Buttons – part 2

Today I decided to head out to the barrio of San Telmo – the Sunday market was in full gear and I wanted to stop and get a hot chocolate and walk around. I chanced on a booth called “Al Divino Buton” (notice the first 4 letters are ALDI !!) – YES, the Divine button! Coincidence… perhaps not!

The owner of these jewels didn’t tell me her name, but she did tell me she’s been selling buttons at the San Pedro Telmo Feria for 22 years. She is a very colourful person who seems passionate about her buttons. We talked a while and I couldn’t leave with getting something for my stockings – below you will find a few pictures …

    

  

It was a good day!

Stop and Smell… the Buttons ???

Many of my close friends and of course, my family members, know of my fascination with buttons. I have to indulge and share a story with you. When I was very young my mother opted to buy me a doll house and a doll carriage that she had to order in August from the Sears catalog as we lived up north.

Apparently my father reminded her that I wasn’t the “doll” type person. When I was younger I used to love to play with my Mom’s buttons. Mom kept a cookie tin full of all types of buttons. I would sit for hours with the tin of buttons and muffin tins and would sort them by colours, by size, by number of holes… hours and hours I would play with my buttons.

Picture Christmas eve, my Dad wakes us up (we used to go to church the next morning) and carries me down to our real tree protecting holiday gifts. My doll house was too big to wrap, so it stood there, on the side along with a doll carriage. I apparently (so I was told, since I was only 5) played a bit with both toys. A short time went by and my mother realized I wasn’t around. They found me upstairs in my room playing…. with my buttons! Apparently she was quite upset and returned the doll house and carriage back to Sears.

I still rejoice in buttons… in fact, every 5 years Mom would give me a bag of buttons. My friend Sylvie regularly gives me bags of buttons and I even have a little bowl of buttons in my office to help me through tough conference calls. I LOVE BUTTONS!

So what does that have to do with my blog? Well today I took the bus to ONCE again, and headed to the buttons and bead shops. I wanted beads for my holiday stockings. I experienced what I would say SLOW EFFICIENCY. Used to darting through our North American stores in such speed, I found myself with a commerce that I believe might be alike that of the 60s.

I walked into one of the busiest and most abundant button shops to get my beads. I noticed a ticket dispenser at the door, so I grabbed one – I was number 25. They called out number 4. So I stood in the front part, and noticed the front windows…. HEAVEN! Button HEAVEN! bags, huge bags of hundreds of buttons could be seen! I stood there and took pictures and remembered my young days. Notice the BIG large bag is only $10 pesos – that’s $2.50 cents for all those buttons!

10 minutes passed when I heard my number called. I headed to the counter and once I told the person what I wanted, she positioned me in another line, specifically in front of the beads and button person. Another 10 minutes went by while I looked around and admired the many boxes with their buttons proudly displayed on their front side.

Look at these! Isn’t this just beautiful! Coloured buttons in all sizes, of all types… A button lover’s perfect location! The minutes went by and I, normally rushing to get things done, just looked at the all the styles, colours, forms, types… I found myself next in line. I explained what I needed while taking out my stocking in progress (of course I had brought it, I’m a type A and have little memory!). All at once, I was surrounded by at least 5 people wanting to see what I had done. I explained in my best Spanish that this was one of 8 and I intended to finish them for the holidays.

The button lady (as I will call her) brought me to the back where all the beads were displayed in a thick book with pages covered in sewn on beads of all sizes. We determined the ones I needed and she headed to the back and after a few minutes (are you keeping track of time?) came back with a paper bag full of beads. She handed me a hand written note and asked me to head to the cashier.

You heard me right! Cashier! You see, they don’t do it all at once. All roles are specific to the tasks. I stood in line with 11 other people waiting to get my turn to pay. I looked around and took it all in. I looked at the beads, the ribbons, the threads and yes, more buttons. I finally got to the cash and found out my treasured bundled cost a whole $ 4.50 cents. Here is my “loot” for the day!

So what did I discover today? I would say that even though I spent more than 20 minutes in the store just for my loot (which I value a lot, since my stockings will have a little “Argentina” on all of them) is that time was irrelevant. I enjoyed every moment of my shopping experience. While I would have usually picked something, walked quickly to the cash and left, today was a time to relax, observe and enjoy the ineficiency (time wise) but totally joyful experience.

Do you find yourself frustrated in line? Do you wish you could just get your business done and leave? Perhaps it takes a situation such as the one I experienced today to know that speed isn’t always the best thing… I enjoyed the experience and stopped and looked, admired, remembered, enjoyed, observed and lived in the moment…

Chance or destiny?

Imagine yourself in a space approximately 20 by 25 feet, mostly in the dark and covered with a low ceiling. The heat, more than 29 C or 85 F and the smell of sweat , dirt and the confines of limited personal space is where you might be spending the next 4 months of your life – that is, if you survive the upcoming attempt to free you. Oh yourself and 32 other individuals.

I’ve been strangely drawn to any and all news reports of the trapped miners in a small city of 150,000 people. Today they were told, much to their dismay that they might be in that small area for more than 4 months.

Yet, as the first camera made its way through a small pipe with bottles of water, food and messages from their loved ones, the miners grouped together and sang their national anthem, chanting “Viva Chile”. How does one’s mind manage such news after an incredible ordeal of days without really knowing if any will live the see the next day?

How does one, look around seeing less than inches between coworkers, find the strength to comprehend just how dangerous and difficult the next months will be? How does one continue on?

The family members of these miners have opted to camp 2300 feet above, and continue to send letters and notes below. What strength must they show in writing positive messages yet wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again?

I’m not sure why this story affects me in so many ways. Perhaps it is due to my recent extreme immersion in the Latin American life. Perhaps it is due to my strong phobia of confined spaces. Perhaps it is the empathy of wondering what I would do if one of my loved ones was in such a situation. Perhaps it is the tragedy itself.

This world of ours has been seemingly plagued with horrific disasters, one after the other. This week is the 5th anniversary of Katrina’s passage in Louisiana and its surroundings. We remember the great Tsunami, the earthquakes and recently the Afghanistan’s floods. There is no shortage of reasons to feel sad, anguished and wondering just what is going on.

Are we paying for treating our environment with such disregard? Could the Mayan prediction of the world ending in 2012 resonate with some potential truth? Whatever is going on, there are so many groups of people truly suffering day in, day out.

I sit in my air conditioned hotel room watching these events on a large high definition TV, eating good food and knowing that a few hours from now I will be snug in my clean sheets and safe room.

It was pure chance that I was born in Canada, a country void of insane violence, complete poverty and political tyranny of leaders slaying entire mass of souls in one single command. It was pure chance that I was raised without fearing being sold as a young girl or being tortured for speaking my mind. It was pure chance that I was able to be educated, to travel and to live in an incredibly abundant lifestyle.

As much as I am totally grateful each day for my wonderful life, I can’t help but think that it could be me holding on to my child running away from the flood waters, or seeking shelter from an uncle, brother or father wanting my life for speaking my mind, or wondering how I will survive the next 4 months with 32 other human beings…

I thank chance, karma, odds, a higher power, a mere moment in the universe that got me to where I am today… and somehow, my thoughts are with those 33 miners and hope that one day, they will see the same light I see each day.

Out of our comfort zone

Many know of my attitude towards “going for it”: Trying new things, crossing boundaries and getting out of our comfort zone. I advise this, I support this, I celebrate this, but alas – I have to admit I was faced with such an opportunity not once, but twice in one day.

Monica and I decided we would go to see a Tango Show and wouldn’t you know, one of the options offered not only a show, a great meal but a Tango lesson. Now, while I admit that in my (cough cough) younger days, I was quite the disco queen (or at least thought this!) I had to be true to myself and admit that I have two left feet; Not only two left feet, but two short stocky uncoordinated two left feet.

The thought of me in a room full of agile nimble coordinated strangers and I, bouncing off their sides each time a change in direction would be needed was NOT, I repeat NOT something I anticipated with great joy. I can say with total certainty that many of my co-aerobic workout classmates walked away from a shared session with sore feet (from my stepping over them), sore legs (from misdirected quick), sore shoulders (from run-away “grapevine” movements) and likely sore jaws from trying not to smile at my ineptitude.

I know my limitations – and to be honest, I knew even without my still-sore ankle I would likely push the limits of my tender joints. After all, feet aren’t supposed to twist or turn as mine do; at least, not intentionally.

I explained this to Monica who smiled and told me that I would have to go anyhow – “Sylvie, we are in Buenos Aires and we YOU will go with me” she sort of half-asked and half-stated. The bus driver arrived and my stomach was already in knots. I tried to remember the last time I felt this way and couldn’t remember at all. Nothing really phases me much from speaking to a crowd of 2000 people to other often cited apprehensions of many.

The other opportunity happened earlier that same day when we set eyes on a dark sultry Tango dancer who posed with people in various Tango stances. “Sylvie, go get your picture taken this time” Monica stated. I froze! Just as I looked over I saw the dancer position this tiny woman on his leg, and balanced her so her feet didn’t touch the ground. My thoughts ran amuck with thoughts of him falling over while attempting this with me.

I walked away with Monica taunting me with “Oh, so you can advise people to do that, but you don’t do it yourself” etc. So I turned back and headed straight towards the dancer. And yes, I did push ahead, the dancer was so sweet and nice, he had various poses that did NOT entail any feet leaving the ground and I ended up with a really great picture to flaunt!

As for the dance lesson, well I was one amongst 200 other dancers, and although in trying to avoid hurting my ankle I somehow got the attention of one of the teachers who came and sat by me and made me the focus of the moment, it was fun! I was fine, and I avoided any major injuries to others and to myself.

This said, don’t we often end up imagining the worse only to find out our imagination played games with our minds and the reality was so much sinpler, easier, and nothing close to the horror we expected. Can we learn from this? I personally can say I am really happy to have the fun picture and  boast that I can dance four Tango moves !

Making the Best of a Situation

My childhood friend Monica and I undertook a one hour train ride to visit a location called Tigre just 18 kilometers from downtown Buenos Aires. When we boarded the train, every seat was taken so we settled on standing in a general open area. At one of the stops a young man came in, and proceeded to play his small guitarlike instrument while playing Peruvian flute at the same time.

His music was very folkloric and reminiscent of documentaries of llamas climbing the cliffs of Machu Picchu or old women weaving or knitting colorful hats. After his first song, passengers applauded and smiled at him. He continued entertaining us and after a few more songs he walked around presenting his bag for donations. Almost everyone gave him some money.

As we rode during his songs, I thought to myself how he managed to take an opportunity and make it work for himself. One could tell he was of lesser fortune. His clothes were worn, his instrument was taped and well used. His hair was disheveled and his eyes seemed to show a hard past. He smiled as people gave his money.

I thought about how he managed to turn a talent into something he could share while earning money. Instead of just sitting on a street corner and begging for coins, he used what he had and offered to entertain people in exchange for a few coins. To me, this is the big difference between those I see asking for money and those who try to make the best of a situation.

Granted not everyone can play music, or sing or dance… (yes, the tango dancers of Thursday did pass the fedora) but I want to believe that everyone has something to offer. I once saw an older man reading poetry on a street corner. His voice was perfect and he read with such enthusiasm and with a slight Shakespearian style. After each poem he would look around and smile at those standing around. Most donated some coins, bills and returned the smile.

I expect there is always something we can share with people. An exchange seems to me to be a fair thing when people want something from others. In my opinion people who take a challenging situation and somehow are able to make the best of it deserve more than an applaud – they deserve admiration and respect.

PS – His music was very enlightening and entertaining. I wish I had a better picture of him but this is what I can share with you now.

Shopping anyone?

So today, I would like to share with you my weekend shopping experience – more specifically, my fabric shopping!

I must tell you I didn’t end up buying anything since I didn’t really have the patience to wait since most stores had at least eight people waiting in line. My focus was primarily fabric stores.

I was surprised to see just how chaotic it was! Nothing like back home where we walk through large locations with well-placed, well-folded, easily accessible fabrics are featured. This was more of a “grab and touch and pull out” as an approach.

  

And who typically work in fabric (tellas) store? Men…..!

How is it sold? Some by the meter (this is a metric country) or more often, by weight

Need buttons, bows, ribbon or fasteners?

   

I will have to come back when I have more time… and some idea of what I may want to create…

Appearances can be deceiving…

On my first day back from work, my good friend was pointing out things to me. “Here is the tower, here is the pink house, here is one of the “girls for hire”! I looked at this seemingly regular person, wearing a regular jacket, regular boots and regular soft make up.

“She’s is not a “girl for hire” I state, thinking she is likely waiting for a friend, a taxi, maybe a bus.  “Look” he says pointing to another girl sitting in a cafe on her own, looking around and smiling.  “Come on, she looks just like a regular woman” I said, a bit frustrated at what I was hearing. These women didn’t seem like that type at all. Then, I saw the “look”! The smile at my coworker and I knew… he was right.

“Just don’t sit alone in a coffee shop and smile at everyone ok! ” he suggests. He believes I’m “too nice” to everyone.

Speed forward to Monday night. I worked all day in the hotel room. I was tired and wanted fruits and cheese. So I headed out looking for an open grocery store. I know of two nearby, so I headed down the street only to figure out everything was closed due to the national holiday. I headed to the next one; same thing. After walking all weekend, my ankles and feet were a wee bit sore… ok – really sore! So I sat myself down on a two step porch to rest my feet. A few minutes later this tall blond older man approached me. He mumbled something that I deciphered as being very bad Spanish, and thinking  he was asking me the time, I responded is Spanish “No se!” – I do not know.

He tried again in Spanish, and I realizing that Spanish was NOT his usual language, I asked if he spoke English. In broken English he asked something else. Of course, I still didn’t quite understand but I knew he sounded German. In fact, I concluded he was so, and asked again in Spanish “Que dices?” – What are you saying? and he asked louder “how much?” – – I looked at him puzzled – “Cuanto coste- “How much do you cost?” he asked.

It hit me like a ton of bricks – and then, I burst out laughing – seriously… I’m not an old bag, BUT I’m not exactly a spring chick with my day old washed hair in a ponytail and a plain t-shirt with sneakers that might still have a few colored spots from the last visit at the farm. He realized he had the wrong type of person and apologized and quickly walked away.

So what was I to think? Well, I realized that we are sometimes quick in assuming things when we see people. Who can tell if the person asking for spare change didn’t lose his job and his house in a recent flood or earthquake? Who can tell if the taxi driver earned his master’s degree in Poland but in the U.S of A,  the only thing he can do to earn enough to take his qualifying doctor’s license tests? Who can tell if that single nice ordinary woman sitting alone in a Buenos Aires cafe is not an escort? Who can tell if the middle age woman (well if I live to 100 then I am middle age!!) sitting and tying her shoelace might be a tourist resting her feet for a short moment…

Appearances are not always what they seem to be!

Cake, anyone for cake?

This weekend was an eye opener. I walked through the streets of “Once” the barrio with a multitude of stores. I walked by the windows of this one store that seemed at first to be a craft store. Styrofoam castles and settings were featured in the front windows and I was drawn by their colors.

 

Upon entering the store I found myself staring at thousands of little figurines. Some actually so sweet I almost bought them (keep In mind I don’t do cakes!). Check some of these out:

  

How cute are these? Then the strange ones…

  

Is he sitting on her lap? Tripping on her dress? Falling head over heels?

  

What’s up with the pregnant duck? Is this for a baby shower? (the bib did say “Baby” on it) but why a duck? and why is the duck drinking from a baby bottle? Do babies look like ducks when they are born? Mine sure didn’t!

 

Dear, I think these should go on our 25th Anniversary cake, don’t you think?

  

And then the colorful ones!

Who says we can’t have our DECORATED cake, and eat it too?

Visiting the departed

Today I decided to visit the Recoleta Cemetary, resting place of many generals, presidents and very-loved Eva Peron (Evita). It took me about 20 minutes to get to my destination with the help of the hotel’s map and my notes. It is a location that once was a vast garden, but now is home to hundreds of family mausoleums, many adorned by eleborate statues and monuments.

It is quite large and contains so many different types of resting cocoons, many with stained glass windows and ornate doors. Sadly, I also saw quite a few in severe need of repairs. Ceiling pieces covered the coffins (yes, coffins), windows broken and doors semi ajar for everyone to see. Several locations showed partially damaged coffins with one specific location displayed a crushed coffin whose cover had been split and the remains of a skeleton viewable to anyone who glanced in.

Aside from these exceptions, the majority of the mausoleums were ornate and unique. I searched for more than an hour trying to locate the one who belonged to the family of Eva Perron (Evita) and finally I was able to find it. It wasn’t ornate like many housing generals and famous doctors and even presidents, but it was apparent that her memory is being kept alive by those who decorated the door to her location with flowers.

Eva Peron's resting place

It was quite something to be standing in front of this resting place.

As well, there are many feline residents who have settle in and roam freely and comfortably amongst the many hundreds of visitors who enter the cemetary doors each day. 

   

 If I had to pick one statue that moved me the most, it would have to be this one – a child in woman’s arms alongside an infant.

I took many pictures which I shall feature in an album and I hope they convey the majestic and ornate resting places of so many men, women and children.

My introduction to the blogging world!

Bonjour, Good day and Hola!

 I am pleased to finally enter the world of blogging. Never at a loss for words, this medium will  allow me to share experiences, thoughts, questions and of course, my pictures. I so enjoy taking pictures of everything and anything. Pictures to me are a way to capture a moment in time, a point of view, an insight into what moves me.

Today I find myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a work project. I had about 72 hours to prepare after I accepted to join the team and I have to admit the week itself was quite… exhausting. Not so much because of time lag, we are but an hour ahead of my usual home location. Not because of long hours, I actually worked about the same as usual, 10-12 hours. But because I find myself working mostly… in Spanish!

I studied Spanish in high school then I spent three summers in Spain with two girlfriends of mine. By the time I left Spain for the last time, my Spanish was sound. Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to practice. My many trips to Texas, California and Denver (yes, Denver) provided many of these opportunities.

I’ve discovered my brain cells are somehow challenged quite a bit – not so much for understanding the spoken Spanish or written,  but speaking Spanish! Wow… I have forgotten many many words, and my conjugation of verbs likely has made some chuckle.  They tell me I have a pronounced French accent! Given this is my mother tongue, I’m not surprised! I know that by the time I leave, I will have improved my use of this beautiful language.

Today I spent more than 5 hours walking around a neighborhood called “Once” which means 11 – Loads of every store possible, and more! Of course, took loads of pictures and my purchases? well, only one thing I could not resist! A treat called Churros, sort of a donut-like long pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar! JUST ONE!!

I have a lot to say about my first work week here, but will keep that for later blogs. Hope everyone has a great weekend! Ciao (which replaces Hasta Luego or Adios here)