Happy International Translation Day!

September 30th is recognized as International Translation Day. The celebration coincides with the feast day of St. Jerome, one of the most influential translators of all time (you may have heard of his tiny project known as The Bible). In addition to translators, St. Jerome is acknowledged as the patron saint of other studious types such as librarians, archaeologists and archivists.

Translators play an important role in society. As the International Federation of Translators points out, "Translators today are cross-cultural communication specialists and essential business partners; without their expertise, it is difficult to work successfully across borders." Anyone who has tried to work off the instructions included in ready-to-assemble furniture from China can attest to the impact a bad translation can have on your day. Just imagine if the stakes are higher than a faux mahogany bookcase.

So, back to the party… Since all celebrations should include a bit of liveliness and humor, I submit for your viewing enjoyment the following video.

[If you can't view the embedded video, please click here.]

Happy International Translation Day to all!

By the way, if you're looking for a good Spanish-English translator, I know where you can find one. ;)

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So This Is What Spring Feels Like

As a result of moving to Necochea from Philadelphia just before the start of the northern hemisphere's spring, I have lived an entire year of chilly, drizzly, snowy, icy, slippery, frosty, cloudy, blustery, gray and glum. Apart from two weeks of early spring weather that I enjoyed briefly last October when I visited Necochea with my parents, a seemingly eternal cycle of fall and winter – shortened days, gray skies, and all – has been the order of the day.

Though bone-chilling temperatures are far from the norm in these parts, on the coldest days I did struggle a bit to keep warm. Buildings in general are not well-insulated here, and windows tend to be rather drafty. On the chilliest of days I made sure to bundle up in various layers, and sometimes I'd take the laptop to bed in order to work huddled under the covers with the warmth of the cats at my side. Miraculously, I also made it through two consecutive cold-and-flu seasons virtually unscathed (just a minor cold back in Philadelphia), including dodging the bullet of the A/H1N1 swine flu floating around here and causing quite a panic.

On most winter days in Necochea the highs were in the 40s or 50s; the nighttime lows here were the highs for the day back in December, January and February in Philadelphia. In spite of warmer temperatures, the wind chill factor here will get your teeth chattering in no time (Necochea's almost constant coastal breeze sees to that). With that said, the moderating influence of the Atlantic ensures that it never snows here, and the milder winter weather means that we have some flowers to perk up the landscape, even in the dead of winter. I admit to feeling a twinge of envy when I saw a live telecast of the snow coming down in other parts of the province about eight weeks ago, but it was short-lived (both the snow and the envy).

After I left Philadelphia, there were no more chapped lips, no dry hands, no winter boots, no heavy winter coats, no snow days, no shovels and no ice scrapers. Honestly, winter here felt more like a long, drawn-out autumn minus the colorful fall foliage, but the heavy grayness took its toll on my spirit, and I'm pleased to welcome spring at last.

So as those of you in the northern hemisphere usher in the crisp fall days, here's what I'll be savoring:

Yellow Calendula Flowers by katiealley on Flickr [Yellow calendula]

Primavera en el Jardín Japonés | Springtime in the Japanese Garden by katiealley [Flowering Japanese cherry trees in Parque Miguel Lillo]

Cherry Blossoms by katiealley on Flickr[Cherry blossoms on the tree in our backyard]

Spring Wildflowers with the Quequén Lighthouse by katiealley on Flickr[These tiny wildflowers have popped up everywhere!]

Plum Tree Flowers by katiealley on Flickr[Plum tree flowers]

Happy spring!

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Giddy Up!

Daniel's uncle Roberto owns several horses, and he invited me to go riding this past weekend. I was quite excited since I love to ride, and I hadn't been on horseback since January. Roberto and Daniel's cousin Mery came by around 10am to take me to the farm in Quequén where the horses are stabled. After saddling up our mounts, Roberto, Mery, and I set out with two other pint-sized riders named Franco and Juan Cruz. Destination: Costa Bonita.

As we left the farm, we crossed over the highway and made our way down a lonely gravel road. The scenery at this point was rather dull, so we passed the first few minutes of the ride chatting about the horses. Once everyone had limbered up, we moved at a quicker pace and soon we were intermittently cantering and galloping, taking advantage of the fact that there wasn't a soul around.

Only 30 minutes or so into the ride, my horse Pancho suffered a severe wardrobe malfunction, which left me with an intimate knowledge of the ground and an opportunity to contemplate the wispy clouds up above. I was just coming off of an exhilarating gallop and I had slowed Pancho to a trot when I felt the saddle slip suddenly to the left; the metal clasp of the cinch, the long strap that secures the saddle to the horse, had broken and come undone. I let go of the reins so as not to yank the horse's head, and I tried to fall in a controlled manner as gravity had its way with me. As luck would have it, my left foot got caught in the stirrup, but thankfully Pancho stopped immediately when I fell or I would have been dragged along beside him. 

My Trusty Steed Pancho [My trusty steed Pancho (foreground) was cool under pressure.]

I landed squarely on my left side with an enormous thud that knocked the wind out of me. My companions all rushed to my side, bombarding me with questions and examining the cinch dangling at Pancho's side. I lay there on the ground for a couple of minutes to catch my breath, and then I stood up to assess the damage. My rump and lower back hurt like hell from the impact, but nothing was broken, not even my camera, which thankfully I'd slung over my right shoulder. 

[Side note: I'm beginning to think that Sunday afternoon plans involving the village of Costa Bonita are cursed. Do you remember this adventure from a few months ago?]

Roberto managed to jury-rig the cinch, and I gamely climbed aboard Pancho once again, reassuring my companions (and myself) that I could continue. Our band of five turned off the gravel road and onto a dirt path, passing by fields of recently planted wheat with its bright green stems waving in the wind. We then made our way down the curving, dusty lane to Costa Bonita, opting to detour the last stretch of road in favor of a more picturesque route. 

We ambled across the undulating hills formed by sand dunes fixed in place by grass and other vegetation. At one point we crested a dune that provided a vista of the ocean in the near distance, and we gazed all around us at the peaks and valleys of smaller dunes covered with the brilliantly red-tinged leaves of uña de gato. We later marveled at a large shifting dune that had consumed a pair of utility poles, with just the uppermost portions sticking out from the sand. 

Kids Playing on the Dunes, Costa Bonita, Argentina [A couple of kids having some fun on the slopes of a giant dune.]

Roughly two hours after leaving the farm, we arrived to Costa Bonita, where we met up with Mery's fiancé Pato and a couple of friends. After tending to the horses, we got down to the business of preparing lunch. Pato and his friend were in charge of preparing the pollo al disco – chicken cooked with onions and peppers in a huge, footed iron pan over the fire – while the rest of us snacked on some potato chips and soda. 

Pollo al Disco Pato Preparing Pollo al Disco

Once our meal was ready, I planted my aching backside in the sand and proceeded to enjoy my chicken sandwich. After lunch we all relaxed a bit, and I took the opportunity to lie down and take a bit of a snooze. Unfortunately after about an hour and a half of inactivity, my muscles had tightened up so badly that I could barely walk let alone continue on horseback. I decided that I would have to throw in the towel and ask for a ride home.

Today I am very sore, but amazingly I have just a couple of minor scrapes and bruises. I thought for sure that I would have a horrendous black-and-blue patch on my left side, but much to my surprise, there's hardly a battle scar to speak of! Despite my spill, I'm already planning my next outing. Just as the saying goes, when you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on.

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What Would You Do for an Empanada?

Empanadas del 1º de Mayo by pablodf on Flickr What lengths would you go to in order to enjoy an empanada?  Well, if you're anything like Emily Kornblut, you'd search out the freshest, best-quality ingredients, you'd lovingly assemble your empanadas, baking them until they reached the perfect shade of golden brown, and then you'd put them in the blender.  Yes, you read that correctly.  She blended those sausage and goat cheese empanadas straight into oblivion.

You see, poor Emily broke her jaw and had to have her mouth wired shut for four weeks, prompting her to start the blog aptly entitled Jaws Wired Shut to document her triumphs and failures while navigating the uncharted waters of liquefied cuisine.  It seems that one day she was jonesing for some empanadas, and so she set her oven to 425º and her blender to frappe, all the while with her bendy straw at the ready.  If you ever wondered what a blenderized empanada would look like, you're in luck.  All I'm going to say is that I pray to the Almighty that I never ever break my jaw.  That Emily is a real trooper.

If you're loco for empanadas, may I suggest the following recipes:

»Empanadas de humita (creamy corn) from the Seashells and Sunflowers Recipe File

»Empanadas mendocinas (Mendoza-style empanadas) adapted from Argentine chef Francis Mallmann's new cookbook Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way

»Empanadas de jamón y queso (ham and cheese) and empanadas de atún y morrón (tuna and roasted red pepper) by Rebecca at From Argentina With Love

»Empanadas de viento (Ecuadoran onion and cheese empanadas) from Laylita's Recipes.  [We'll forgive the fact that they're not Argentine since they look absolutely mouth-watering!]

Enjoy these recipes, but please do yourself a favor.  Skip the blender.

Photo credit: pablodf

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One for the Ladies

Warning: If the word "tampon" makes you squeamish or offends your sensibilities in any way, I suggest you skip this post get over it.

Although Argentina is a Catholic country, attitudes toward sexuality have shifted, and many Argentines have developed a more liberal viewpoint on controversial topics like premarital sex, homosexuality, and nudity. However, it seems that certain topics pertaining to the realities of the human body remain taboo.

No one seems terribly bothered by the enormous poster around the corner that prominently features a woman's tanned backside (it's an advertisement for car batteries – go figure). I frequently pass newsstands and kiosks filled to the brim with men's magazines, with little to no attempt made to cover up "the goods." Birth control pills are available here without a prescription – simply ask and ye shall receive. 

Yet when I go to a pharmacy to purchase tampons (sinful, sinful!), they must be carefully wrapped in paper and taped up like some bizarre Christmas stocking stuffer and then placed in a plastic bag, lest someone see that I've bought a box of this downright scandalous feminine hygiene product. To make matters worse, if you happen to be in a pharmacy where they have everything stocked behind the counter, you're subjected to the horrified looks of other customers as you ask for your 20-count box of regulars. Dear God, she uses those things! I'm pretty sure I saw an older woman faint once right after I bought a box.

If you're visiting Argentina and are choosy about the products you use, I suggest you pack your own supply. There are only two brands of tampons available in Argentina – o.b. and Days – neither of which have applicators. There is a bright side to all of this though: if you use pads, you're in luck because pharmacies and supermarkets here have enough stock of those to last through to the next Ice Age.

P.S. It looks like the tampon situation is just as drastic in Chile.

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Getting to Necochea by Bus, Plane or Car

Here are some tips for traveling between Buenos Aires [Capital Federal] and Necochea, Argentina.

By Bus to/from Retiro Station in Buenos Aires

Long-distance buses in Argentina are a comfortable and economical choice for travel. Nighttime buses leave from Retiro Bus Station [Terminal de Ómnibus] in Buenos Aires and arrive at the bus station in Necochea after a journey of seven to eight hours. Buses operating on a daytime schedule take considerably longer, so it's more sensible to travel at night.

Ticket prices hover around $275-$300 pesos per person, one-way, depending on the company and the type of seat you choose [semi-cama, cama-ejecutivo, suite]. Read a nice description of the different seat classes available here.

The following companies provide bus service between Necochea and Buenos Aires [Note: phone numbers are for the local offices in Necochea and main offices in Buenos Aires, respectively]:

Cóndor-Estrella Phone: (02262) 42-2120/(011) 4313-1700
Plusmar Phone: (02262) 52-5553/0-800 -222-PLUSMAR
El Rápido Phone: (02262) 42-7293/(011) 4514-4899

In addition to the information available on each company's website, you can also check timetables and compare prices on the site Plataforma 10.

Most days it's not necessary to purchase tickets in advance; however, if you're traveling on a holiday or a weekend, particularly during the summer, it's important to buy your tickets ahead of time. You can purchase tickets in Buenos Aires at Retiro Bus Station or at Necochea's bus terminal:

Necochea Terminal de Ómnibus
Address: Avenida Jesuita Cardiel [Ruta 86] y Avenida 58, Necochea
Phone: (02262) 42-2470

By Bus to/from Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires

If you need to travel between Necochea and the international airport [Ministro Pistarini/Ezeiza] in Buenos Aires, another solid option lies with the bus company Manuel Tienda León. Unfortunately, you'll have to start or end your bus journey in Mar del Plata rather than Necochea, but the advantage of Tienda León is that you'll be taken directly to/from the airport, rather than having to negotiate a transfer at Retiro Bus Station with all your luggage. A one-way ticket between Mar del Plata and Ezeiza International Airport currently runs $330 pesos, and it can be purchased online or at Tienda León's offices in Mar del Plata, Ezeiza or at select travel agencies in Necochea.

For the Necochea-Mar del Plata leg of your journey, you can take a bus or remis [shared car service] between the two cities for about $50 pesos one-way.

By Plane

Regional airline LAER now offers twice-weekly flights between Aeroparque "Jorge Newbery" in Buenos Aires and Necochea. I would recommend an email or phone call to verify flight availability if you're considering this option.

Aeródromo de Necochea
Address: Ruta 86 Km 12.5, Quequén
Phone: (02262) 42-2473

Though less convenient, it's also possible to take a bus or remis to Mar del Plata and catch a flight from there to Buenos Aires. Aerolíneas Argentina and LADE operate flights several times a week from Mar del Plata to Aeroparque in Buenos Aires.

By Car

If you're driving to Necochea from the capital, expect to spend at least 5 ½ hours traveling between the two cities. Build in extra travel time for unforeseen circumstances such as demonstrators blocking the highway. And be careful out there—Argentines aren't the safest drivers.

By Train

There is currently no train service between Buenos Aires and Necochea. Trains do run from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata via Estación Constitución [Constitution Railway Station], but anecdotal evidence suggests that the trains attract criminal activity and often experience significant delays.

[Prices and information updated on January 28, 2013]

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Project 365: I'm Halfway There

It's been quite some time since we had a Project 365 update. I'm thrilled to report that I have made it to the six-month mark in my quest to snap a photo a day! 

I have to admit that these last few months of the project have been hard, but I haven't missed a single photo (though I came close a couple of times). A number of factors have conspired to make this point in the project more difficult: the dreary winter weather, the shorter days, and the construction zone also known as my home. Let's just say that I'm glad spring is right around the corner (and hopefully, the end of the home improvement marathon along with it). 

There are a couple of real dogs (no, not the canine sort) in this bunch, but I also managed to capture a few shots that I'm quite proud of. Honestly, some days I just pressed the shutter button to say that I had taken a photo while other days I was feeling truly inspired. I've come to terms with the fact that not every photo will be a masterpiece.

Though I haven't skipped a single day, I have become extremely lax about uploading the photos to Flickr. Originally I was uploading my shots every day or so, but recently I went almost a whole month without processing or uploading my photos. I'll definitely try to avoid doing that again in the future, as the backlog became rather daunting. I also experienced mild palpitations the other day when I thought I'd accidentally deleted a week's worth of photos (thankfully, all were present and accounted for).

Though the halfway point is a major milestone, I'm not declaring victory just yet. There are still six months left to go, and better photographers than I have sent partially-completed projects to the Project 365 graveyard. I'm feeling good though, and I swear my right index finger has never been stronger.

Here are the photos I've taken since the last update.

Project 365 Mosaic Project 365 Mosaic Project 365 Mosaic Project 365 Mosaic

Click here to view my entire Project 365 set on Flickr.

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The Evolution of an Accent

I recently stumbled upon a post at LexiBlog entitled "Multiple Personalities in a Foreign Language." The author poses the following questions:

When we learn a foreign language, we may have an accent bearing light traces or strong semblances of our native tongue or we may be able to pick up on our instructor’s accent or that of a native speaker.

What happens when we have studied with instructors with various national accents or have “lived” a particular language in various countries where it is spoken? What kind of multiple personality disorder can we have when we open our mouths?

While I think it would be considerably difficult to consciously alter my accent in English, strangely enough, I haven't struggled much to adjust to different Spanish dialects and their accompanying accents. I found that it was easier to absorb what was being said to me if I internalized the differences in pronunciation by changing my accent to reflect that of the speaker.

How My Spanish Accent Has Changed Over Time

» When I first began learning Spanish in high school, my teacher for the majority of those years was a Spaniard from Andalusia. Peninsular Spanish with its accompanying "lisping" accent was drummed into me by Señor Capaldo. 

» In college I dropped the European pronunciation and developed more of a Mexican accent—once again, courtesy of my professor—which persisted later on since most of the Spanish speakers I encountered in my professional life were Mexican. 

» After getting to know Daniel, my accent morphed once again as I started to absorb the special brand of Spanish spoken here in Argentina, a dialect known as Rioplatense Spanish. Argentines are well-known for their unique accent, use of voseo, and numerous slang words. It seems that at this stage, Argentine Spanish has taken over my brain!

Of course, I still haven't managed to completely rid my Spanish of my American accent (and I don't believe I ever will), but I don't think my accent is particularly heavy (Tomás says my r's often give me away). Of course, Daniel says I speak perfectly (hah!), but other more objective Argentines have commented that my accent is relatively mild or, at the very least, pleasant to listen to and well-understood.

If you're a non-native speaker of a language, what does your accent sound like?  How has it changed over time?

Resources // Accents

I find accents fascinating. If you do too, check out this excellent resource from the blog es-xchange with recordings of native Spanish speakers from all over the map. [Scroll halfway down the page to where it says "Audio clips."] 

» Click here to listen to the Argentine Spanish accent.

Do you wonder what Argentines sound like when they speak English? I've got a clip for that too. Access the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) to listen to English spoken with a variety of accents.

And lastly, if you're curious to hear how an American living in Argentina speaks Spanish, click here. (No, it's not yours truly.)

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Food Porn: Chorizo Colorado and Salamín

Homemade Chorizo and Salami | Chorizo y Salamín Caseros by katiemetz, on Flickr[Homemade dried sausages—chorizo colorado and salamín]

Tomás, Daniel's stepdad, recently prepared these dried sausages. The chorizo colorado contains hand-cut pork and a number of spices including a healthy dose of paprika, which gives it that punchy red color. The other sausage is a salamín (salami), which features a mixture of finely-ground beef and pork with spices. 

Dried sausages enjoy great popularity here and are often included as part of a picada along with slices of crusty bread and cheese. Who's hungry?

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