is a growing phenomenon compared to before. Below are just a few.

These festivals work in the favour of visitors with limited time in BA. Classes and performances by tango maestros lined up to maximise time and with sufficient English to make them accessible to visitors. Of course usually the workshop fees are higher. Nothing comes without a price, as we all know.

Just finished is "Pulpo Tango Week", 10-17 Nov 2007. Organiser Norbeto Esbrez's nickname El Pulpo means The Octopus. Look for the cute octopus icon on the festival website and follow it to Norbeto's website. You can see videos of his dancing and the reason for his nickname.

New addition, 20 Nov '07
Next up are 2 festivals held at almost the same time, but with different market segmentation.

1st is the "1st Festival Internacional de Tango Queer in Buenos Aires", 26 Nov - 2 Dec 2007.

The motto of the festival is "bailar tango sin que los roles esten fijos al sexo de quienes lo bailan", which is to dance tango without fixing the roles according to gender" ie. the exchange of roles in the dance "(Intercambio de Roles)" .

The website says this is why the festival is not oriented exclusively to same sex partners, but to all those who support this approach and promote the respect of this diversity.

I find this concept very interesting and am supportive of it. From time to time, one wonders what could be the lines of tango evolution in the next douple of decades? A possiblity could be the mutual influence and interfusion of "styles". A more lateral prediction on the "next big trend" in tango could be this interchangeability of roles during dance. I am laying down some money on the latter

The 2nd is the " IV Festival Bailemos Tango in Buenos Aires" from 25 Nov - 2 Dec 2007, organised by Johana Copes, daughter of Juan Copes. The festival promises a bit of everything, tango performances and classes, shopping tours, ranch visit, gaucho's traditional show etc. Appears to be styled in the manner of BA tango "package" tourism organised by teachers from home countries of visitors and also offered by some local tango professionals.

The months of November and December are peak tourist seasons in BA for visitors from United States and other countries. Likely the above 3 festivals were timed to coincide with this traffic.

Next in line for December is the "Maraton de tango" held at the city of La Plata about 60 km south of the city of Buenos Aires. This is a tango campover on the weekend of 8-9 Dec 2007.

There don't seem to be a website for this event, so I have posted photos of the brochure and contacts of the organisers. This event may be targeted at locals rather than visitors. At least not visitors who don't speak the language.

For milonguero dancers, the "2nd Internacional Encuentro of Tango Milonguero" will be held from 11-18 February 2008. This festival is spearheaded by Susan Miller and Maria Plazaola as well as other well known milongueros. This would be my festival of choice if I was a visitor to BA, not primarily because I like the style. How do I put it delicately...some of these milongueros have many many years of experience...

New addition, 24 Nov '07
I confess my reservations about adding news of this particular tango festival, "X Festival Buenos Aires Tango", which is to be held from 22 Feb - 2 March 2008. The website for the upcoming festival gives the date and nothing much else at this stage, not surprisingly so since its still a few months away. You can go to the festival website for 2007 to have a look at the festival activities. The reason for my reluctance to list this information is because I heard an unconfirmed rumour that it may not take place to avoid clashing with MEGACITA 2008. Will update once there is a more reliable source.

The blockbuster tango festival in BA is undoubtedly CITA (Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino). Next March is the 10th anniversary of CITA - "MEGACITA 2008", 15-25 March 2008! Just imagine the avalanche of visitors descending on the city.

The promotional material says "Singles welcome and guarantee to have a partner at no extra cost". I wondered how the organisers were going to manage this until I saw on the website it says there will be taxi dancers at every milonga. Put on your meters, radio taxi dancers!

For those visitors staying on after MEGACITA 2008, the "Tango Festival for Ladies" organised by Mariposita will be held on 23-30 March 2008. Festival exclusivo de technica para la mujer with clases de technica, clases especiales, milongas, practicas and shows.

Va a llegar Un Monton de Tango Festivals en Buenos Aires!

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9 Nov 2007

Son Mias! (They Are Mine!)

In the present moment, Nov 2007
From time to time, I will scribble about the mishmash & knickknacks that catch my attention in Buenos Aires. Its impossible to live in a new place and not relish the interesting stuff that cross one’s path.

Fresh, exciting and often, irreverently hilarious. Just one whiff of such an intoxicating concoction, and I am hooked like a junkie.

Por favor: May the divine powers save me from ennui & mind-numbing mundanity…

Well, this week the newest commercial for Cervesa Brahma (cervesa means beer, Brahma is the brand) started showing on telly. It shows a young guy walking down the streets hand in hand with his girlfriend, while he passes by throngs of beautiful women. We hear the thoughts that run through his mind…

I did a search and found that the lyrics go roughly like this:

Sos mía, soy tuya! en casa tengo Brahmas y el kamasutra. Soy tuya, policia, colegiala, enfermera. Son mías, yo puedo con todas tranquilas… Son tuyas, tu suegra reclamo tu anillo (this line I am not sure)… Somos tuyas, te esperamos todas en la ducha… Soy viuda, heredé una fortuna y es tuya! Son mías, Japonesas, Francesas e Inglesas… Somos tuyas, sabemos lo que a vos te gusta, soy tuya, hago todo lo que a vos te gusta… Mi amor! ¿en qué pensas? en Nada!…

Here goes another attempt at translating:
(please pardon the mangled bits)

" Guy: You are mine..
Girl crossing street: I am yours! At home I have Brahmas and the Kamasutra.
Girl, quick-change artist: I am yours, policewoman schoolgirl, nurse!
Guy: They are mine, I can with all in calmness…
Café crowd chorus: They are yours, your mother-in-law claim your ring…
Girls in the gym: We are yours, we all wait for you in the shower…
Swanky mature woman: I am a widow, inherited a fortune and it is yours
Guy, about the girls on the bus: They are mine, Japanese, French and English…
Girls outside café: We are yours, we know what you like
Girl from posterboard (in my opinion prettiest girl of the lot): I am yours, I do everything that you like.
And finally, his girlfriend: My love! What are you thinking?
Guy: Nothing!… "

While the theme may not be anything exceptional, the hilarious lyrics along with the cheeky approach produced a most amusing result. For some reason, most beer commercials worldwide are brimming over with creativity and wit :P

It may be tempting to generalise that commercials say a lot about the country. However to date, having lived here for only 5 months, with limping language skills to boot, certainly does not entitle me to make any kind of observation about Buenos Aires culture worth two hoots.

...and thanks to drawing the short straw in the gene pool (a sad case of alcohol intolerance), I can’t even describe to you what Brahma beer taste like…

What I can say is this. Many young guys and girls walking down the streets of the city of Buenos Aires are attractive. It is apparent some degree of effort has gone into their appearance. Looking good is important to portenos young and old, male or female. The attractiveness quotient here is high, perhaps a lot higher than the other cities I have visited. Either that or I am susceptible to the good looks of the Italian & Spanish mix

More than this on another day perhaps!

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6 Nov 2007

Que me Gusta

In the present moment, Nov 2007
Milongas in Buenos Aires are social occasions and more, they are opportunities for bouts of lighthearted flirtation or potential romances. Ladies who have danced in BA would have discovered, Argentino men will shower any fairly decent-looking gal (regardless of age and race) with a flurry of compliments. The Italian blood runs deep

I had a few, usually from portenos old enough to be my father. There are a couple that I remember which went more or less like this:

Case 1
"Your eyes are so pretty. I want to take a photo of them and keep it in the shirt pocket, next to my heart."

My private reaction
awww…how rather sweet. Especially said by an above middle-age porteno who dance the most divine valses.

Btw, I would have dissolved into laughter if the same lines came from a younger guy, Argentine or not.

Case 2
"How well we dance together. I want to enter the Campeonato Mundial with you!"

My private reaction
a fit of hilarity when I finally understood...

Actually for Case 2, I didn’t understand exactly what he said at first - I thought he asked if I came to BA for the Campeonato Mundial de baile de Tango (World Tango Championship) held in August yearly. I kept replying in broken Castellano "No, no, I didn't come to BA for the championships". My porteno partner (another above middle-age gentleman) finally had to ask my girlfriend to translate for him and by then, he was rather exasperated at the “waste” of his fulsome compliment :D

Now, there is an amusing column featured monthly in the tango magazine B.A. Tango with the title

Que me Gusta
Frases lindas que dicen los hombres en la milonga.

Which translates more or less into:
Because I like it
Pretty lines spoken by the men in the milonga.

This monthly column features the submissions by female readers, who are the likely recipients of these chat-up lines in the milongas. Those published get 2 free milonga entry tickets!

Here are a few inventive or interesting ones:

"(To xxx): The next time my wife asks me for a public retraction of the flattering comments I tell you, I'll get divorced and marry you"
"(A xxx): La proxima vez que mi esposa me pida una retraction publica por los piropos que te digo me divorcio y me caso con vos"
(March/April 2007)

“You are so pretty that when I look at you, I take a wrong step”
“Sos tan linda, que al mirarte me equivoco el paso”
(...hmm.. useful for men with more charm than dancing skills?)

“With your dance and joy you entered my life, and I don’t want to lose you”
“Con tu baile y tu alegria entraste a mi vida y no quiero perderte”

“To dance with you I have to line up, but the wait is worth the prize”
“Para bailar con vos hay que sacar numero, pero la espera vale la pena”
(May 2007)

“I want to dance the last set of the night and take with me the perfume of your skin”
“Quiero bailar con vos la ultima tanda de la noche y llevarme el perfume de tu piel”
(August 2007)

You may think these lines are corny or just right down silly. But judging from the title of the column in B.A. Tango, obviously the delivery is done correctly by the portenos :D

P.S/ My intial interpretation of the title was incorrect, so it has been rectified.

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