Thursday, June 25, 2009


We are staying with una familia Cusqueño. Above is a photo of the shower, needless to say it is hit and miss whether or not you get hot water or indeed any water at all! Below is the view from our room.

After school there is typically a throng of school kids at the dairy across the road from our house....they tend to go for the icecreams!

We hadn't planned it, but we were lucky enough to arrive in Cusco a few days before the big Inti Raymi festival. It is quite the tourist affair but because there is a public holiday the streets were absolutely heaving with Peruvians and tourists alike. This is us catching some sun god action...

I love that Ben looks so excited, like a cat with cream!

Hasta luego, Mrs R

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unas preguntas...

As you know we recently left BA after a wonderful 4 weeks there, enjoying the many gastronomic delights the city has to offer while learning more spanish, trying to get Mrs R's foot to heal and playing ever more rabid games of Settlers with Peter and Julia. Well, the others may not have been frothing at the mouth like me. Suffice to say I am now infected and will be purchasing Klaus Teuber's Game of the Year 1995 on our return to Aotearoa!

During our extended stay in the city I had time to consider a few aspects of Argentinian life which differ significantly from ours. The first is their attitude to coffee. In NZ we drink arguably the world's best Black Doctor. Small roasteries, heaps of independent cafes and an enthusiasm for fairly traded beans is a recipe for premium percolation. For this reason, perhaps it is no surprise that we treat its consumption as an end in itself. Takeaway coffee must represent a similar proportion of sales to cups consumed in house.

In Buenos Aires, where coffee appreciation arrived with the influx of praiseworthy Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the act of drinking the devil's cup is insignificant in comparison with the process. Almost no one gets their coffee "para llevar" (to go). Their cafes boast career waiters, typically men in their 40s and 50s, whose professionalism and familiarity with their regular clients leaves no room for comparison with the surly teenagers and superficial or apathetic in-between-jobs types so frequent at home. These gents attend you at your table, as ordering at the counter is almost unheard of.

All coffees are served with a petite glass of sparkling water and typically medialunas as well (sweet or savoury croissants). The stage is set for a more elaborate act of consumption, and a greater sense of escape from the bustle of a 13 million citizen city.

People do order coffee alone, perhaps to read the paper or a book, but also to talk with the gentleman waiters I mentioned, more in the way kiwis might with their hairdressers. Overwhelmingly however, the cafe visit is a 2 person affair. Duos of any age
will be locked in animated conversation across their small table, from teenagers to parents to jubilee citizens (transliteral of the spanish for OAP). It is a heartwarming scene to observe, and a great reminder that one is always free to tune down the pace of life, even in the metropolis.

I do not dispute that many New Zealand cafes aim for this kind of atmosphere, and that many kiwis have the same aspirations as their Argentinian counterparts when it comes to keeping up with their friends' lives through the mutual partaking of espresso. In addition many takeaway coffees will only be walked a short distance to a park or waterfront in NZ, to be consumed in an environment perhaps more conducive to real discussion.

Overall, I have resolved to remember the Agentinian approach when living back home. The benefits will be: less coffee drunk, more enjoyment of each cup, less distraction from my drinking partner's words and a heightened sense of occasion in my everyday life. That will be something to savour. Especially the morning after a glorious victory on the Island of Catan!

Mr R

Wednesday, June 17, 2009's electrifying!

Normally I'd consider myself in the reasonably street savvy category, however a recent event has led me to reconsider ...

...though, in fairness I'd just travelled a good eight hours on the bus and my brain was not fed the most promising foods to assist it in able decision-making.

I'd watched the helpful hostel worker show me how to work the shower:

1. turn on tap
2. switch up the electric current (30 amp)
3. have shower
4. turn off tap
5. switch down the electric current (actually I'm now a bit unsure whether turning off the tap came before or after switching down the electric current... no matter)

Steps 1 and 2 went smoothly, but would you know it step 3 gave me the trouble.

Sometimes when you're in the shower there'll be one jet of water that's going astray, it's an outlier. It's that one highly irritating distribution of water that will be hitting you in the eye or generally disrupting the normal enjoyable flow of water onto your body. This was the problem I was facing.

I'm a curious person and so I reached my left hand right up to the source of the problem convinced I could bring the outlier back into range. Well it sure showed me. I felt an electric shock all the way up my arm to just below my shoulder!

Having first checked I was okay, my loving room-mate was quick to point out that one never touches the head of the shower when there is a 30amp current running through it.

Lesson learned.

Mrs R

By way of addendum I realise that although the left side of my body has been given a shocking time of late (the moonboot, the recent arm jolt), things could always be worse....

We realised about 2 hours away from our destination that we hadn't received our change when we bought our bus tickets meaning we could have upgraded buses. About 10 minutes later we saw one of the flasher buses we could have taken in a rather steep ditch. It had gone right over the edge of the road. It didn't appear that anyone was injured thankfully, most of the passengers just looked like they wanted to go home and have a relaxing shower.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hot Pools

Back in May (when I was young, naive and optimistic), I wrote about The Programme and how we were challenging ourselves to stay fit and healthy despite our many "snacks".

Well a couple of days later, post Programme workout, I discovered my left foot was very sore.

Fastforward four weeks, two trips to hospital, an xray, an MRI and a ridiculous number of phone calls to our Doctor, I am the proud wearer of a moon boot. The Programme is but a distant memory.

On the positive side, my foot trouble has given me the incentive to see what it is like to go swimming in Buenos Aires. I´ve been to a gym called WellClub that has a twenty metre pool. It is solely a fitness pool, there is no playing, not a child in view. Just many people of varying ages and degrees of swimming prowess, making their way up and down the length of the pool.

Given the emphasis on exercise - as opposed to relaxation - I was therefore bewildered by the fact that the temperature of the pool is like that of a warm deep bath. If you have been swimming in the Raumati Pool you will know what it is like to swim in warm water. The water at WellClub is even warmer.

I managed to have a mixed Spanish-English conversation with another pool goer today. She explained that the temperature of the water was good because it was cold outside. I´m with her to a point. But when you´ve swum a kilometre and are considering swimming another, having hot jets of water meeting you at either end of the pool is a real disincentive to persevering.

However, I am adapting. I now know to swim in an anti-clockwise direction in the lanes. It only took causing a commotion on my first day in the pool AND being stopped by the lifeguard to cement that little custom in my mind. It was actually a relief when I realised the reason I was interrupted was because I was going in the wrong direction.

My first thought was that I was being shamed for indecent swim wear.....I was wearing a bikini I had purchased in Dunedin (end of season stock. minimal choice. limited time = hindsight. bikini possibly too small for frame).

This moon boot on the other hand fits me perfectly and I´ve had some admiring glances to boot.

Oh dear, pun too far?

Mrs R