A Travellerspoint blog

A Time of Transition

BY MARISA

(Sigh), where to begin? Izzy and I are experiencing very big changes and challenges right now. As many of you already know, I have decided to return to Mexico this week, to continue the work I was doing for eight years in the Ashram, Yoga institute and Orphanage. I know this has left so many of our friends and families confused. You are probably asking yourselves why I would make this decision now while on an incredible around the world journey. I hope this entry answers your questions and eases your hearts. I love you all and I know you are concerned because you love us. If you have any questions that I do not answer, please feel free to write me. A lot of this is very personal, but I want to be open with everyone who has been on this journey along with us through the blog. So here we go…

I moved to Mexico from Philadelphia when I was twenty. I originally went to learn Yoga and Nutrition from my step-mom, but connected immediately with her lifestyle, teachings and service work. I found my life full of more satisfaction, purpose and joy than I had ever experienced and soon after, I decided to become staff. I lived there and helped open and run the orphanage for eight years alongside an incredible team of other young staff members. I helped to create my dream place and although it took very deep personal work, and was highly challenging on every level, I always felt a deep and consistent joy in my soul. Before leaving two years ago, I started to feel an internal conflict within myself. It was evident that I needed to delegate much of the hands-on work I had been doing and move into a different and more balanced lifestyle. I knew this, but to be honest, my ego took over and I didn’t want to turn over “my” work. Because of this, I burnt myself out and lost the strength to continue. It is more complex, but overall, I basically made some personal mistakes that cost me my spiritual and personal strength to continue in the place I so loved. One day, I felt a certainty that I needed to leave and although it was crushingly sad for me, I felt deep down it was what I had to do at that time. Everyone I was close to there offered their help, but I felt I had to go and sort things out on my own.

I moved to LA, started a new life and consoled myself by thinking I could help the orphanage even better from abroad – planning fundraisers, raising donations and awareness about the projects. I entered a new phase of life and although I missed my home in Mexico, I started to enjoy my new very lackadaisical life and the little work that was required of me on every level. I struggled with bouts of depression, but even in my greatest times of sadness, I didn’t feel I could return. I felt my lowest a year ago, last New Year’s Eve, and I prayed to God to help me through the uncertainty, sadness and loneliness I felt. I asked him to please send me someone to be by my side and help me be strong. I woke up the next day feeling like the clouds had parted in my life, because I had asked for God to once again guide me through. Less than three weeks later I met Izzy.

Our relationship has been the greatest gift and I have thanked God every day for answering my prayer and crossing our paths. At times, I can not believe how blessed I am to be with such an incredibly genuine, pure and loving person. We have a beautiful world together and our understanding, respect and love for each other runs deeper than I knew was possible. There is never any conflict, and yet, it is still exciting, fun and challenging. We flow together so well. In essence, we bring out the best in each other.

Okay, so now you are more confused than ever, right? You are asking yourself, “Why in the world would she cut this awesome trip with her great boyfriend short?” This is the thing, the goal of this trip for me has always been to have the time to think and contemplate life properly without everyday stresses and distractions. I wanted to experience new things and places to gain perspective and formulate my desires for the future. I also wanted Izzy and I to have the opportunity to know each other on a much deeper level so we could see if we were ready to take the next step. How many countries I visited, how many wonders I saw, or how many months I traveled were not my greatest interests, it was more an external voyage to help me complete an internal quest. This is something Izzy has known since we started planning and I think that is probably why it is easier for him to understand my decision than anyone. It was important that Izzy and I solidify our life goals and desires as well as our intensions for a future together on this trip so we could be sure all those elements matched well before moving forward. It has taken less time to realize these things than I expected, but I am not sorry – it has saved time (not to mention money) and given me the answers that I have been desperately seeking.

We have been on the road for six months now and through our many experiences I have come to the clarity that I had been praying for and the strength to match it. Seeing the very sad state of the world and the desperately sick and poor has ripped open my heart in these months. I long to help those in need, yet nothing I can do as a passer-by can have a lasting effect. I have felt more and more helpless with every place we travel. Don’t get me wrong, travel is exciting, but for me it is not fulfilling emotionally or spiritually. The more I see, the more compassion I feel and the more I yearn for a life of more significance. The strength to continue at the ashram has returned full force with my conviction that I was born to serve. I feel a deeper, more genuine need to be there now than I even felt when I lived there prior. For me it is the perfect place to continue my spiritual path and prepare myself more fully to reach my greatest potential so I can serve more fully. I believe it is a calling that I must follow. Life is precious and none of us know how long we have on this earth, when we come upon our truth or feel a calling in our heart it is my belief that we must follow it. I know that this may be hard to understand, but this trip was one I embarked on with Izzy and he understands, so I am at peace with my decision.

I am also sure that Izzy is the man I want to spend my life with. It is also out of respect for him, I am following my life calling now so we don’t get even closer before finding out if our life paths are headed in the same direction. I will be returning to LA for a few days before leaving for Mexico. Izzy will continue to travel for roughly three more months before making his way to Mexico, where he will join me and do volunteer work for a while so he can see what the place I want to call home is all about. This time apart will be healthy for us and give us time to do some self-work and exploration before reuniting. I have enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of his world and being a part of it –making friends with his friends, supporting the Bagavagabonds, meeting and falling in love with his family and friends in CA, KY and OH. I know he will enjoy experiencing my world, meeting the rest of my family, witnessing the work I have poured my heart and soul into and getting to know me more completely. I am grateful for this trip, for our relationship and for every step that led to this next phase of navigation. We are taking things step by step - trying not to get ahead of ourselves. We love each other and believe that everything will work out for the best for both of us.

It has been an emotional time for us and we have done a lot of talking, crying and planning, but with every day we have both felt better, more settled and positive about this change. I leave tonight on a bus to Santiago. We are spending today (Valentines Day) enjoying each other and giving thanks for each other. We appreciate all your love and support. The emails we have been receiving have been helping us get through this transition – your beautiful and heartfelt words are appreciated more than you know.

Love Always,
Marisa

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Still our favorite!

Posted by triptime 08:40 Comments (1)

The Countdown

by Izzy

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View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

  • **Sorry for the delay, we have a lot of updates coming soon! Stick with us!***

T-minus twelve days until the folks arrive in Pucon. This means we need to get out of town and go explore some surrounding areas, keeping Pucon fresh for their stay.

Day 1: “A lively university scene, a strong emphasis on the arts, plenty of history and surrounded by rivers and natural beauty – Valdivia just may be Chile’s most attractive and enjoyable city.” (Lonely Planet’s description in their 2004 South America: on a shoestring) There had to be an inside incentive for this kind of review. No way, no how does this city deserve its rave report. We tried looking for the riverfront highlights, the youthful vibe, the artsy-fartsies, but they weren’t there. It was a river town, an industrial blue-collar, college community that was trying to make the next step toward grand “turismo”, but was missing the beautiful plaza, restored historical housing and catholic cathedrals. Maybe that was the beauty. Maybe the lack of all that is what makes this place the hidden gem – its simplicity. Either way, it wasn’t what we were looking for and after a night in a crummy cabana connected to a house with screams lurking from the walls, we were back at the bus station by 7:00am the next day to navigate our way to Bariloche, Argentina.

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The view from our cabana window.

Days 2-7: Even with our early to bed, early to rise philosophy to catch the only direct bus to Bariloche, we came up empty. It’s high season and the locals are traveling. We eventually made it to the renowned town of chocolate at the past-prime time of 10:00pm, giving us about zero chance of finding a hostel with room for two. After a good few hours up and down the streets lined with backpacker hang outs, and even after asking a few places if we could sleep on their lawn, we gave in to an overpriced and over-rated hosteria (a step up from hostel dorm-living, but not yet a hotel) found yet again in our dated and misleading guidebook. The next six days passed without a whole-lot-of excitement. We meandered through the streets, sampled sweets, inhaled ice cream and enjoyed our sleep. We were lazy and we liked it… just ask Duke.

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Days 8-12: On our way from Chile to Bariloche, Argentina, we passed Villa La Angostura. We made a mental note at the time and returned there for the last five days of our countdown. We didn’t make the same mistake twice, so this time we had reservations at a beautifully owned and operated hostel tucked a couple blocks off the main drag, down a dirt road next to the chicken coupe and raspberry patch. We felt comfortable here. It was our speed. Crystal clear lakes, jutting mountain tops, rock beaches and tall timbers giving way to hiking trails and viewpoint overlooks were all accessible within a few kilometers. Marisa earned another badge of honor by braving a 12km hike through the majestic hills of the Parque Nacional Arrayanes' peninsula in her tattered Addidas flip-flops. I won’t go into the back-story of why she was wearing the sandals and not shoes, but I will add that we also survived the jaunt without any water. On top of that trek, we also spent a day on mountain bikes, ascending and descending the local hills (Marisa’s favorite past-time) in order to find a nearby lake and beach. The lakes in this region still hold the remnants of glacial water, giving off an assortment of bluish-green tones and clarity- a perfect place to spend an afternoon with a good book. But while Marisa was enjoying her time off the bike, I was itching for more. I decided that I was going to go back to the peninsula and bike the 12 km out and then 12 km back with the three hours of daylight left. It was a blast. I have never really taken a mountain bike on a trail before and now I understand why so many love the sport. Navigating through the trees, over roots, around rocks, down steep slopes and around humongous bulls eating their dinner just off the trail’s edge, what’s not to like? I did have a small accident with a thorn bush that I am still nursing, but overall, a great experience.

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Somewhere in the mix of all this fun and excitement, we managed to wait to long to buy our return bus tickets to Chile. We needed to be on an AM bus on February 2nd to ensure that we would be awaiting my parents in Pucon when they arrived at 10:50pm later that night, but now found ourselves boarding a 1:15pm bus that was already 20 minutes late. Back over the Andes, through customs (for both countries) and into the hub town of Osorno, Chile, where we needed to hop on a north bound bus for Pucon. Again, we were too late. But Marisa was not taking NO for an answer and finally found someone to help us with an alternate route. Three more hours by bus, a negotiated 50 minute cab ride to Pucon and we had beaten them there – success! Bienvenidos Mom and Dad, you made it! And so had we. The countdown was complete.

Posted by triptime 19:14 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

A Year to the Day

by Izzy

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View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

January 19th and 20th we celebrated. We celebrated in class. We celebrated the one-year anniversary of the day we met.

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2008 Fresh from my break-up less than a week before, Marisa walked into our infamous caldasac’ed Sardis House in West LA. She had come with a friend – a heavily accented and witted Aussie named Priscilla. Wearing tight jeans with well-placed rips, black leather boots with spiked heals and a complimentary black and white blouse, Marisa was making first impressions. I, on the other hand, was all business. With only five days left until our biggest Bagavagabonds’ production to date, I had work to do. Adorning a pair of oversized borrowed sweats from Eli, a grungy long sleeved t-shirt and some beat-up Nike kicks with fresh paint still dripping from them, I was dressed to un-impress.

Four days later, Marisa needed help finalizing her newly inspired double-canvas collaged entry she was dropping off. She was told by the room-full of BV cohorts to go find Izzy out in the shed. The shed was my shop, my studio, my work space, among other things. She found me. And of course I helped her, but I didn’t just do it, nope, I showed her what needed to be done and then insisted on her finishing the piece herself. Maybe it was not the most “fairytaled” or chivalrous of circumstances, but it was the most artistic and honest – and it worked.

2009 Hotel Antumalal - Pucon, Chile(http://www.antumalal.com). This place was rad. Rad like Frank Lloyd Wright rad. Original retro furniture, clean lines and in total harmony with the surrounding natural landscapes. Along with its sleekness and open-design, it still had a “homey” undertone. It was comfortably cozy. Even the minimalistic over-sized common/lounge areas brought you back to grandma’s house with their adequate cushioned-seating, plethora of pillows and room-warming fireplaces.

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We were guests, special guests I guess, of another fellow ASW member, Roberto. He was kind enough to offer us two free nights at this lakeside lodge (in which he is invested) to aid us in our South American travels. Upon our arrival we were greeted graciously by the hotel staff and shown our room. It was spacious with a cabin-like décor. Our fireplace was prepped with kindling and a pile of logs sat nearby awaiting their fate. And the view out over Lake Villarrica was immensely intense. We felt like the magic genie had just granted us a wish. But after getting settled and taking in a well deserved cat-nap, there was a knock at the door. It was the owner of the hotel. He had come to welcome us, introduce himself and move us to another room. Actually it was more than just a room, it was our own suite, complete with a living room, dining room table, a bookcase full of available material, hallway, bathroom, a gangster bedroom (with a bed big enough for five people) and two separate fireplaces! Oh, and the view, it was even better than before. We were spoiled and we knew it.

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There was no need to leave. A buffet breakfast awaited us each morning while overlooking the lake. Crepes filled with home-made whipped cream and ripe raspberries topped the spread accompanied with a fresh glass of strawberry juice to wash it all down. The pool attendant handed us new towels each day, made sure the tunes were tuned and relaxing and kept the sauna at a premium temperature. There were also the tennis courts, the private beach and dock, the bar and the 13 acres of gardens and walkways that winded through the sloping grounds dotted with benches and vistas. Not bad for two back-packing minstrels on a shoe-string budget.

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We drank wine, stoked the fire, ate chocolates (that were dropped off each night by the hotel staff), watched movies and soaked up all the pleasures of living the life of luxury. It was a celebration of finding each other, of growing closer, of reflection and of the future. It was a time to relax and a time to enjoy without worrying about financial limits. It was perfect and we are thankful.

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The stay at Antumalal also allowed us proper time to do some reconnaissance work for my parents upcoming visit to Chile. We were able to get a feel for Pucon, reserve a cabana and start brainstorming on the countless outdoor-adventure options (including at least one solid day of fishing to feed my dad’s addiction). This is a major jet-setting step for both of them, christening their brand-new passports and leaving North America for the first time. I am proud of them.

What more could we ask for? I await the possible answers to this question.

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For more pics of our lavished lifestyle (for two days), click below:

http://s427.photobucket.com/albums/pp359/triptimephotos/TripTime/Pucon%20Anniversary/

Posted by triptime 16:46 Archived in Chile Tagged lodging Comments (2)

Six Seaside Nights

BY MARISA

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View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

Our 36 hour transition to Chile from Argentina consisted of: a 17 hour overnight bus from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires, a twenty minute walk to the subway (where a women attempted to rob me), a half hour subway ride, a two hour layover in a coffee shop, a (hot and packed) two hour public bus to the airport, three hours getting through the lines and to our departure gate, a mini two hour flight, an expensive $131 dollar reciprocity fee each, a nervous 30 minute wait because our ride was running late, a seven hour drive until dawn with our new host. And then, finally, a good few hours of sleep… in an actual bed!

Max, a fellow ASW (asmallworld.net) member, hosts Hospitality Club and ASW members occasionally in his gorgeous cliff-side abode overlooking the Pacific in Curanipe, Chile. When he realized that we would be arriving on the night of the first full moon of the year, he insisted on picking us up from the airport and driving us to his beach house so we wouldn’t miss the incredible moonlit landscapes. We drove seven hours through the night, arrived just after dawn and crashed out until mid-day. This would be the beginning of our new schedule with Max – eating dinner until midnight, going to sleep around 3 a.m. and staying in bed until noon. Now that it is mid-summer in the Southern hemisphere, the sun sets around 9:30 p.m., which has helped us lose all concept of time.

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Luminojos (the name of his house) is part igloo, part lighthouse inspired. Sleeping on the futon in the loft meant the vast ocean was in sight at all times through the 18 foot high, 134-pane window. The locals call this home “The House of Winds” for good reason. There is nothing blocking the constant onslaught of wind gusts. A virtual symphony is created by the waves crashing below us and the howling winds whipping through the surrounding pine trees. I consider this to be close to paradise – Mediterranean temperatures, pine forests, cool winds, sea and sun!

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Our days and nights passed quickly as we picked strawberries in the neighboring fields, surfed in the frigid Chilean ocean (Izzy, not me), bought exotic seafood (and seaweed - for me) in town, searched the incredibly clear night skies for satellites and shooting stars, cooked dinner on the BBQ, watched Max’s favorite movies and made camp fires.

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During our time, we learned quite a bit about our multifaceted host, Max’s eclectic sides, strong opinions and life-passions. Some of Max’s greatest loves – quoting Austin Powers movies, his beloved dog Lina, surfing, Seinfeld, The Alan Parson’s Project, his birthday and Disco Music. Despite our opposed views and beliefs on many subjects, we kept the harmony and tried to concentrate more on what we had in common, like travel. For Izzy, it was food! Max exposed him to a world of shelled critters and sausage-like-meats that apparently can’t be beat. He was an enthusiastic host and we are so grateful for his incredible hospitality and generosity. Thank you Max, for an unforgettable visit and Chilean experience. We wish you all the joy and happiness you seek in this New Year!

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For more picturesque pictures, click below:
http://s427.photobucket.com/albums/pp359/triptimephotos/TripTime/Luminojos/

Posted by triptime 11:00 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Iguazu Falls - Video Blog #4

by Izzy & Marisa

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View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

Iguazu Falls is a must see in South America. We spent two days exploring, one on the Brazilian side and the other on the Argentinean side. If you had to pick one side to visit in a time crunch, with no doubt, choose the Argentinean side! It is a little more expensive, but there is so much more to see and do. The trails and transportation are excellent and there is plenty of shade for those hot and sticky days.

Marisa compares the experience to Jurassic Park, without the dinosaurs. Unbelievable beauty and power. So instead of rambling on with written descriptions, we put a video together along with some photos to help sum up our trip to "the land of the lost."

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For more pictures of falling water (and us), click below:
http://s427.photobucket.com/albums/pp359/triptimephotos/TripTime/Iguazu%20Falls/

Posted by triptime 05:56 Archived in Argentina Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Guest Blog #1: Scooby dooby doo, three's company too!

by Gur (video by Izzy)

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View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

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There is only one truth...

It is witnessing young Izzy H. eat (nay, devour) meat products again.

A wise Argentinean-born writer once said that "he who has seen everything empty itself is close to knowing what everything is filled with".

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This little aphorism is a perfect summation to me of Israel and Marisa's pilgrimage, and with these few keyboard words I wanted to not so much focus on the highs and lows of Argentina, as my comrades have so successfully done already. Instead, I will give a brief take on the journey and its significance to these kids who will seemingly never lose their holy curiosity.

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There is no doubt that the 264 straight hours (give or take) that I gloriously spent with Izzy and Marisa in this bewitching city were very much some of the best that my gray-haired head can recall, but what we need to remind ourselves is that these two are living this "all-encompassing everything" at all hours, every day. Everyday for the past 5+ months they have had a new odyssey, and a new experience for themselves individually and as a unit too.

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Okay, so they have suffered through 18 hour bus rides alongside chickens riddled with avian flu, and they have slept in hostels that included a pet mouse and blood-stained sheets at no additional charge, and they have somehow both endured Izzy's ravaging bowel movements...but through this pain they do not only enjoy things new and adventurous, but then can just as easily enjoy procrastination, because in the end, some things that do not fill their pockets right now are To-Do lists (unless we're planning a trip to the zoo followed by a steak lunch followed by a steak dinner), or keys, or parking tickets, or sometimes even Izzy's wallet when he's dumb enough to leave it in a cab on the way to Diego's family's home. There is no hurry, there is no rush hour, there are no obligations. After all, why put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day-after-tomorrow just as well. And for this, I envy them.

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This globe-trotting exploit of theirs will finally end in about a year from now. That's a long year from now. But in the meantime, through the hard stuff and heat and filth and the perilous days and nights, they will empty themselves and will see the world empty itself of everything necessary to them, and by the time it is over they will have seen what everything in the world is filled with.

Marisa and Israel, thank you to the both of you for bringing in 2009 with me and additionally, thank you Marisa for translating everything under the atmosphere for us to the kind and patient folks of the Southern lands.

Get the crosswords ready. I will see you both in Sydney.

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  • *fin**

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Below I (Izzy) have attached a video tribute I made for my friend Gur and his visit. This was done in good fun... enjoy with a "smile."

Posted by triptime 05:19 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Where's the beef?

by Izzy


View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

Remember the old Wendy’s commercial (1984 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75diEyiA0) where the disgruntled elderly Jewish lady asked, “Where’s the beef?” Clara Peller was persistent in her question and viewers could truly tell how dumbfounded she was with America’s diminishing representation of the hamburger. For two years she continued to ask us. After some research, I found that Mrs. Peller was unfairly fired by Wendy’s for proclaiming “I found it!” in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial. Representatives of Dave Thomas claimed, "Clara can find the beef only in one place, and that is Wendy's." This blog is dedicated to Clara and those who have continued to wonder “Where’s the beef?” some 24 years later. I found it, and it wasn’t at Wendy’s or on the shelf in aisle nine next to the $1.99 bags of pasta, nope, it’s right here in Argentina.

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Gur rolled into town (town being Buenos Aires) at half-past-noon on the 26th and by 2:00pm, we were rightfully seated in a corner restaurant in Palermo Viejo ordering our first steak. Option #8 on the daily lunch menu read: Mini Bife. This “mini” came with fries, a drink and a choice of dessert at the end of the meal (I went with the native flan). There was nothing mini about the generous portion of tenderloin that arrived dripping in juices ten to fifteen minutes after ordering. I was back. I had made the full-on transformation from greasy-red-meat-eating carnivore to health-pretentious-juice-making-veggie-devouring individual and now back… but it’s all for the spirit of the trip. I must live like the locals. I must eat the cultural cuisine. This is traveling! And all for the ridiculously cheap price of $29 pesos (in us speaking terms, that is $8.50 USD) – who could say no? Anyone for seconds?

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Yes. Seconds and thirds and fourths… with Gur as my wing-man, there was no stopping us. The following night, we again sat across from each other, bibs tucked in, knife and fork in hand. We were at a guide-book suggested joint called “Rio Alba.” Gur went first. “I’ll have the Butterfly Flank Steak,” he proclaimed with a Hebrew-accented-Spanglish chatter, “Fritas tambien – gracias.” But before the waiter moved on, he asked if Gur had just ordered for himself or was that for two??? Marisa jumped in and found out that the “Butterfly” was enough bovine to-go-around for both Gur and I. We’ll share. The suspense mounted. And then it came. A huge plate-tipping, sliced chunk of beef oozing with goodness was plopped in front of Gur – like a king basking in the day’s hunt. Gur then surgically knifed through the thin flap holding the butterfly together and graciously served me half. Sparks flew from my plate. This was good, not great, but good. The cut a little tough and chewy, but the serving was fulfilling and juicy and the sides were delectable (another heaping plate of fries and dish-full of pureed pumpkin). The kicker of this meal might have been the three peso pitcher of natural lemonade that Marisa negotiated – quenching. Next please.

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Shall we tango? I don’t see why not. Marisa, Gur and I put our best travel duds on and made our way to a top-notch tango show on the banks of Puerto Madero. This was a little out of our league, but it had to be done. The multi-coursed menu once again deemed the word steak in its options. “We’ll both have that.” No need to mess around with a chicken dish smothered in the same-old cream sauce or the grilled salmon drizzled in another reduced wine demi-glaze – Where’s the beef? Following a scrumptious jamon y queso (ham and cheese) empanada for starters, our well-seasoned, medium-cooked masterpieces arrived. A ridiculously soft and tender rump steak grilled to perfection. The beef grabbed my attention away from the tantalizing tango and demanded my full-on concentration. Sultry, savory and fitly-spiced – it might have stolen the show from the show itself. Well done.

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Round four. The bell rang again. The dinner bell that is. Just a few bob-and-weaves from our Palermo boutique hotel was yet another highly recommended beef-eatery - Don Julio’s, specializing in parilla-style food, Argentinean BBQ with class. After a quick glance down the meat side of the menu, I had made up my mind. Bife de lomo. A national favorite. A sure bet. A staple in steak. Gur teetered back-and-forth on his selection and finally settled on a cut that read “rump steak” in parenthesis, hoping for a rematch from the tango night experience. And though I have been wrong before on a “sure bet”, the traditional tenderloin of bife de lomo was sweet success. The one-two combination of sizzling steak topped with chimichurri (a concoction of olive oil, garlic, pepper and parsley) was simply perfection. Gur, on the other hand, would not find his rematch on this night. Somewhere lost in translation, what he thought would be, would not. Instead of a replicate of the rump steak from a few dinners past, a plate consuming cut-of-cow was served – thin, stringy, gristly. No amount of chimichurri was going to turn this into tenderloin. There was a lesson to be learned from this dinner-bout, and that is, the favorite is the favorite for a reason.

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So the next time the old pop-culture saying of “Where’s the beef?” pops-up, remember Clara Peller, her legacy and her strong longing for better, bigger beef. But more importantly, remember that the question has been answered; it had always been answered, just hidden under the nose of the American beef-consuming public in the cow-crazy land of Argentina.

Other delicious morsels that tantalized the taste-buds in Buenos Aires:

All things PUMPKIN. Found only around the holiday season in the States, pumpkin popped-up on almost every menu. It became my go-to side order of choice, from a bowl of pureed pumpkin alongside a steak for dinner to a slice of pumpkin and cheese torta (pie) to accompany my coffee at breakfast. In addition, pumpkin could also be found in the entrée section of the menu. At the only restaurant we went to twice, Cumana, I made it a point on the second venture to order the cazuela, a thick stew-like combination of pumpkin, corn and honey-cheese. I can only hope to find that option again someday. Marisa also jumped in on the pumpkin parade and one evening while Gur and I cut and chewed our way through another hunk of meat, she ordered up a spinach ravioli filled with pumpkin and cream cheese, drizzled with a vegetable stir-fry sauce – vegetarianism at its finest. It was so good that she “forgot” to offer me any as the sparks flew from her plate!

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Dulce de Leche. We first got a sample of this sweetness in Brazil, followed-up with Uruguay and now bombarded in Buenos Aires. Dulce de leche is a cousin of caramel and it most commonly takes the form of a spreadable option for breakfast croissants, toast, or rolls. Does Smuckers know about this stuff??? It’s taken over South America! When not used on your morning breads, you can find this sinful treat filling candy bars and pastries, adorning the tops of cakes and transforming into a non-forgiving flavor of ice cream. Umm… Gur, make sure to schedule a dentist appointment once your home.

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Pizza Pizza. Pizza is the universal food. It only makes sense. It can be as simple or complicated as you want and the ingredients can change to adapt the culture. Well in Argentina, they have adapted to perfection. The crusts aren’t overwhelmingly thick or crispy thin, the sauce doesn’t drip off the edges or down your chin, but the cheese, the cheese is what separates these pies from the rest. There is no need to order “double cheese, please” because each pizza comes loaded with heaps of fresh mozzarella. Salty, savory and creamy – no matter what fresh toppings are chosen [our favorites were: black and green olives, tomatoes, oregano, basil, red peppers (Gur and I snuck some ham in on one ‘za)]. I might have to say that the best pizza I have ever had has been in South America and Buenos Aires tops that list!

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Other Meats. To offset and balance our diet from the amount of steak consumption we were doing, Gur and I tried some other BA fan-favorites. A pounded-out chicken patty covered in a fried crunchy-coating, milanesa de pollo is not for the “lite” hearted cholesterol counter. This dish usually is topped with more melted cheese and a salsa for some nutritional value. It’s a good hearty meal, but should not become part of a weekly routine. While strolling through the zoo, Gur and I did what all true zoo-goers do, we ate a panchero (hotdog)! This was more for sentimental reasons than taste-testing (and like most hotdogs at theme parks, the buns were a bit stale and a bit big, while the dog came dripping from a pot of hot water). And last, but not least, from an invitation to a traditional family BBQ by Diego Rich, I ate blood sausage. Now most of you know how I enjoy a good sausage, but this was a new experience. Wrapped in a coating of some-kind-of intestinal lining, the mushy insides had a consistency more like sweet potatoes than pork. It was salty but with a hint of ginger. I don’t know exactly what this sausage was made of, I should have asked, but I enjoyed it. Good thing too, because Gur happily “shared” his helping with me. Cross another one off the list.

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Posted by triptime 12:59 Archived in Argentina Tagged food Comments (3)

Buenos Aires - Done and Done

by Marisa (with a hint of Izzy)

sunny 80 °F
View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

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Gur arrived just like a real-life Santa – toting luggage full of Christmas gifts from our families and with all kinds of updates and stories from friends back home. He was a sight for sore eyes and it was a treat having him with us for eleven days. As soon as we were checked in to the hotel, the planning began. Guide books were quoted, our city map was taped to the closet and we were off and running. I read Gur’s Fodor’s Guidebook in a day and we came up with a pretty good plan for seeing EVERYTHING we wanted to see by the time he left. Changing hotels every few days gave us a chance to see different parts of the city.

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Gur’s visit was a whole new kind of experience for us, and I must say, I got spoiled! Four different luxury hotels [Side note: some of the hotels wanted to charge as much as $50 extra dollars a night for the third person (me), so I had to sneak in and out incognito – felt Like I was back in high school hiding from the principal!], eating at restaurants every meal, taking taxis everywhere, shopping and going to high class dinner shows – what a life! I even got a pedicure and a haircut (although Izzy had to fix it because it was so crooked!). Maybe I should have known better from their advertisement…

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The boys slaughtered more cattle than I care to think about and although I opposed, I respected their wishes and silently nibbled on my salads while they devoured serving after serving of medium-rare meat. Gur drew the line at blood sausage, but Izzy just kept on trucking through, chalking up another tasting experience along the way. I have heard many a tale of vegetarians falling off the wagon in Buenos Aires. I made it through the experience without even contemplating touching a morsel of meat, but I did had a heyday with the world renowned ice creams and pizza. I overdid it so badly I think I’ll be sick if I think about it anymore, so I will leave the rest of the food descriptions to Izzy’s upcoming entry.

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Deepest impressions were made by: Watching the women (“Los Madres”) that lost children or grandchildren in the Dirty War of the ‘70s and ‘80s march in the Plaza de Mayo. The government at that time kidnapped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of activists and anyone who opposed the dictatorship. Children of those kidnapped were also taken away and given to new adoptive families. To this day, through DNA matching, the lost children of the Dirty War are being reunited with surviving relatives.

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Creepiest, yet most intriguing, involved: Visiting the historical and bizarrely morbid Recoleta Cemetary. The most important figures in Argentina’s history, including Eva Peron, are laid to rest in Recoleta. Every mausoleum is privately owned and therefore cared for by the family of the deceased, unless they are a historical figure, in which a military entity or government funded organization is responsible for the upkeep. Many of the properties have never been maintained and the deterioration of the facade means caskets are literally falling out of walls and on to the walkways. The statues on and around the mausoleums were mainly imported from Europe, ordered from a catalogue and shipped to Buenos Aires. There are many tragic tales and stories, of the now dead, that were quite disturbing. The worst story was that of Rufina, a 19 year-old girl who was entombed alive after being declared dead from an epileptic seizure. Upon waking from her coma a couple days later, she clawed the lid slightly open before having a heart attack and dying.

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Most unusual and non-eco friendly BA tradition:
Being showered with shredded paper that offices were throwing out their high rise windows Dec 29th. Apparently it is tradition to throw old papers out the window the last workday of the year. Paper was floating like tiny birds in the distance, covering the streets in white litter. It was surreal and strange and created quite a mess for the street sweepers the following days.

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Biggest coincidence of the 10 days: Running into the same family (mom, dad and twin six year-old girls) from New Jersey three times in completely different / random places throughout the city. 1) Izzy and I were behind the dad in line when we were taking the ferry to Uruguay mid December and 2) then he and his family were seated next to us at the huge Tango dinner show that we went to with Gur a few days after he arrived. And if that wasn’t strange enough, 3) we were waiting in line to get into a restaurant in Recoleta and they came out as we were going in. Being that Buenos Aires is a huge metropolis – it started getting a little strange.

Most satisfying day-trip on my own: Perusing the impressive and incredibly unique store-lined streets of Palermo. Many of the stores have hand-made clothes that little start-up designers make and if you get there at a good time (like after Christmas), there are incredible sales. I got rid of some of my dingier gear and picked up some cheerful Argentine threads. Now, I feel like a new (and more colorful) woman!

Biggest pain on the pocket-book: Finding out on New Year’s Eve that all grocery stores and cheap restaurants were closed and if we wanted to eat dinner, we were going to have to dish out around $100 a piece for the “End of the Year Party” (Fin del Año). We found the cheapest and most interesting option, beating out TGI Fridays and the Hooters party, when we stumbled upon Te Mataré, Ramirez, an erotic restaurant with a comedic erotic show and multi course dinner included. The direct translation of the name is “I’ll Kill You, Ramirez” and the night was as unusual as the name. The erotic show was quite comical but in order for Izzy and Gur to get the jokes I had to translate the dirty talk into English. What a way to bring in the new-year and jump-start 2009!

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So much more to tell you about, like: Walking El Caminito in Boca, strolling along the waterfront in Puerto Madero, dodging pigeons in Plaza de Mayo, circling “The Pink House”, thrifting in San Telmo, playing in the parks of Palermo and enjoying a parilla (bbq) with our friend Pat’s buddy Diego and his Argentine family on the roof of their apartment building, but I have to leave something for Gur and Izzy to write about!

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Thank you so much for joining and adding to our adventure señor Gur. The memories we created are as priceless as our growing friendship. We’ll hopefully see you on another leg of this worldly loop. We already miss you!

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For more pics of BA (and there are a ton!), click below:
http://s427.photobucket.com/albums/pp359/triptimephotos/TripTime/Buenos%20Aires/

Posted by triptime 07:52 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

A little rant from the road by yours truly

by Marisa

all seasons in one day
View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

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I’ve had a case of writers block for the last couple weeks since I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Being so far from friends and family during the holidays made us both a little melancholy, and to be honest, we are getting tired of constantly being on our toes. Traveling like this is hard. It’s much more difficult than I had expected. On one hand, I’m glad because challenge leads to growth, but its exhausting none-the-less!

The lack of organizations we are eligible to volunteer with in South America has been disappointing. The majority of programs we have found require a long term (three - six month) stay and/or thousands of dollars. With our experience with children, Izzy and I had thought there would be numerous opportunities to serve, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. I’ve come to accept the change in plans for now and I appreciate the various other aspects of our trip but hopefully there will be more volunteer work for us at our future destinations. Please contact us if you know of any places!

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One of my main reasons for this trip was to clear up what “I do” and “do not” want in life – to take the time to plan the life I want to create for myself. One of my first big realizations was that I need to live in, or around, nature. Granted, this continent has extenuated the negatives of city living but I think I have had it with them for good! I want to breathe clean air again and not be afraid of inhaling awful fumes or sickening smells. On hot days down here, the streets reek of the urine evaporating from the hot cement. Men pee everywhere and don’t even try to hide it. They just do their business wherever and whenever they please. Dogs are another part of the gross-factor. Their crap is all over the sidewalk, turning a leisurely stroll into a battlefield, dodging mini land mines. There are of course the many charms such as cute cafes, architecture, cobblestone streets, historical sites, colonial churches and boutiques that don’t exist in smaller towns, but I have had my fill of the good and the bad of city living and it’s time to move on.

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Due to my overwhelming nature craving and our desire to stay in one place for more than a couple of days at a time, we’ve changed our plans. We are now cutting our Argentina stint short and arriving a few weeks early in Chile. This will give us enough time to stay put for a month of so. Having a consistent routine and not packing up and moving out every 2 – 3 days will be a welcomed change of pace. I imagine our tent next to a lake, sleeping and waking early, cooking healthy food over the campfire… ahhhh… paradise!

An aspect of the trip that is consistently challenged is our relationship as a couple. Having to make joint decisions, taking each other into consideration every step of the way, has provided a few quarrels and disagreements, while strengthening our connection. I think living like this should be a prerequisite before marriage! We have gotten to know each other on a more profound level and have learned more about ourselves through the process as well. It’s impossible to sugarcoat my flaws, or his, when we are in each others presence all day (everyday) and constantly under stressful circumstances. But as much as our flaws have been exposed, we have also witnessed each others greater beauty, perseverance and instilled values even more so than before.

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I feel so blessed to be with Izzy and grateful that he has enough patience to keep up with my rollercoaster emotions and strong will. He’s not the average guy to be able to stick by this not-so-average woman, with my over-the-top directness and at times, manic whims. It’s strange to think that this time last year we didn’t even know each other… I am reminded everyday of how grateful I am that our paths have crossed. I hope we can continue to keep our humor every step of the way while exploring this crazy, yet magnificent world.

Posted by triptime 07:45 Archived in Argentina Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Christmas - Minus the roast beast

by Izzy

sunny 0 °F
View Izzy's Travel Itinerary on triptime's travel map.

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Back to the B.A. for Christmas Eve and Christmas, after being shutout on all possible host families and charity project options. We were a little bummed… ok, maybe more than a little. Christmas came and went on the rooftop of the sixth floor hostel in the empty Plaza de Mayo neighborhood. The sun was intense, the breeze refreshing, the view magnificent and the lounge chairs comfortable – conditions better suited for a summertime resort rather than Christmas. We watched The Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas via youtube.com , bought each other gifts without wrapping and enjoyed our Christmas feast in a small hostel kitchen minus the Who’s roast beast.

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But like the Grinch’s change of heart and Charlie Brown’s tree transformation, this holiday tale also had a happy ending. We shared a Christmas Eve toast with 30 complete strangers from all over the world, embracing all language, religion and culture during this special time of year. We have welcomed our good friend Gur Rashal (the day after Christmas) to our travels and have been blessed by his companionship, humor and generosity – along with his valor in toting all of the gifts our families had sent us. And most of all, through the kindness of our readers, we were able to raise $950 for the orphanage and school – enabling the kids to receive books on Christmas morning… a gift that truly keeps on giving.

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It was our first Christmas together, and a memorable one at that, but deep down, we know there will be many more promising Holiday seasons to come – back with family and friends! So thank you for contributing in our Christmas wish and keep on reading the blog, we promise many more intriguing tales and travel tidbits in 2009 – we are just warming up!

Posted by triptime 07:38 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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