Tuesday, July 31, 2007

El Asado

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Every weekend and public holiday, rain, snow or sunshine, the city of Ushuaia is enveloped in a cloud of smoke from the multitude of los Asados and the smell of cooking meat penetrates everything. The local el supermercado and la carniceria are full of shoppers in the morning buying the meats, vegetables and naturally the la cerveza and el vino to accompany el asado and around mid day the plumes of smoke start to rise all over the city. On public holidays there is a very heavy smoke cover as everyone seems to be cooking outdoors and the smell is very strong.
The traditional Asado is Cordero or lamb, but all sorts of meats are used from sausages, offal, cuts of beef and of course the cordero and just like the good ol' Aussie bar-b-que the blokes are outside with the fire, the meat and the los cervezas. The weather isn't as conducive to eating outside as it is in Australia but the cooking is certainly done outside.
The apparatus, called a chulengo, varies greatly from just a simple grate over the fire to more elaborate structures and this is a pretty typical style cooker. I have seen the guys out with the welding gear creating very elaborate structures and have seen cookers on balconies, front yards and back yards - wherever there is a space.
PS One of my English students told me last night that it isn't a Sunday unless they have an Asado, and as he is a fisherman his favourite Asado is fish.

Tenedor Libre

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
If you aren't lucky enough to have space for an Asado or live in un depto you can enjoy your bar-b-que or asado in any of restaurants in town, where they have a set price, eat all you can "tenedore libre" or literally free fork, lunch. A number of the restaurants put this on every day, particularly those out of town at the tourist stops, but the weekend is the busy time when lots of the locals can be seen enjoying their parrilla. Early morning the truck delivers the cordero (lamb) and the chef starts the fire in the window of the restaurant . When it's ready the cordero starts roasting slowly over the fire and for the next few hours all that end of town smells of the roasting meat. As a vegetarian it's not my thing, much to the disappointment of people here, who tell me it's a MUST, one of the dishes of the region.
The lunch is a buffet style with salads and vegetables to self serve and the roasted meat is served on a drip tray style stand and is refilled as often as required from the kitchen. From what I have seen the cut of meat is very different to what I am accustomed to seeing in Oz and is served with all the fat and appears to be all bone and fat, but everyone seems to love it and comes back for lots more. I know that all the offal is also cooked and served, but I would prefer not to think about that part of it.
Every Sunday most of the "tenedore libre" restaurants are filled with locals in large family groups enjoying their parrilla.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Yesterday, Thursday 26th July, in heavy snow a small group of people gathered to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón, the “spiritual leader of Argentinians, who passed into immortality at the age of 33” Diario Prensa viernes 27 de julio 2007

“Evita continues as valid as in her time"

Living on a Peat Bog

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Much of the land around Ushuaia is actually Turbal or peat and therefore a bog and always wet. There are areas where it is cut and processed outside the city, but there is also a large area within the city boundaries that is enclosed by a barb-wire fence.
But family by family squatters have been moving onto the bog and building. At first it was tents and plastic sheeting stretched over a frame, but the structures are becoming more and more permanent in appearance. In summer it was bad enough, as the Turbal is always wet, but can you imagine it now after the rain and the snow? I went by yesterday and took the photos, and discovered that the suburb, it is now called 10 de febrero, has grown and the structures a lot more solid. Originally there were 7 living there, and this has now grown to 35 people, including kids.
An article in the local paper on Wednesday said that the council has signed an agreement with the occupants of 10 de febrero to provide them with essential services, water, and power and chemical toilets in exchange for a promise from the inhabitants that they will control the numbers and not allow any new squatters. The services will be installed outside the squatter area but for their use. Included in the agreement is the promise of re-locating those on the present register to another suburb at a later date.

The signing of the accord… does not generate any rights for the occupants over the land they occupy………

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Supermercado especial...

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
After the first heavy snowfall several weeks ago the local supermarket was very quick off the mark with the snow shovels, and it looks like they sold heaps. There were quite a few of them out there this morning, and I think I will see a lot more of them today as it is snowing very heavily again. Every time the sun appears I get ready to venture out with the camera, but minutes later we are back to the white stuff.
The snow we had several weeks ago was the heaviest they have had in the town since 1995 and they had snow and freezing weather throughout Argentina, including Buenos Aires, which is the equivalent to snow in Sydney. That was the first for almost a century.
It surprised me that they don't have a lot of snow here in the city and that they were so unprepared for it in many ways. The collectivo, the local bus service coped a fine for not providing their "advertised" service, there were some hills they just couldn't get up and services were discontinued for a while in some areas and the council didn't do a particularly job on the road clearing either.
We shall see what this storm brings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Las Cortinas

Las Cortinas
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
And speaking of curtains...... they seem to have a slightly different use here, usually only as a frothy sort of window dressing. Most are so thin you could shoot peas through them, as my mum used to say. They don't keep out the light or form any sort of insulation. As there is a street light directly outside my window, I have improvised a little in the bedroom, as you can see. With all that light in the summer I had no hope of sleeping.
It does amaze me though, that everyone looked at me in amazement when I said we use curtains as a form of insulation, I haven't seen any here that are thick or have a reflective backing. Some houses have double glazing, but the majority don't and I would suggest that there are many where the wind whistles through all sorts of gaps. I have used a whole roll of Gaffa tape to block the holes.The curtains don't do a lot to insulate but they help.

El Rito del Mate.....vos sabés de que hablo.....

The Mate Ritual Ushuaia 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
It's a simple infusion, with an unmistakable flavour, that, if one tastes it seriously, you will find that it's not tasty, nor is it awful:......it's just mate.

To take mate is to share a friendship, with one or with all the people around and is a very serious ritual here

...... the simple mate is nothing more and nothing less than a demonstration of values.....

The preparation and serving of mate is a very important part of the ritual. It's made from a plant the "yerba mate" that is not a tea but is a stimulant. The water mustn't boil, it makes the yerba more bitter, but the kettle goes on and off the heat all the time as the drinking vessel - a hollowed out gourd is traditional, is refilled and handed to the next person. The person who prepares the mate takes the first drink and continues to prepare it for each of the participants. All share the same bombilla or "straw" much to the horror of non Argentinians, and one drinks until you hear the empty straw, usually only several good sips. The mate is then passed back and a new one poured and passed to the next participant.
During the ritual is the time to talk and to listen. If you do not wish to have any more you say "thank you" and you are not handed the mate again. After a while the yerba becomes "washed out", it may be replaced or everyone continues with their day. To be invited to take mate is to be part of the group and is part of the everyday life throughout Argentina and some other South American countries.

...so to share a mate, dear friend, ahora vos sabes, .....it's not only the mate...

When shall we share mate?

Feeling Safe

Ushuaia is a city in which I have always felt safe and never worried about possessions being stolen, unlike some of the larger South American cities. I had a run in with a bag cutter/purse stealer in Cusco, but retained the purse and lost my camera to a snatcher in Quito, but Ushuaia has never imparted that feeling of unease or concern that others cities do.
People leave their cars open with engines running while they warm up, leave them fully packed and open in the street, I have seen bags, mobile phones and cameras left on tables. The material bag I use here I wouldn't dream of using in a larger city, I would loose the lot in moments. Although there is crime here it certainly isn't as prevalent as in many other cities.
I walk everywhere and have never felt uncomfortable about where I was or what time of the day or night it was. I am not saying that I am not aware and usually pretty careful but I feel safe.
I hope it always stays this way.

The interesting thing about walking is that I have noticed that very few, if any people make eye contact. I am certainly used to eye contact and usually a smile when walking, but very few here look at passers by. I wonder why?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Daily Clean Up

Ushuaia 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Every day, very early the team of cleaners are out sweeping and cleaning throughout the city. I have a dumping point opposite and this guy brings his barrow loads and piles them here. Later in the day, depending on the size of the pile, along comes either the garbage truck and collects the pile or for large piles its the front end loader or bobcat and the truck.
It means the city is clean, but it also means lots of people just throw their rubbish down exactly where they are. I have heard mothers telling los niños to drop their rubbish within feet of a rubbish bin, and there are lots of rubbish bins. People also tend to dump their rubbish from cars. Often the dogs get into the heap opposite and every dog always checks the area on the way past.
Rubbish goes out in supermarket bags and often the dogs and birds get into these before they are collected and there are just so many plastic bags everywhere. They are always surprised in the supermarket when I produce my own carry bag.
But for a while every day the city is clean.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Million Dollar Views

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Things in my depto might be starting to fall apart - the washing machine, the tiles lifting etc, and los perros still go ballistic with monotonous regularity, but I have Million Dollar Views. Which has made it all worth while.
You just have to look past the ugly buildings and backyards on the one side and the power lines and poles on the other and my vistas are absolutely spectacular. Every day is different and the mountains and colours are just spectacular. I have Mt Olivia and Los 5 Hermanos from the kitchen, and the Glacier Martial and the mountains in Chile on the other side. I can watch the storms coming in from Chile and the snow moving across the mountains, and of course observe life on the ground.
I have become almost obsessive with the camera and every day I am entranced by the changes - both from my windows and out and about. Sunrise and sunset are spectacular.
The flat above me, with the never sleeping nena, has even better views, as the power lines don't intrude,I got to go up and have a look when the tenants changed. But would you believe they never, and I mean never, open the curtains. One is pegged back half way and that's the most I have ever seen it. I don't think the bedroom ever sees the light of day.
Me, estoy enamorado con los colores y las vistas, and I can't get enough of them!


Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Or maybe I am just getting old....... it's true. I had wanted to do the dog sled bit and finally organised myself to go. Beautiful spot and one of those magic monochromatic days that became even more enchanting when the snow started to fall later in the day.
The ride in the sled...... well, sounds wonderful.....but: great for we tourists I guess. We all took one look at the dogs and commented on how skinny they were, and totally disinterested! I guess we expected the big fluffy Huskies and most of these are cross bred of all varieties - more like wolves actually, but they don't have them here. The disinterest lasted for most of the trip, until we hit the home stretch when finally the speed increased. The route we followed is actually the dog's toilet, and the first thing I did when I got home was hit the shower - all I could smell was........
Logically they don't like to leave their mess around their kennels, so the route is littered with messages, and of course they all continually stop to sniff and produce more. I was very glad that the outward journey was pretty slow as it didn't throw up any..thing.
The views were spectacular and I met some interesting travel companions, I did enjoy the day.
Lunch was, naturally, the Cordero, or lamb done over the fire, which my companions thoroughly enjoyed. Me I had the salad. Maybe I have to rethink this vegetarian bit! Just joking, but everyone really enjoyed the lamb and they kept bringing out more. This is of course how they make their money and Tierra Del Fuego is famous for it's Cordero.

I had played with the idea of a night ride en el trineo con los perros, but I think I have got over that one.
But it does sound romantic.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

El Video

Ushuaians 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
When you don't have a tv and you get tired of talking/listening to yourself - where do you head? For me it was the local Video shop, 2 minutes walk away, depending on the weather.
Once it started to get dark and much colder earlier I decided that home was the place to be and although the computer provides plenty of options for listening and watching, once the internet goes down, things go pretty quiet. So videos have become a source of entertainment and education.
I started choosing those in Spanish only and have watched just about all of them I think,( and caught up on all the new releases, with Spanish subtitles of course) and my friend in the video shop, Carlos Alberto, has recommended many excellent Spanish language movies. Recently there have been a number produced that cover the years of the Military Dictatorships here, and I must admit they are very difficult to watch at times, but certainly provide an insight into the history of Argentina.
I have also learned lots about local life and Argentinian life from my amigo del Video. Muchas gracias amigo.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Los Niños

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
The kids here keep very different hours to we who are of good old British stock.
For one thing, school is either morning or afternoon in the public system. The morning classes starting at around 8.00 and going through till 12.00 or 12.30, then the afternoon session starting around 1.00 until 5.00 or 5.30 - all depending on the school. So there are always kids around, in shops and in the streets.
Then we get to bed times!!!! The kids are around all the time and seem to keep the same times as their parents. I guess if you don't eat till 9.00 or 10.00 at night you don't go to bed for another hour or two.
There is a nena upstairs who is probably 8ish, and I would say there are very few nights that she is in bed before me. Most nights she is still running around at 11.30. Often she and her mother are not home until 11.00.
Now I know why I never wanted to live in a flat, it was much quieter when my upstairs neighbour was a mostly single male. Enough said!

Anyone for Rugby?

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
The competition was fierce and the games very serious with a trophy awaiting the winners. Didn't get to see the final game, but there were a few teams and apparently this is a regular event up on the snow fields. Some of the guys looked like they belonged on an Aussie field in summer, not on the snow in winter - no gloves, no leggings......... crazy!

The Humble Aussie Peeler????

Ushuaia Winter 2007
Originally uploaded by agypsy.
Unfortunately,like just about everything else these days, the label said "Made in China", but to me it will always be an Aussie peeler.
Thanks Chris and Lynne and it proved that someone out there actually reads my ramblings.
But now I have my peeler and life is just that much simpler. My Argentinian friends just couldn't believe that anyone would actually post me an implement to peel veggies. Until I demonstrated just how good they are that is. That's why there are only 2 - the 3rd was snaffled instantly by a local. One went straight into my case for future travels and the 3rd is in use and I just might have to raffle it when I leave.