Darragh’s BA Likes ‘n Dislikes


5. Playing football in Parque Las Heras with my Dad

.4. Visiting  classmates’ houses on Fridays.

3. Eating delicious school meals.

2. Drawing for the blog.

1 .Reading lots and lots of books.

26 November 2015 104246 GMT+1100


 5.  People in Florida street asking for “CAMBIO” all  the time.

4. Dogs constantly barking.

3. Sirens wailing 24/7.

2.Dog poo everywhere.

1.Cigar smokers.

By the Illustrator

26 November 2015 105232 GMT+1100


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!!


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!!


Recollections in Recoleta.

We went for an early lunch in a Recoleta restaurant, a few blocks from the famous cemetery where Evita and Admiral Brown are buried. I wasn’t there long before the place played on my senses, transporting me to a different country, another time. I know I should be living in the now, enjoying the moment but I couldn’t. I was in two places at once.

Rodi Bar was bustling, noisy with conversation and laughter. Full of local porteños getting together, at the weekend, for a long lazy lunch. Large groups of friends and families sat at long tables, enjoying each other’s company. With bottles of Vasco Viejo on white table cloths, large salads of lettuce, tomato and tuna. Baskets of bread, shellfish and steaks. Fish first then meat.


The food, the noise, the atmosphere brought me back twenty-four years to the Basque Country  where  friends and I enjoyed many summers teaching English. There, we deepened our life-long friendships while making many Basque friends. Euskadi influenced us in so many ways and bestowed on us an enduring epicurean education. In restaurants in Zornotza, Bilbao and Gernika the Basques taught us about food, encouraging us to try new tastes and develop our palates.  It was there that we learned to love olives and anchovies and langoustines fried in garlic. The Basques invited us for pintxoak and txakolina, bought us typical traditional dishes like txipiroiak bere tintan- baby squid in their own ink. They ordered our steaks. Blue or bloody we described them, `en su punto` they taught us.


Darragh’s voice jolted me back to reality, he was ordering from the waiter with his Argentinian Spanish. It’s lovely to hear him with his porteño slang and its sing-song rhythm, using vos and ustedes like a local. The waiter smiled at his fluency, Flor his teacher would be proud. I imagined Darragh’s future, hoping that in twenty-four years’ time, he too would have happy memories and perhaps a set of skills from his travels in Latin America.

My day-dreaming distracted me. Realising that the waiter was looking at me, I hastily ordered the house speciality, opting for Argentinian costillas or ribs. When the waiter arrived later with a huge tray just for me I was gobsmacked. The rib cage, covering the entire tray, looked like a San Fermin carcass. Everyone nearby laughed at my obvious shock. It was delicious though and I didn’t regret my choice, except wished my friends were here to share it. They would have loved the prime Argentinian beef, tender and tasty. I finished it.


Days later, I still walk about feeling like some old mythical creature. Half man,half cow. Yesterday, was Spring Day in Argentina and my new season resolution is to turn vegetarian for a while. At least until next weekend, when Flor has invited us to her house for an asado.

Piece of cake

It’s still winter in Argentina, not that you’d know it. The season doesn’t officially change until Spring Day on September 21st but the fresh, sunny weather would put a smile on anyone’s face. The three of us were happy when we awoke early last Sunday morning, Children’s Day, and I was dispatched to get medialunas for breakfast. Dulce de Leche ones, preferably.

There are three pastry shops within a block of our front door. One is right next door but since the weather was beautiful, I decided to walk round the corner to soak up the Sunday morning vibe. One customer was ahead of me so I browsed the bulging display cabinets. Within minutes the tiny shop was crowded with grannies buying box-loads of pastries. Shelves emptied as trays and trays were handed across the counter. I stood, waiting to be served, taken aback by the frenzy and sheer quantity of pastries purchased. Waves of grannies entered, jostled and were served as I stood gaping, becoming more impatient by the minute. I then noticed that my adversaries were holding numbered tickets. I spotted my mistake, elbowed my way through the hurly-burly to the ticket dispenser and tore off my number, E00.

I edged back up the flank and positioned myself at the counter, waited, watched and most importantly listened for the next few minutes for my number to be called. Three white-aproned servers shouted numbers seemingly at random: 86, 78, 97. I was confused by my number. Was it cero, cero cero or cien (100)? I tried to listen above the hullabaloo but couldn’t discern any pattern until I heard 11,3,22. I’d missed out again. No longer smiling, I decided to retreat and went to the Disco supermarket across the road. Pastry purchase is a serious business in Buenos Aires.


Give him a ball and a yard of grass (in Argentina)

Darragh bought a new football so we went to Parque Las Heras  to play.  It was General San Martin’s Feast Day so a day off from school. We woke up late to birdsong and sirens. On schooldays we`re up before the birds, but there are always sirens. It was sunny so I took out the sun cream and generously lathered it on. Anyone who knows my excessive sun-creaming will laugh at this point.  We descended seven floors and left our building with the bright, new, orange ball proudly under Darragh’s arm. We marched the block to the park.


The park was hopping. Literally. Teenagers with springs attached to their shoes bounced like bunnies. Steel drums beat out a pulse. Legions of toddlers in motorized little cars drove round and round.  Parts of the park were covered in white fluff as if flocks of sheep had been savaged earlier. Darragh picked up a massive nut that had fallen from a tree, discovering that it contained the same white fluffy interior. A yard of grass was at a premium so we scouted for a suitable yet secluded location to hide my poor first- touch.


Passing bare trees, groomed dogs on leads and friends sharing mate, we found a grassy spot and shyly began passing the pristine ball. Eventually, losing inhibition with no-one watching I began the usual messing; botched attempts at extravagant skills.  Ribolas, bicycle kicks, Cruyff-turns. Trying to break my embarrassing keepy-uppy record. Soon one of the local children joined us. Then more and a match began. One child looked at me and in Spanish asked, `Are you a foreigner? You look like a foreigner. Are you Brazilian?’  I don’t know if it was my silky football skills or the excessive sun-cream that gave me away.

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