June 2009

A house near the sea

Ceci & I launched a new phase of our Buenos Aires adventures today with the purchase of a house in Mar del Sud

house in mar del sur

We’re not totally abandoning the city life for a cottage by the sea…at least, not yet…and this blog will continue at its recent sporadic space…but future postings also will include an occasional mention of our new home out along the coast of Buenos Aires province.

If you’re not familiar with the charm of Mar del Sud (also known as Mar del Sur), then take a look at the fantastic photos of Mar del Sur by Max Gioffre. He has some really great photos.

Literature, traveling, & the artwork of Kenneth Draper & Jean Macalpine

Casual conversations often lead to unexpected discoveries. The other day I walked over to Palermo to have coffee with Peter Robertson and talk about future plans for The International Literary Quarterly (interlitq). We had just finished releasing issue 7. Even though Peter and I both live in Buenos Aires, we edit and prepare each issue virtually via e-mail and transferring files around the net. So getting together to talk in person is a rare treat.

Among the news Peter had for me was that Alain de Botton was joining the board of consulting editors for interlitq. And since this is more or less a travel blog, I must mention that Alain de Botton’s excellent book The Art of Travel should be read by all travelers.

Artists on Menorca

Speaking of traveling, Peter told me about a recent trip to the island of Menorca. When I lived in Miami Beach, I had a roommate from Menorca. (A shout out to Carmen wherever she may be today.) Anyway, Peter was on Menorca to to meet Kenneth Draper & Jean Macalpine, who will be guest artists for upcoming issues of interlitq. I had to admit that I wasn’t familiar with their artwork but after viewing the websites of Kenneth Draper and Jean Macalpine I’m delighted to become acquainted with this “new” discovery.

Draper’s work is a wonderfully colorful collection of mixed media art and Macalpine creates fantastic hand toned photographs. You have to visit their websites: Kenneth Draper and Jean Macalpine.

Peter sent along this photo of him with Draper in Menorca.

Kenneth Draper & Peter Robertson in Menorca

Draper is a very recognized artist. He is a Royal Academician, which is something quite important and evidently Brits know what the letters RA signify after a person’s name, but most of us Americans are clueless about those initials. RA signifies that one is a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and Ken Draper has his own page on the Royal Academy site.

While Draper & Macalpine have exhibited in London, they regularly sell their work to international private clients, and are now keen to give exhibitions on the Iberian peninsula and thereby, through their art, transmit the unique and ravishing beauty of Menorca to those living on the Spanish mainland.

Keep your eyes on the interlitq blog for announcements about the upcoming issues of interlitq featuring the artwork of Kenneth Draper & Jean Macalpine.

Now, Ceci & I just need to figure out how to work out a visit to Menorca into our travel plans.

How little I know of this city

Last night I took a taxi from Recoleta out to Liniers, a barrio on the southwestern edge of the capital district of Buenos Aires. I tend to think that I know Buenos Aires very well, but in the cab ride I was reminded by the vast amount of Buenos Aires that I do not know, barrios that I’ve never visited or have only passed through on the bus.

This aerial view from Google Earth shows the section of Buenos Aires that I know quite well, outlined in red. I have walked almost all of the streets in these barrios: San Telmo, Boca, Barracas, Constitucion, Parque Patricios, San Cristobal, Balvanera, Montserrat, Puerto Madero, San Nicolas, Retiro, & Recoleta.

Buenos Aires

Others areas are familiar and comfortable to me, such as Belgrano, Palermo, Caballito, Almagro, Boedo, Chacarita, & Flores.

But last night in the taxi I saw many charming aspects of Buenos Aires as we passed through barrios such as Floresta, Villa Gral. Mitre, Villa Luro (which I’m not sure I even knew existed) on our way to the border of Liniers and Mataderos and just a stone’s throw from Av Gral Paz. There’s some really great architecture that exists in the most unexpected of places. I’m probably not going to have the chance anytime soon to broaden my Buenos Aires experience to the western barrios, but there are many areas where I want a closer look…out of the taxi, not on the bus, but by walking the streets.

Learning Spanish in a Buenos Aires way

I was recently contacted by the folks at Miniature Studios about their new Spanish language learning product Bueno, entonces.

[Disclaimer: Miniature Studios did provide me with free access to the product in exchange for this review, but otherwise there was no payment for this review and there are no affiliate links in this post.]

Ever since my days implementing digital technologies in higher education I’ve been very interested in multimedia-based approaches to learning. There are different learning styles and some people learn better in ways that are different from others. Of course, language learning always requires a high degree of personal interaction to achieve any level of proficiency. But language tapes and computer-based approaches serve as useful starting points.

Bueno, entonces is a series of animated videos that replicate a one-on-one Spanish class. Unlike most learning Spanish resources online, Bueno, entonces is designed specifically for the person who wants to live in Buenos Aires, or at least have an extended visit to Buenos Aires and have a good time.

And the good time aspect is an intentional part of this approach in learning Spanish. Not only does Bueno, entonces adopt the local pronunciation and use of vos rather than tu, there’s a bit of Argentine slang that is covered in a humorous way.

The class is presented through the characters of David, a dorky British guy who just arrived in Buenos Aires from London and Jimena, a sexy, young Argentine that is teaching him Spanish.

learning spanish in a buenos aires way

David is a caricature of the twenty-something guy that we’ve all met who comes down to Buenos Aires to hang out. There’s a lot of flirting and sexual innuendos from David as he tries pathetically to seduce Jimena in the class. That light tone to this series actually makes for a more entertaining experience than that offered by most language learning audio tapes and computer-based approaches, which are generally dry monotones.

If you don’t know Spanish and you are planning to come to Buenos Aires, but have not yet arrived, then Bueno, entonces is worth investigating. If you’re already in Buenos Aires, then you’ll probably just want to sign up for a real course here or find your own one-on-one instructor. Of course, the expats I know that speak the best Spanish always seem to be the ones that have a boyfriend/girlfriend that does NOT speak English. Perhaps Bueno, entonces can give you the language basics that you need to find to find the Argentine of your dreams in Buenos Aires.

Bueno, entonces is certainly better than most language learning audio tapes on the market, other than Pimsleur which I’ve always thought are by far the best audio-only approach though the monotone of Pimsleur’s speakers gets boring after a while. And, personally, I like images to go along with audio and that’s a niche that Bueno, entonces fits. Plus, the video is optimized for the iPhone and iPod Touch. That’s really cool.

And, if you’re interested, you can hop over and follow the Bueno, entonces blog.

Writing matters

Just an update on some writing things involving some expats that have a home in Buenos Aires….

Peter Robertson & I have released the latest issue of The International Literary Quarterly. Lots of good poetry, stories, & essays in this issue.

Maya Frost is on a tour of the U.S. to promote her book “The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education“. Follow Maya’s blog for updates from the road. I’m enjoying her video interviews with her editor, agent, & others.

A huge congrats out to Ellen Bryson for signing with the highly respected Henry Holt & Co to publish her debut novel Hungry next year. We’re very excited about that.

I’m sure there are a lot of others out there writing and publishing, but those are just a few I know personally. If anyone knows other expats in Argentina that are publishing, please leave comments and links.

Argentine politics everywhere

Mid-term elections are coming up quickly & if you live here then you can’t escape the media blitz by all the politicians.

Even today when I went to my RSS reader and opened up the San Francisco-based literary blog Conversational Reading I came across an unexpected feed ad for Margarita Stolbizer.

stobizer ad

Obviously a targeted combination of georeferencing and Google’s algorithm detecting that Conversational Reading does on occasion mention Argentine literature and, every now & then, include some Spanish-language excerpts, though not at all on this particular posting. Now, I’m wondering which Argentine political ad I will see next in my feed reader.