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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 2, Mendoza Argentina


I took that shot from inside Leon Bar and Cafe, I used my small Panasonic Lumix, It's a story teller, I used the table and newspaper as a first layer in the composition to situate the story and added to it, if you do street photography try to add layer to help the viewer understand what's happening. I converted to B and W to keep out distractions, and add sepia to give it an old look.

Another week of running around trying to get settled! I went back to Direct TV to request an answer about the installation, and for the third time they assured me that it was going to be done by the end of the week, ya right, nobody called us, we are still without TV and getting used to it, I checked their website and the wait time is in between 5 to 25 days, nothing we can do about, and that exactly what I am going to do, I will wait.  I don’t like Direct TV, very poor customer service, don’t get me wrong they are very polite when lying to their customers.
On the other hand our internet provider is the best in the country, we are lucky to be located where we are as their service is not covering every neighborhoods of the city yet. They are very expensive compared to other providers, ITC our provider use fiber optic instead of the satellite dish and that’s one the reason they are more expensive. 
When I went to their office to get the service the sales rep. told me 10 days max for the installation, it was done in 6, I called them and made the arrangement by phone and believe me my Spanish is not that great, but the clerk took the time to listen to me, and because he couldn’t answer me right away he told me that he didn’t want me to wait on the line and that he was going to call me back in 10 minutes, and he did, other provider like Direct TV will make you wait on the line for ever, and a lot of the time the line will cut before you get an answer. 

ITC was schedule to do the installation Saturday at 11am, they arrived around 10:30, the technician spoke a perfect English, did the installation answered all our questions, gave us his cell phone number in case we got problem with the service or if we want to upgrade the router, the connection works perfectly. Now that we have the internet and VOP phone line attached to it, the TV doesn’t seem so important!
We went back to Carrefour on Tuesday to buy our office furniture, Carrefour is like Super Store in Canada, we bought our TV and vacuum there a week ago and the service was amazing they delivered on time, we assumed it was pure luck! But they did it again, on time again, and when I say on time it means the exact time not one minute before or after.
The furniture arrived in boxes and we had to put them together, with a lot of persistent and two screwdrivers we were done in 2 days.
Marc trying to figured how to start building our office furniture.

Marc studying the plan.

Took us 2 days to build 2 desks with 2 screwdrivers!!!
Enough about the settling down, lets speak about food, the price of vegetable is very low down here, compare to North America, butternuts squash are about 50 cent US per Kg, and they are very sweet, I am buying only seasonal fruits and vegetables, don’t forget we are in winter down here, and the seasonal veggies are squashes, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, broccolis, artichokes etc.…, seasonal fruits are lemons, oranges, grapefruits, berries, apples and pears, no plums or grapes yet. 
Their cheeses are very good and about haft price compare to Alberta or even less, as an example Stilton Blue Cheese is $12US per kg.
I have to find out a bit more about the price of meat, but ham choices here are overwhelming, regular smoked ham over 30 varieties same thing for the prosciutto dry cured ham you better figured out what you want before is your turn to order, the price varied depending of the processing, the quantity of fat, quality of the meat, the provenance, it can be confusing, my pick was a regular smoke ham the at the top of the range and price, I paid $11US per Kg and it’s very good.  The best nuts I found so far are walnuts, so fresh it’s amazing and very expensive, $24US per Kg, 

I did a local recipe Thursday night using half of a butternut squash. 
The way they do it here, they skinned it, cubed part of the flesh keeping the shell, mix whatever quantity of walnuts, blue cheese, ham and the cube flesh filling the shell with the mixture, "I had 1/2 onion and 3 cloves of garlic' cooked it in the microwave with a bit of water for 10 to 12 minutes checking with a fork from time to time to make sure it’s not overcook, it was extremely good healthy, cheap and easy.


I bought a” bolsa de compras, it’s a grocery bag on wheels, lined to keep the food fresh inside, down here it’s very fashionable and I shopped around to find the most fashionable one, it’s an important wardrobe article as women carried this bag all the time, most women are doing their errands and groceries walking, it’s an essential articles, and I had to get one, mine was very expensive $40US, and I love it.



A tip for people that intend to come down here for holidays or for sabbaticals, the USD is king here, doesn’t matter from where you are from get some USD in your country before getting here, the exchange for USD is great here, right now it’s about 13 pesos per USD on the blue market, and it’s legal, hotels will gave up to 12pesos per USD. One thing to understand is not to get crazy and change all you USD at the same time, you don’t want to be cut with too much pesos, as they can disappears anytime, Argentina change their pesos 3 times the last 30 years and the locals told us that it will happen again soon. I always calculate the price of things by dividing by 10, it’s easier.

Our projects,

  • Marc is working on starting a club for artists from musician to painter, all arts, he will meet with David the owner and manager of Leon Bar and Café this coming Thursday, the club will use Leon as the meeting point, we had our first meeting Saturday, will keep you updated.

  •  My project is to start a photography club, and give workshops around Mendoza, hoping to start the first of Oct.






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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tupungato Volcano



I was showing one my mountain shot that I took from the plane between Mendoza and Santiago to David the manager at Leon Café Bar, when he saw that shot he told  me hey this is  a great shot of Tupungato.
I found out that it is one of the highest mountain in America 21 681’/6570mts, an old volcano, the last eruption was in 1986, not that long ago, it’s considered as the highest active volcano in the world! That massive mountain sit between the border of Chile and Argentina, on the Chilean side close by Santiago and on the Argentinian side at the entrance of the Province of Mendoza about 100k south of Aconcagua the highest peak of the Americas south and north.
Apparently a plane crashed on it in 1947 on the Argentine side, and because the massive amount of snow, the little plane disappears and was found more than 50 years later in 2000.
If you want to climb it, theirs is tours, Tupungato is not a dangerous peak, cannot compare to the extremely dangerous Aconcagua, it is a more relaxing climb, in an amazing surrounding over 20,000 glaciers, it’s not cheap, about $4000USD and that’s not include your flight to Santiago or Mendoza Argentina, the best months for climbing are Dec, Jan, Feb, and March. 
Canon 5Dmarkiii, Canon 24-105 at 82mm, f14, 1/800sec, ISO200



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Monday, August 25, 2014

First week back in Mendoza


Great Wine


It took us a while to rest, it was a very long trip and we did go out after landing in Mendoza, we needed to enjoy an evening out, the weather was so nice, and we were so happy to be back.
During this first week we stayed at Soltiga an apart hotel few blocks from our place, we booked a studio for 6 nights, one of the reason was to stay connected the other the TV!!! We didn’t pass all the nights there on Thursday we passed our first night back in our place, no internet no TV!
It’s not easy to get all the services reconnected to our name, previously we had a management company that was doing it all, when we decided to come back to stay they disconnected some services like the internet, the phone and TV that were under their name, that save us some money too.
To reconnect can be very difficult, and our management company part owner and friend Frank gave us the name of an Argentine that works as an interpret, I contacted her before we arrived to discuss her services, our first meeting was Monday Aug. 18, we couldn’t do too much that day because that was a civic holiday, but we had lunch at a cafe close to my house, got acquainted and made plan to do as many meetings as we can the following day.

Corner cafe close to our house
We got together Tuesday around 10am at the ITC office “internet provider” things when very well, I had to give them my passport and a proof of ownership for the house, after I signed the agreement and because I am a foreigner I needed to pay 6 months in advance, I didn’t had the money on me, and asked if I could bring the money the following morning, they agreed.  After we went to the city office for the water bill, they requested a copy of the proof of ownership, we found out that the bill was already under our name, the clerk told us that all the services attached to our house were under our name, she said that the paper were done by a notary and everything was fine, what a relief.

Next was the most important the TV provider, I took the most completed package, so many channels, with recording option, not cheap about $70 Canadian per month, but it’s the most comprehensive package I ever saw, a lot better than the one we had in Canada.
Again showed all my papers, signed the agreement, and on our way, we were done in less than 2 hours, my new friend and helper Alejandra when on her way and I decided to take my time to go back to my place as I was walking my cell phone rang, it was the sales guys from the TV provider, even if I understand Spanish on the telephone it’s another story, but I knew that something was wrong and that they requested someone to sign for me, at the beginning I supposed that was only as a reference, and I asked him to call me back around 7 that evening. That evening we were meeting with one of our friend from Oakland, and Alejandra was coming to pick up our old tube TV, as we were getting a new flat screen TV. 
It turned out that they didn’t want only a reference they wanted someone to be the titular of the account for us with a social insurance number, foreigners cannot get that service even if they pay in advance, our friend from Oakland his an Argentine resident but not a citizen and couldn’t sign for us, when Alejandra arrived at our place to pick up the TV, she offered to be our titular, so nice of her to do that for us, we barely know her.

It will take few more weeks to get everything connected, the waiting time varied between 7 up to 14 days, even if the sales guy tell you that he will push it, that never happens the average waiting time is 10 days.

When we bought our TV, vacuum and electric pan Tuesday afternoon, we asked for delivery, we bought everything at Carrefour, it’s like Superstore in Canada, the salesman said you’ll get it Thursday around 4pm, which works perfect for us as we were having a meeting that evening with Pablo our lawyer he is taking care of our house insurance. Thursday morning I received a phone call from Carrefour driver he was in the neighborhood and wanted to bring our stuff right away, I was not even close to my house and I told him that the salesman said at 4pm, and he agreed to come back around that time.
Exactly at 4pm that afternoon our stuff was delivered, a lot of locals told us that we were more than lucky that nobody is never on time, but he was, and we will try Carrefour delivery again as we need to buy a computer desk.

We have been going out every nights for drinks with friends, people that we didn’t see for more than 3 years, it seems that nothing change, it feel almost like we never left, a very strange feeling.
Friday night we when out with our friend, Brian and Frank, they were the owner of Apartment Mendoza our management company, they closed it down few months back, too much work not enough revenue, and Brian is very busy with his other businesses, Subways and internet cafés.

They been keeping all the records and bills since we bought the place in 2008, they took possession for us, and furnished it with taste buying everything from the bed to the pots and pans, without them we couldn’t do it. Our place is perfect for us, its a townhouse, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, big kitchen and living room on 2 floors, we were supposed to get it  repaint, but instead Marc will paint his art directly on the wall, I will also have some of my work print and frame to add my personal touch, it’s big enough for the two of us, I am using the spare bedroom to store all my stuff, both bedrooms have closet wall unit,  we were able to put all of our clothing in, we don’t need winter stuff down here, winter is like our fall, and this past week was very warm, not a day under 26C, the normal is between 14 and 20C during the day, and 0 to 5C at night means no need for big closet!

Our living, we changed our TV for a flat screen, gave this big one away to a friend

Living and kitchen

The perfect kitchen
We had diner to one of the best restaurant in Mendoza, Ana Bistro, the owner Gerome is French he moved to Mendoza in early 2000 and opened that amazing French Bistro, 2 years ago one of his friend a pastry chef from France agreed to move here to open a pastry place just few steps from the bistro, the best bread in town.

We arrived first and very early around 6:30, the norms here is more around 9, 9:30pm, we ordered 2 specialty beers, shortly after our friends arrived and ordered drinks and appetizers, after what we decided to order wine bottles, Brian, Frank and I had salmon in cognac, extremely good, Marc had a vegetarian dish, that look so good “a mix of rice, cereal and all kind of vegetables and nuts”, I will have that next time, we finished with lemon pies, coffee and cognac, the cost including the tip was 1500 pesos  for the four of us that’s around $150US, in reality it’s less as the pesos exchange for US dollars on the black market “it’s legal”, is about 13 pesos per US$, but to simplify calculation we always divided by 10! And we are Canadian, means it’s a bit more for us. In Calgary standard this was very inexpensive diner, drinking 3 good bottle of wines would off cost a lot more in Calgary than the full meal all together. 

Ana Bistro outside sitting area

Ana at night


Baked Cheese, amazingly good!!!


Price is relative down here most of things are less expensive than in Canada and US, in general the average cost of living is probably less than half compare to Calgary.
Wine and beer are extremely affordable, even in bar and restaurant. 

The Marketo Central, 15 min walk from our house



 

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