Because: I almost died from combination laughter-mortification when, about a month into my time in Buenos Aires, I met some people at a party who asked me, “Oh, so you’re a guidette?” (jokingly) after I told them I was from New Jersey. My mouth really did drop open; I could not believe we had exported that absurd(ly entertaining) show as far as to the Southern Hemisphere, and that people actually watched it. But something about it speaks even to Argentines, even though I am doubtful whoever subtitles the episodes can adequately translate key lingo (“smoosh,” “GTL,” “t-shirt time,” for example) with the same punch.
This article caught my eye because when I saw it pop up in my Twitter feed, I realized I knew nothing about the woman who brought us the quilombo that is Jersey Shore, and there is no way she does not have some interesting things to say.
“Such is the reality of living in a country where only 39 per cent of the adult population has a bank account. Argentinians, by and large, conduct their lives without the assistance of daily banking, mortgages, car loans, overdrafts or credit cards.”—
Because: Yeah, crazy. Since coming to Buenos Aires, the Argentine economy has become one of my primary fascinations. It started with little annoyances and confusions like, how come there are so many fake bills floating around, and the ATMs even dispense them? Why do the ATMs always run out of cash? Why do I have to pay everything in cash? Why does Claro, my cell phone service provider, not allow me to pay with an international credit card because only national credit cards are accepted? Then I started to see the bigger picture of this all and learning things such as the above statistic, or that the only way to buy property here is to show up with literally a suitcase of cash. Financially, this is a totally different world from the U.S. It’s a world in which an economic crash in 2001 slashed about everyone’s life savings in half and left them with even less trust in banks, and one where many residents nonchalantly and matter-of-fact predict another similar burst to happen very soon.
Because: I spent one summer commuting between New York City and Princeton Junction, NJ, which is about an hour each way. The trains were always packed, everyone in his or her own world, wrapped up in a Kindle, phone conversation, magazine or portable DVD player. Sometimes I would slip off my headphones or press pause, just to relax and listen to what was around me. I never intentionally picked up pieces of conversations around me, but it’s really amazing what people carelessly offer up about themselves, their personal lives, confidential information and others in a cramped public space where people have to try to not overhear. At least one conversation would always surprise me, whether for being so personal, or harsh, or sweet or just ridiculously boring. Sometimes the conversations would be more than one of those all at once, and those were the real gems.
Now you know why journalism works for me. Since even before third grade when my teacher told my parents in a conference that, while I was studious and doing well, I needed to work on minding my own business more, all I have wanted is to hear people’s stories.
“The idea of internal monologue is hardly new — think of any ballad in a Broadway musical. What’s new is that we all engage in this sort of running narrative of our lives, rushing off after dinner (or coitus) to share our confessions on Twitter or Facebook.”—
Because: "Modern Family" is one of the best shows on TV right now, and it has the critics’ support and ratings to prove it. Also, I thought the journalist took an interesting angle analyzing the show’s intersection with technology. I have largely overlooked that aspect of the show, probably because my own life is just as immersed in technology such that it all goes unnoticed. The above quote really stuck out to me, though, because it reminds me of how I live my life here in Buenos Aires. With everything I do here, I almost always step back, analyze and immortalize it via Twitter or Facebook, through my Blackberry or on digital camera. I want to share it all, convey it all and remember it all. It’s a different sort of manifested internal dialogue, but it creates (or I create) intermittent pauses and asides throughout my day. Like right now.
Because: I was this close to spending a year in Panama instead of Buenos Aires, and so I always have an eye out for recent literature about the country. Also, I always find it interesting to read about expat communities wherever in the world and draw parallels or find differences between that community and what I observe here in Buenos Aires. Bagels and bakeries? Also expat business plans here in BA.
Because: I spent the majority of my summer babysitting, and the subsequent majority of that time at the Princeton Community Pool. There I sat and splashed with my charges, among the gossiping and well-intentioned but often overbearing parents, mostly mothers. Princeton is such a diverse community, too, that the parenting was often done in a variety of languages, and I’m pretty sure I witnessed a fair percentage of the world’s parenting theories in action. Since that summer, as well as the start of my obsession with Modern Family, I’ve been more perceptive to parenting (sociologically-speaking) than I had been before, which is why this subject and the brouhaha surrounding it grabbed me.
This also was of interest to me because my younger sister is Chinese. She was adopted into our family, headed by a mom from Massachusetts and dad from Mexico. She is very smart and hardworking, but do people assume that is so when they meet her because she’s Asian and because they—incorrectly—think, was raised by a “Tiger Mother”?
I’m still figuring out what exactly Argentine parenting is, and if there is anything characteristic about it. All I know is, they raise them to love the noche, because I have seen more than one small child in a bar at night.
Because: While I might find occasional Argentine political antics as amusing as the next expat, where there is absolutely no humor to be found is in current American politics, and Arizona is ground zero. Since SB 1070, political activity in Arizona has continued to shock, baffle, disappoint and appall me. I cannot even begin to comprehend what is happening, nor why or how; I only know that it has me concerned for our country’s political future.
I have the vestiges of mythologized view of Arizona in my head, all leftover from childhood. The ruins, national parks, arid terrain and dry, dry heat we learned about in elementary school social studies just seemed so other-worldly to me. By God, Arizona has the Grand Canyon! The fourth-grader in me sees what Arizona should be, and it’s nothing like what it is now.
We just cannot do anything constructive with hatred.
Because: From bank robbers digging tunnels to Argentina’s version of “Big Brother”-meets-“Dancing with the Stars” to potty-mouthed politicians, Adrian Royo Caldiz bullet points Argentina’s most interesting, hilarious and important stories of the week. He injects his own commentary into the bits, which in a country where so much of the news is just so absurd you couldn’t even make it up, works well. Just don’t expect him to be nice.
For those reasons, it’s maybe something only expats can really dig, but it has become one of my regular must-reads.
Because: I love helado. And I’ve already hit what are considered the “top” chains, which in my ranking order, are: Persicco, Chungo, Munchi’s, Jauja, Freddo. (Please note: Rankings are prone to change at any time. The competition was, and still is, very close. Also please note: Argentine helado is far superior to all other forms of ice cream in the world, partially thanks to the bountiful variations of dulce de leche.)
Here is a friend’s post about Argentine helado, which explains the secret to its supremacy.
I am on a self-appointed mission to become the city’s resident helado expert. Step aside, step aside.
Because: I generally don’t like to see shows or movies more than once, but when I find something I love, I read every titillating and/or insightful article about it I can turn up with Google. In fact, I can honestly say I enjoy reading about “Mad Men” almost as much as I enjoy watching the show.
The other night I finally saw “The Social Network.” In fact, I watched it while sitting on Facebook (did not plan that), and going on one of my reading rampages to learn more about Facebook’s early days, the real lives of the film’s key characters players and the making of the movie. How’s that for immersion?
I find everything about the Facebook creation story so fascinating. Though I would not consider myself as belonging to the pilot generation, I was on the site in its earlier days (2006) when a .edu email address was required to create an account. I remember all of its iterations and updates since then, the introduction of “Minifeed” included, though I never really removed myself from it all and considered how each change to the site — not to be dramatic — was bringing Facebook closer to becoming an ubiquitous presence in my life, influencing how I build and maintain all my relationships. A hemisphere removed from the majority of my family and friends, Facebook is my primary mode for keeping in touch. When you have photos, wall posts and Facebook chat, nobody feels that distant.
Well done, Mark Zuckerberg. (And Eduardo Saverin, Sean Parker, etc., etc.)
Because: As one friend said, “The retirement plan, or just the plan?” Also because, I really admire people who make such drastic moves in retirement. I did it now, but I don’t know if I could do it then. As much as a vagabond I like to pretend I am, I think one day (not necessarily soon) I will enjoying staying put. “Staying put” could mean splitting my time between a couple of places, though. Yeah, that would be nice. All you HGTV International House Hunter couples, I’ll be you one day!