Sunday, September 20, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I got to relive a bit of the Chivas life last week when the company invited me (as a journalist, not a former ambassador) to attend the press conference in Buenos Aires where they unveiled their latest ad campaign...the "Living the Chivas Life" ads are officially history, replaced by "Live with Chivalry." Not as catchy in my selfish opinion, but it was a nice touch that the TV ad was filmed here in Argentina. Check it out:
Saturday, February 21, 2009
NYE in Rio 2008-09
It was a last-minute decision and one we long wanted to make. A friend in Rio was going back to the U.S. for the holidays and said we could crash at his apartment, one block off Ipanema beach and with its own indoor hammocks. We flew up in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer for 96 hours of sitting at the beach, sipping Amazonian fruit drinks, and partying in Copacabana on New Years Eve with 2 million people and 8 cruise ships angling for the best view in the bay.
The dress code for NYE in Rio is all white, and hundreds of people were lighting candles and tossing flowers into the breakers to promote peace for the coming year. I expected the whole scene to be a little out of control, just how I imagine New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Along the road in Copa, you could buy everything from stomach-churning shrimp on a stick to tequila shots. Our favorite stand was a couple who set up with about 20 different kinds of cachaca and made the best caipirinhas we've ever had. We rented a couple chairs on the beach and settled in to listen to samba and watch fireworks.
Rio is bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games, and New Years Eve was clearly a night when they wanted to start promoting themselves for the years to come. We've posted some photos in the column to the right.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Just back from 5 days on the Patagonian coast with Dana and Sara -- a belated graduation present to Sara now that she's been living in Argentina for over two months. We started off at Gaiman, one of the Welsh villages Bruce Chatwin visited while writing "In Patagonia" some 30 years ago. People are still speaking Welsh there and the government of Wales gives scholarships to high school students to study at Welsh universities.
From Gaiman we set out to the Valdes Peninsula, an isolated, wind-swept Mecca for marine fauna, including southern right whales, elephant seals, penguins and petrels. The right whales are curious enough to come right up to the boats while the elephant seals eyed us warily, heading into the water if we got too close. We had time to wander beaches covered with 200 million-year-old oyster fossils while basing ourselves at a lighthouse-turned-hotel situated on the peninsula's southeast corner. All in all, a great trip to an amazing corner of this country. Photos to the right and an 8-second video of two whales approaching our boat below. Enjoy.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Before Dana left for a month in Khartoum, pretty much all I knew about Sudan was that Darfur is a mess and the country is bigger than all of western Europe. Over the past four weeks, strict security requirements prevented Dana from seeing much of the city (and she's not heading out into the countryside, where most of the aid work is focused), but like previous assignments in Iraq and East Timor, she's managed to ferret out opportunities to understand both the country and its people as best she can.
The photo above was taken her first week. That's the Blue Nile behind her...Khartoum is at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, which then heads a few thousand miles north to Egypt and the Mediterranean. She's tolerated a chain of haboobs (strong sand storms that send grit everywhere and into everything), seen herds of camels crowding around the airport's runway, broke the Ramadan fast with colleagues and new friends and met refugees from the 2004 tsunami restarting their lives in the African desert.
Dana gets back this week and I hope to post an album to the right. Check back soon.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Back to the Altiplano
Made our first trip to the province of Salta, in northwest Argentina, last month. We skipped the sights in the provincial capital for a 5-hour drive over winding unpaved roads to Estancia Colomé, a labor of love built up over the last 7 years by Donald Hess, the owner of Napa's Hess Wineries.
Hess swooped into Salta in 2001 as the economy was crumbling and picked up 40,000 hectares, including a couple small towns and a winery built in the early 1800s. The place has been transformed and, he says, produces the world's highest altitude wines (some vineyards are at close to 10,000 feet). The estancia grows most of its own food, makes its own butter, cheese and yogurt and has a network of horseback trails that had us gripping desperately to our saddles. We've posted some photos to the right.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Maté and Abu
We were walking back from dinner a few months ago when Dana spied an eight-week-old kitten on a busy street corner, a likely refugee from one of the parks near our home that are filled with feral cats. We decided we couldn't leave her there. I scooped her up in my palm and after a thorough scrubbing in the tub and a trip to the vet the next morning, Maté (named after the traditional Argentine drink) was given a clean bill of health and introduced to her older brother Abu. The two get after each other fairly regularly, but most of the time they seem to enjoy each other's company.
Argentina has been convulsed, and foreign journalists tortured, by four-months of farmer protests against the government's new agricultural taxes. The drama has cost President Cristina most of her public support (last poll: 20%), one cabinet minister and plenty of investor confidence, but she and her husband have held firm. The debate took a turn for the weird when Cristina finally sent her proposal, already in effect, to Congress. Government supporters brought in a giant inflatable penguin, a favorite symbol of the presidential couple, to the plaza in front of Congress, prompting farmers to respond with an inflatable bull. The debate continues, but when the lower house voted yesterday to back the taxes, the farmers chances of overturning the taxes got even slimmer. Click on the link above to read my take on the battle of the dirgibles.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Finally made our first trip down to Patagonia -- a week-long visit to El Calafate (the president's hometown) and El Chalten, a town built from scratch in the 1980s to ward off Chile's claims to the region. We debated the Calafate visit -- we worried its iconic Perito Moreno glaciar would just be too touristy after back-country trips in Alaska -- but it was worth it. And El Chalten, a town made for hikers and climbers, was gorgeous. We left with plans for our next visit already hatched. Check out the photos to the right.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Out and About: Jerusalem
Dana returned from 9 weeks in Israel last month, helping manage U.S. aid programs for Palestinians. We flew my mom out to join us for a week and, despite flare-ups between the IDF and Hamas in Gaza, we managed to see a good swath of both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The most surreal experience was driving mom to Bethlehem...after missing the turn-off for a border checkpoint, the road abruptly ended at what looked like a maximum-security prison. We sat there for a few seconds wondering where we had gone wrong when it hit us that the imposing wall and guard tower weren't part of a prison per se, but the new border wall that has caused such controversy in the region. We backed up to the border crossing, passed the sign saying "Israeli's not allowed" and spent the afternoon exploring the town where Jesus was born.
History in Old Jerusalem stares at you from every alley and corner. With some help from Dana, we joined an embassy-only tour of the Dome of the Rock (above) and Al-Aqsa Mosque, right near the Western Wall, peered in at the living quarters of Ethiopian priests living on top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then gorged on hummos and falafel in the Armenian Quarter.
Photos of our trip are attached to the link at the right. Patagonia shots on the way next.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Boating in Tigre
Bloomberg's bureau chief in Buenos Aires is a boating and fishing fanatic, so my colleague Eliana and I took advantage of his offer to spend a day motoring through the sinuous waterways of the Uruguay and Parana river delta, generally just known as Tigre. A lot of porteños keep weekend homes in the delta which can only be reached by boat. Some are rundown, others gaudy, and one -- which belonged to former President Domingo Sarmiento -- is encased in a giant glass box.*
Restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts cater to the weekend crowd so we joined a full-fledged asado at Los Pecanes, a restaurant/pousada founded by a British-Argentine. I'll try to post a few photos of our trip shortly.
(*Trivia about Sarmiento: he helped lead Argentina to war against Paraguay in the late 19th century, but then decided to retire there after leaving the presidency. For those of you who visited us, Sarmiento has one of the first mausoleums you see when entering Recoleta cemetery.)
Monday, February 04, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Mom took the oath of office yesterday and is officially a U.S. citizen now. She was one of a handful of Brazilians sworn-in by a state judge originally from Guyana. All told, there were about 300 people from 65 countries at the ceremony. Mom was interviewed by our local paper, Florida Today, but her quotes weren't used. You can read the story here.
We'll post a few more photos in the coming days. And thanks to everyone who emailed or called with their support. It's meant a lot.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The fossil remains of a 2,000-pound rodent -- imagine something bigger than a cow -- were identified by a couple of underpaid scientists across the river in Uruguay last week. The skull of the 2-million year old creature, which looks more like a capybara than a rat to me, was sitting in Uruguay's natural history museum for 10 years before anyone had the time and money to look into it. Click the blog title for a link to the story.
One of the scientists told me the skull was found by an amateur paleontologist strolling a beach near Colonia, the old city that is just a 45-minute ferry ride from Buenos Aires. The image above shows the rodent's head compared to its only living relative, the endangered pacarana. Who knows what else is sitting in the museum's basement.
Dana update from Jerusalem coming soon! Maybe today.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Alejandro Antonini flew from Caracas to Buenos Aires on a private jet paid for by Argentina's state energy company, arriving at 2:45am with $800,000 of undeclared cash in his suitcase. When the "bomba" above caught him with the cash, he decided to abandon it rather than pay half in fines. Why he was there, where the cash was from, and who it was going to were the subject of a long investigation by all of us in the Buenos Aires bureau and a handful of colleagues in the U.S. The link to our much-longer-than-normal story is attached to the title.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Felices Fiestas from Buenos Aires
There was an empty spot at our table last night for Dana's mother, Robyn, who had her flight to Buenos Aires canceled twice (!) and never made it to our Christmas Eve dinner at the Cabana Las Lilas. This is our second Christmas in Argentina but only our fourth together since 1994.
Since Thanksgiving, when we went to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a Bloomberg meeting, we've hit a couple beach towns: the island of Florianopolis in southern Brazil and Argentina's Mar del Plata. Photos are attached to the right.
For the nth year in a row, we'll promise to do a better job updating this site in the new year, including email updates from Dana's upcoming eight-week trip to Jerusalem (I'm hoping to visit her there in early February). Check back soon.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Election Time for the Penguina
Sunday is election day here in Argentina. President Nestor Kirchner's wife, Cristina Fernandez, looks headed to a comfortable first-round win. My preview of the mixed legacy her husband is likely to hand her can be found here.
A few of us in the Argentine journalism community have taken a special point of pride in not using the words "Hillary" or "Evita" in these stories, although U.S. editors have probably pushed most of us to wedge them in somewhere. Fortunately mine didn't. The lack of debates or any other real drama in this three-month campaign hasn't made it easy to write about, but in a country where a "long-term" view usually means 12 months, it could be an interesting second term for los Kirchner.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Buenos Aires Update
It's been a long winter of no blogging here in Buenos Aires. We've been busy with visitors and travel...by the end of the year, Dana and I will probably have traveled to almost as many countries as we did with Chivas. In South America, we've only missed Paraguay and the Guyanas this year, but there's still time for that...
So far this winter and spring we've hosted soon-to-be newlyweds Sue and Tino, Bill's college roommate Brian and his wife Annie (above), Bill's mom and aunt from Brazil and Dana's cousin Chris, who singlehandedly doubled our iPod library. More of you will be on the way soon we hope.
It's also election week here in Argentina, so while Dana heads back to DC for a few days of work and a reunion at the Stanford house, Bill's going to be covering the almost inevitable victory of Cristina Kirchner, the current president's wife. More on that later. For now, we're posting a few photos from a busy winter/spring, including shots from our trip to the Boca Juniors-River Plate "superclasico" soccer game a few weeks ago.