Election Hope

We hadn`t been sitting long at the kerbside table outside Voulez Bar in San Telmo  when a high-pitched voice came from the table next to us. `Ah, I am so happy!  ‘Yesterday`s election was an historic day for my country. A breath of fresh air!  Do you know?’

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‘Look around you !’ she said, glancing left and right. ‘ Look at my country, it’s beautiful but neglected, left to ruin.’

 

We looked around at the faded, crumbling grandeur of San Telmo and understood her point.

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‘Argentina should be the greatest country in the world, this country has everything. Good land, coast, mountains, oil..so much oil.  But look at it, corrupt and bankrupt !`she said blowing tendrils of hair from her eyes.  

 

Well dressed, with red wavy hair pulled back from her face into a pony tail, she looked Irish but was a proud Argentine  who wore her heart on her sleeve.

 

‘In every country in the world you can buy things on the internet, but not here, not in Argentina. Everything is taxes , it’s too expensive’

 

We believed her. Darragh had looked at runners in a mall yesterday and gasped at the prices.

 

We sat and spoke a while with Lola, she was friendly and keen to practise her English.

 

‘We will have a ballottage in November, a final election show down between the last two presidential candidates. You see, Argentina is changing.  I have prayed and prayed for this. I didn’t vote for either of these two but now I will.  This vote was a lesson. A lesson for the politicians, it is not their country, it is our country. Now they know, they have to change.!!’

 

Her eyes twinkled as she stood to leave.  Her red hair framed her round smiling face. ‘Ciao Ciao, happy holiday!’ 

 

She wasn’t crazy, just very happy.

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La Dolce Vita

Buenos Aires is sweet, a wonderful city to live in and an epicure’s dream.

One of our favourite pastimes is to join local porteños and take an evening stroll along the avenues to have merienda. Argentinians eat very late at night, often as late as nine thirty or ten pm. So just like Spain or Italy, they often head to the streets for merienda, an extra meal to help them survive till dinner time.

Thanks to this Argentine afternoon tea, there is a thriving cafe culture in Buenos Aires where friends meet up to drink coffee or mate and nibble on facturas or pastries especially medialunas.  Some might opt for toast or a sandwich but it’s usually cake.

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Alfajores, dulce de leche sandwiched cookies, are particular favourites

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It’s a delight to step outside these warm, spring evenings and wander about picking produce as you go. Supermarkets haven`t sucked the life out of communities here so streets are crammed with small family -run food shops. Nearly every block has its own fruit and veg shop.

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Twelve million people live in greater Buenos Aires so there are plenty of mouths to feed and that means plenty of business for artisan food shops.

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On our block near Avenida Coronel Diaz,we also have bakeries, pastry shops, sweet kiosks, and pasta fabricas.

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Nearby a butcher and fishmonger.

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Of course when you don’t feel like cooking there are lots of restaurants, cafes and takeaways on every street. Eating out here is very reasonable and sometimes it seems cheaper to eat out then at home.

Many porteños seem to think so as restaurants are full of people who just pop in to refuel.There is a strong Italian influence in the city so there are many pizza and pasta restaurants.Parillas or steak grill restaurants are everywhere too but make sure you`re hungry before you go.

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Finally, porteños love ice-cream and buy it by the kilo in the many heladerias all around us. The ice-cream is really very good  especially the dulce de leche; a perfect snack to  keep  sugar levels high till the  midnight meal.

Good Luck Argentina!

We’re backing Los Pumas all the way now!

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Darragh and I were dreading going in last Monday, but it turned out to be a lovely occasion. I spoke at assembly, congratulated Los Pumas and told the boys that we were really proud of Ireland`s effort too.

After speaking, we helped to raise the Argentine flag over the school while the children sang the anthem.  The ceremony takes place every morning but our show of support caused quite a stir especially when I told them that my Irish friends wished them well and wanted Argentina to beat Australia.

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The boys didn`t believe me. They were adamant that I should be for Australia because Argentina knocked Ireland out of the World Cup.

I’ve spent the week being the most popular man in Newman. Everybody wanted to to tease me about Ireland losing but also to ask if I was really for Argentina.

Of course I’m for Los Pumas; the three of us really hope they do it.

Tomorrow is a hugely historic day for the country. Not because of the rugby but because of the general election.  The economy is in big trouble here with serious inflation and Argentina isolated financially.

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Current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is standing down as she has reached her two-term limit so tomorrow Argentinians will elect a new president for the first time in eight years.

One of the leading candidates is Mauricio Macri who is mayor of Buenos Aires and past pupil of our school, Newman. He refers to his kidnapping in the early 1990s as one of the reasons he took up politics.

He is the former President of Boca Juniors and when asked about the Rugby World Cup ,he said that football in Argentina has a lot to learn from the way rugby fans celebrated together.

Here all away fans are banned from football matches because of the risk of crowd trouble. It’s a pity because football is far and away Argentina`s No 1 sport.

Video clips of the Irish celebrating with Argentinians have been shared on social media all week.  The people I speak to are impressed that the Irish, although obviously gutted by the loss, were so sporting in defeat.

I know, I’m not alone  among the Irish  in hoping that Argentina has a great day tomorrow both in Twickenham and at the poll booth.

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SUPERHERO

This week is Maths Week in Ireland so this story is dedicated to Miss Quinn´s 4th Class in Blarney Street , Cork. We had a great skype call  today when they quizzed me about the blog and life in Argentina. Read and enjoy boys!!

SUPERHERO

Dark, in the evening after work, there are crazy long queues in Disco supermarket down the block. Lines that don’t seem to move at all, even at the caja rapidas that limit shoppers to 15 purchases. It took me a while to figure out why; my initial theory disgracefully blamed the old and frail as they’re allowed move up the queue. Standing in the long line, I wished I had gone to a different counter, envying those lined on my left and right. Or even madder, imagined being a superhero that could make queues disappear with my magic eyes.

That is until the penny dropped and I realised to my shame that the fault lay with me and my fellow feather-brained fumblers who hadn´t prepared properly in advance.

Workers at the till are impressive, emitting Zen-like patience with cranky customers who are tired after a long day`s slog. I am fascinated by their mental maths ability, especially rounding up and down.  Argentinian supermarket staff have a tough job because they never have enough small change, so one way to befriend them for life is to hand over the exact cost of your items in notes and coins. They beam at you, impressed that a blow-in would have the guile to understand and possess the necessary coinage to complete this complex task.

But, presenting them with a 100 peso note, sets them off, they quickly assess what they have in the till and then ask you for random amounts to help them round off the figures and come back with the cash. `Can you give me a 20 and 3 pesos, or if not maybe a 5 and 2 peso coin,`they plead.
If this digital dexterity proves fruitless, they ask a few questions which I never understand then finally let out a long sigh, sit back in resignation and hit the buzzer with lights. The next part, I know because I’ve experienced it too many times. Big, bright lights flash over-head and a supervisor is summoned to go to a far-off safe to find change for the birdbrain at the till. The queue behind me moans and glares while I stand for ages, embarrassed waiting for my saviour to come with the coins.
But, you live and learn and I now head to the supermarket fully prepared, estimating the bill as I stroll the aisles. Calculating the cost as I stand in line, I hand over the exact amount to my smiling friend at the till. Armed with wads of notes and hefty pocketfuls of shrapnel, I am an Argentinian Super (market) Hero using magic maths eyes to help fumblers see the Disco light!!

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Conversations with Argentinians

“Congratulations, the morning was lovely. It was an honour for us to be here and share it with you,” I said. 

“Oh! Thank You!” 

“My son was the boy who read the prayer in English.”

“Ah that explains it; my family was really impressed with his English. My sister said that boy must be English!’ 

“Irish. We`re visiting the school for six months.”

“Ah Ireland, nuestro tierra. When I went there I kissed the ground, like the pope. We feel Irish, it is our country.”  Juampi, surrounded by family and friends, laughed aloud.

“Your brother Felipe is very popular in Ireland,” I ventured, “even in Munster where I’m from.”

We moved away but he called us back.

“Now you have to say Felipe could’ve played for Munster, couldn`t he? He had the spirit, the heart of a Munster man, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, he did”

“You made a mistake though. He could have played for Munster, not Leinster.  You should have signed him, not O’ Gara.”

“O’ Gara`s a Corkman though!”

“Ah, you’re from Cork!!”

Juampi chuckled out loud and wanted to chat and joke, but we hadn’t time. We had to return to Recoleta. We couldn’t stay, but would have enjoyed his company. He was good craic.

Today, the school held a special mass to celebrate past pupil, Fr. Juampi Contepomi`s, twenty-five years as a priest. For nearly two hours, Juampi captivated, engaged and taught the assembled 540 primary pupils. The students sang, clapped and held hands high in the air showing esteem for the tall, bearded man on the altar.

To finish, staff showed heartwarming photos of Juampi`s life; his childhood, his school years and rugby career. They catalogued his work as a priest and his time with Mother Teresa.  It was a beautiful and emotional tribute, bringing many to tears. There was a striking image of him praying in the Andes at the site of the plane crash where twenty nine people died on the Uruguayan rugby tour in 1972. A story so well told in the books `Miracle in the Andes’ and ‘Alive’.

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One of our favourite things about Argentina is the people. Juampi is only one of many endearing Argentinians that we have laughed and joked with. In general, they are warm, fun-loving, friendly people who enjoy conversation and are good company.  Lunchtime in the school is particularly enjoyable. Our school is huge, like a city in itself, with so many people coming and going to the cafeteria throughout staggered lunch breaks .The food is excellent and staff and students lunch together. Everyone is welcoming. I don’t have a set routine so arrive at varying times and chat with different people, sometimes in Spanish but mostly in English. It’s a great way to get to know people, listen to their stories and learn about their lives and the country.

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It’s wonderful to be in a country for a long time and really get to know people and understand the culture. Like Juampi, the Argentinians we meet are enchanted by Ireland and are very curious about Irish history, traditions and customs. They love sport, were delighted this week when Ireland beat Germany in football and are cheering on Ireland in the Rugby World Cup. At least until, we meet the Pumas.

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The three of us have made friends here and receive regular invitations. Nan went for coffee yesterday with a parent from school. She had a great time and was joined in the café by her new pal`s mother and best friend. She returned home laden down with pastries she was given as gifts. Knowing that Nan has free time, the mothers in the school have included her in their charitable work. She helps them in the school to distribute recycled clothes to the needy every week. After school today, Darragh walked with nine buddies to a friend’s house to celebrate a birthday. Invitations to a classmate`s house on Friday afternoons seem to be an Argentinian institution and Darragh is having a great time.

We have received multiple warnings about taking care in the city to avoid being robbed. The students in the school tell me hair-raising stories about cell phones being snatched and being chased by thugs .We take care of course but find the city safe and the people-friendly. Strangers at bus stops will help you find your bus and if you`re stopped studying a map, smiling porteños will offer help with directions. There are twelve million people living in this sprawling metropolis and I`m not saying that all of them are friendly, just the ones we`ve met!!

Darragh’s Top 5 Children’s Books So Far Down South

Recommend a book for Darragh, youngest member of 3gosouth, seen here cycling to photograph sealions in Patagonia.

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Hi, I’m Darragh. I’m twelve years old. I’m 3gosouth`s illustrator and I love drawing. I hope you’re all  enjoying my pictures.

I love reading, too, and am looking for your suggestions for books to read. Leave a comment below with a suggested book for me, please.

Right now, I`m reading `Mockingjay ( The Hunger Games·#3) by Suzanne Collins. I’ve read 16 1/2 other books since I arrived in Buenos Aires and here`s  my Top 5 List.

Top 5 List

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas  by John Boyne

A Twist of Gold by Michael Morpugo

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For the record, here are the others I`ve read since going south.

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)      Suzanne Collins

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole     Sue Townsend

Kensuke`s Kingdom      Michael Morpugo

The Elephant in the Garden     Michael Morpugo

Robinson Crusoe     Daniel Defoe

The 12th Of July by Joan Lingard

Danny The Champion Of The World    Roald Dahl ( for a second time)

Buddy Nigel Hinton

The Maleficient Seven   Derek Landy ( for a second time)

Artemis Fowl  Eoin Colfer

Walkabout  James Vance Marshall

I only read half of this book, I couldn’t be bothered reading the rest of it because I wasn’t really into it.

The Eagle Of The Ninth      Rosemary Sutcliff

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