My 7 Links: Dusting Off the Archives

7 Mosaic by Leo Reynolds, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

Lucky number 7, baby! Thanks to Abby at Abby's Line and Ana at Ana Travels, I've been tagged to participate in My 7 Links, a project organized by the fine folks over at Tripbase.

The chronological nature of a blog means that quality posts continually find themselves getting buried deeper and deeper in the archives with the passage of time. The idea behind My 7 Links is to dig up some of those posts at the bottom of the heap so that readers can discover "new" material or get reacquainted with old posts they'd forgotten about.

I dusted off these seven posts for your consideration:

[1] My Most Beautiful Post

Few places in Argentina can boast more natural beauty than Patagonia. I featured a series of picture-filled posts on the blog from my trip there last year, but I think Lakes Crossing: Bariloche to Puerto Varas really takes the cake when it comes to pretty.

[2] My Most Popular Post

My recipe for medialunas gets the most visits and love from Google; however, if this popularity contest is based on audience participation in the form of comments and sharing, then my most controversial post [see below] deserves the crown.

[3] My Most Controversial Post

I never imagined that Notes on the Argentine Approach to Cooking, my observations about wonky ovens and sketchy Argentine recipes, would generate so much discussion. The post was even mentioned on Season 1, Episode 10 of BA Cast: The Buenos Aires Podcast. So, go ahead – add your two centavos to the comments.

[4] My Most Helpful Post

I seek to use my blogging powers for good, not evil. To that end, I've tried to lend a helping hand to fellow expats through my post on obtaining Argentine residency through marriage.

[5] The Post Whose Success Most Surprised Me

A conversation I had with Daniel over breakfast one morning led to the post You Might Be a Yanqui. I got a lot of positive feedback [mostly in the form of LOL] from readers, and the post even inspired a riff on the topic from my blog buddy Gayle at Romancing Argentina.

[6] A Post I Feel Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved

Written back in the earlier days of the blog, Gaucho Rappers: The Payadores of Argentina touches on an interesting part of Argentine culture that many foreigners don't know about. Sadly, this post has languished for nearly two years in the archives with little attention paid to it. People, check out that title! How can you not want to know more about gaucho rappers?

[7] The Post That You Are Most Proud Of

Few posts on this blog are as deeply personal and heartfelt as A Letter to My Mother. Pride only describes a fraction of what I feel when I think about this post.

And now the part where people hate me for tagging them. I nominate the following bloggers to carry the torch [no pressure, eh?]:

Gabriel at Live from Waterloo
Cherie at tangocherie
Diplo_Daddy at Educated Abroad
Chris at In Patagonia
Steven at Travelojos

[Photo credit: Leo Reynolds]

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Argentine Residency: Mission Accomplished!

My Argentine permanent residency saga has come to an end. Just the other week I went online to the website for Argentina's immigration service, and I found out that my residency paperwork had been ready since June 22! So, at the first opportunity, Daniel and I headed to the immigration office in Mar del Plata to pick up my completed paperwork. Though my previous experiences there featuring a Colombian ex-con and disappearing computer records made for good blog fodder, I was really hoping for smooth sailing this time around.

I did not have to make an appointment to pick up my paperwork; I just took a number when I arrived at Migraciones. Understandably, those with appointments were given priority, even if they arrived after me, but this system lengthened my wait time considerably. Fortunately, by the time the immigration worker got around to calling out numbers, I realized that most of the people ahead of me had long since given up and left.

As she rattled off the numbers at a rate approaching the speed of light, I realized this worker had missed her true calling in life as an auctioneer. She fired off numbers 99 to 07, the latter of which I clutched in my hand. Despite my best efforts to catch her attention while wading through the masses surrounding the front desk, she'd already slipped into the back, no doubt deciding it was the perfect moment for a mate break.

Waiting at Dirección Nacional de Migraciones in Mar del Plata, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

When she finally made it back to the front desk, I pounced. I stated the reason for my visit and held my breath as she searched for my records in the computer. I swear the worker almost sounded surprised when she confirmed, "Yes, your paperwork is ready." She asked me to wait for a few minutes while my file was being retrieved, and I took a seat once more, feeling (prematurely) optimistic.

No more than ten minutes later, my half-inch-thick paper file emerged from the records room. The woman asked me to review my personal data for accuracy, and just as I handed back the paperwork, she announced, "It looks like the computer system's gone down. You know, this happened the other day, too, and we had to clear out the whole office because we couldn't get any work done."

As we waited for a computer technician somewhere to put a couple of 25-centavo coins in the slot to continue gameplay, the immigration worker explained that I could apply for my DNI para Extranjeros (National Identity Document for Foreigners) right there at Migraciones. She added that the document would be mailed to my home within 30 days.

A few minutes after the computer system was up and running once again, I received my official paperwork declaring me a permanent resident of Argentina.

An Official Permanent Resident of Argentina! by katiemetz, on Flickr

I also completed the simple and quick process to receive my DNI, which I'll explain in detail when it arrives in August.

For all the complaining that Argentines and expats alike do about the bureaucracy here, I have to admit that the residency process turned out to be fairly efficient and painless for me. The total processing time for my permanent residency amounted to three months, and I should have my DNI in a month. I mean look at that – I only got to do one Argentine residency update! I figured I could milk that for at least two or three more blog posts. Could Argentine bureaucracy actually be improving?

Argentine Residency: Update #1
Argentine Residency Through Marriage Read More......

Funny Names of Cities in Argentina

If I take my mind out of Spanish mode while perusing a map of Argentina, the names of the following Argentine towns and cities manage to elicit a chuckle.

Coronel Pringles, Province of Buenos Aires
The city of Coronel Pringles, often referred to simply as Pringles, always conjures up images of the mustachioed mascot Julius Pringles of potato crisp fame. Lo and behold, Mr. Pringles even bears a bit of resemblance to the city's namesake, Juan Pascual Pringles, a distinguished colonel in the Argentine military. Coincidence? I think not.

Coronel Juan Pascual Pringles via Wikipedia [used under Creative Commons license] The Pringles logo [Registered Trademark of Procter & Gamble]

How you really say it: [coh-roh-NEHL PREEN-glehs]

ArgentinaFlagGlew, Province of Buenos Aires
The Glew town motto: "We're stuck on you."

How you really say it: [GLAY-oo]

Sauce, Province of Corrientes
I don't know if it's salsa criolla, chimichurri or salsa golf, but Corrientes province's got Sauce. In reality, the word "sauce" in Spanish means "willow tree."

How you really say it: [SOW-say]

Colón, Province of Entre Ríos
Colón: the city with the greatest number of gastroenterologists in all of Argentina.

How you really say it: [coh-LOHN]

Alejandro Korn, Province of Buenos Aires
Residents of this locality usually refer to their fair burg as Korn, calling to mind images of the hardcore American metal band of the same name. This small city outside of Buenos Aires was actually named after Argentine doctor, philosopher and politician Alejandro Korn.

Alejandro Korn [c. 1890] via Wikipedia [used under Creative Commons license] Korn at MTV Asia Awards [2006] via Wikipedia [used under Creative Commons license]

How you really say it: [ah-lay-HAHN-droh KOHRN]

Morón, Province of Buenos Aires
I'm sure the fine people of Morón lack nothing in the intelligence department, but the name of their town, a suburb of the City of Buenos Aires, suggests otherwise.

How you really say it: [moh-ROHN]

Maipú, Province of Mendoza
Unlike the names of the other towns and cities, the joke here isn't apparent until you hear the word pronounced properly in Spanish. Curiously, Maipú is located some distance from the city of Colón.

How you really say it: [my-POO]

View Funny Names of Cities in Argentina in a larger map

Do you know of any other towns or cities with humorous names?

[Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons]

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Food and Friends in Buenos Aires

A little over a month ago, I tagged along with my husband on a brief trip to Buenos Aires. Anxious to return to Necochea, Daniel headed home as soon as he finished his business in the capital; however, I stuck around a few extra days to soak up a bit of culture, indulge a few food cravings, and meet up with some friends.

Fortunately, just before Daniel hopped a bus back to Necochea, we were able to take a stroll through the neighborhood of Recoleta and sit down to lunch together. Located just down the street from Recoleta Cemetery, the neighborhood eatery Rodi Bar offers a low-key option in the midst of high-rent Recoleta. You're unlikely to experience a culinary epiphany at Rodi Bar, but you're guaranteed honest, Argentine classics done well and at reasonable prices. Afterward, we relaxed on a bench in Plaza Francia in the shade of a giant gomero, as some energetic pups played fetch nearby with their owners and a man sang and strummed Argentine folk songs on his guitar.

Debajo del Gomero | Under the Rubber Tree, Plaza Francia, Recoleta, Buenos Aires by katiemetz, on Flickr

My first night in town, chef and food blogger Dan Perlman invited me to join him for dinner at Cocina Sunae, a closed-door restaurant focused on Southeast Asian cuisine. Pancit guisado at Cocina Sunae, photo courtesy of Christina Sunae [all rights reserved]Christina Sunae, an Asian-American expat, runs this underground resto out of her home located in the quiet residential neighborhood of Colegiales. The beautifully-presented dishes featured ingredients and inspiration from Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, infused with both fresh and spicy flavors. Each course hit all the right notes, and this meal drove home just how much I miss Asian cuisine! Dan presents a full write-up of our dining experience  and all the dishes on his blog SaltShaker. I highly recommend dinner at Cocina Sunae, especially if you're an ethnic-food-starved expat like I am.

I stayed at the home of my lovely friend and talented photographer Beatrice Murch and her husband Kragen, who were both guests at our wedding back in March. One night, Beatrice and I took our hunger to Desnivel, a traditional parrilla (steakhouse) in the neighborhood of San Telmo. Provoleta at Desnivel, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on FlickrDesnivel's tired décor, plastic tablecloths and garish fluorescent lighting clearly signal one thing: it's all about the meat. We split an order of provoleta, bife de chorizo and papas fritas a la provenzal. The provoleta could have used a touch more time on the grill, as it didn't turn out as gooey as it should have, but the smoky, slightly-melted cheese tasted wonderful nonetheless. The steak arrived just as we'd ordered it, perfectly a punto (medium). Sprinkled with parsley, garlic and oil, the ample portion of fries was crispy and flavorful. Although Desnivel's waiters have a reputation for being rather gruff, the service proved to be pleasant and efficient. With great food at affordable prices, I'd definitely head back to Desnivel.

I hadn't seen Cherie Magnus of tangocherie since my last visit to Buenos Aires back in January, so we decided to get caught up over lunch one afternoon at Las Violetas in Almagro. Built during the 1920s, this elegant café filled with stained glass windows, dark wood paneling, Italian marble flooring and white-jacketed waiters transported me to another time. Following its declaration as a historic site by the City of Buenos Aires in 1998, Las Violetas underwent a massive restoration. The hard work and investment really shows.

Stained Glass Windows at Las Violetas, Buenos Aires by katiemetz, on Flickr
Confitería Las Violetas, Buenos Aires by katiemetz, on Flickr Katie and Cherie at Las Violetas, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr Las Violetas, Almagro, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

A bit overwhelmed by the extensive lunch menu, I settled on one of the chef's specials: stuffed chicken breast with cider sauce and noisette potatoes. My entrée delivered on taste, but dessert – a rich, warm apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche – won me over in the end. I would love to return to Las Violetas, but next time I'll go for afternoon tea instead of lunch to capitalize on the café's strength: its desserts and pastries.

The following afternoon, I got off the train at the Belgrano C station, where I found myself on the doorstep of Buenos Aires' Chinatown. Allie Lazar, from the irreverent food blog Pick Up The Fork, and I had agreed to meet at her favorite spot for Chinese food, Hong Kong Style.

Barrio Chino [Chinatown], Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

While waiting for Allie, I happened to bump into Christina Sunae and her husband at Hong Kong Style. The two were surrounded by a number of tantalizing small plates, the sight of which literally made my mouth water. Christina noted that the restaurant is one of the best spots for Asian food in the city and really the only place where you can order dim sum. While chatting, I found out that Christina and her husband have friends in the neighboring city of Quequén, so I hope to see them in my neck of the woods some time. Although the couple graciously invited Allie and I to join them, we left them to finish their meal in peace.

Enticed by the sneak preview of the dim sum menu at Christina's table, Allie and I ordered two types of dim sum (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings) and spring rolls, which turned out to be filled with ground beef and onion (!). The dumplings hit the spot, but the spring rolls, while tasty, were a letdown. In retrospect, I'm not sure why we ordered so little food, but I wish we would have shared at least one more dish. Next time, I'd skip the spring rolls and order another type of dim sum and/or an entrée to share.

After lunch, we zipped past the various hole-in-the-wall shops filled with cheap and cheerful Asian imports for some shopping at a couple of the neighborhood's food markets. The markets of Barrio Chino not only house aisle upon aisle of noodles, condiments, exotic vegetables, and spices – ingredients to make every type of Asian cuisine – but they also contain some of the most sought after imported foods by yanquis. You'll find Heinz ketchup, peanut butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, fancy teas, tahini paste, curry powders, hard taco shells, and all manner of seafood. The Chinese don't discriminate; if they think someone will buy it, they stock it. And buy, I did. With my arms full of purchases and my wallet decidedly empty, Allie and I parted ways after a very enjoyable afternoon.

Sorrentinos de Calabaza at Pasaje Solar, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina by katiemetz on Flickr

On my final day in the capital, I lunched at Pasaje Solar, a charming spot in San Telmo, for Beatrice's birthday. I had the opportunity to share the meal with Ande Wanderer of Wander Argentina, Amy Scott of Nomadtopia, and Cate Kelly, all of whom made excellent dining companions. We were initially seated outdoors on the rustic patio under a tangle of angel's trumpet and wisteria vine, but we were forced inside when it began to shower. Thankfully, the vibe indoors felt just as inviting. The menu offered a number of interesting options, and truthfully, everyone's meal looked tempting. I ordered rich and flavorful pumpkin sorrentinos stuffed with walnuts, green onions and mozzarella in a cream sauce. After polishing off this generous portion of pasta, all I had room for was an espresso with a dash of milk to cap off the meal.

Soda Siphons at San Telmo Fair, Buenos Aires, Argentina by jlaceda, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] San Telmo Street Fair, Buenos Aires, Argentina by jlaceda, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] Antique Seller at Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina by jlaceda, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

Following lunch and great conversation with the ladies, I moseyed up and down Calle Defensa eyeing the wares on display at the mega street fair known as the Feria de San Telmo. I picked up a few nice items including a leather belt, crocheted scarf, and a necklace, all at decent prices. I even scored a beef burrito from a Mexican street vendor named Luis, complete with salsa picante that actually packed a bit of a punch. Disappointingly, the best part of the burrito turned out to be the hot sauce. Buenos Aires, however, is definitely not short on flavor.

[Photo credits: Christina Sunae of Cocina Sunae, jlaceda]

Rodi Bar, Vicente López 1900, Recoleta
Cocina Sunae, Colegiales [exact address confirmed at time of reservation]
Hong Kong Style, Montañeses 2149, Barrio Chino, Belgrano
Desnivel, Defensa 855, San Telmo
Las Violetas, Rivadavia 3899, Almagro
Pasaje Solar, Balcarce 1024, San Telmo
Feria de San Telmo, Calle Defensa, San Telmo – Sundays from 10am-5pm

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Happy 3rd Birthday to Seashells and Sunflowers!

Third Birthday! by soapylovedeb, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

Seashells and Sunflowers, my humble piece of Internet real estate devoted to all things Argentine, turns three years old today!

If you've been reading the blog in your feed reader or by email subscription and you haven't visited the actual site in a while, please stop on by, do a little clickety-click, and poke around the archives a bit.

You can also follow the blog through the Seashells and Sunflowers Facebook fan page. In addition to blog updates, I post comments and links to interesting stories related to Argentina or the Spanish language. Please show your support and "like" Seashells and Sunflowers!

I'd like to extend a huge thanks to all of you who take the time to read, comment, share and email. If it weren't for your positive feedback, I'm not entirely sure I'd still be writing this blog three years later. The interaction I have with you, the readers, keeps me going! So, if you've never posted a comment here on the blog, I invite you to take a moment to say hello, hi, hey, howdy, hola. Take your pick.

Much love to you all from my little corner of Argentina!

[Photo credit: soapylovedeb]

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