Buenos Aires 5.8.17

Adam works as a US Foreign Service Officer. He and his husband Kevin are currently posted to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I met Kevin in a freshman seminar our first semester of college. Adam and I became friends through Kevin and when we would cross paths as University of Minnesota employees.

As a guest for more than a week in their Buenos Aires, home I learned a lot about the life of a service member. For example:

  • Security – The US government requires specific door locks, panic alarms, and wire screens on all diplomat’s homes.
  • Comfort – Regardless of where in the world a service member is posted, a wash machine, dryer, stove and refrigerator of US size are required.
  • Emergency – Each foreign service household has a 2-way radio used for communication with the Embassy in case of emergency and each household is expected to prepare an emergency kit in the instance a quick departure would become necessary.
  • Bureaucracy – The homes of service members, and often the furniture, are owned or rented by the US government. Replacing carpet, repairing anything in the unit, and hanging items on the walls are tasks requiring collaboration with the Embassy contact responsible for housing and often a dose of patience and persistence.

Anytime I have the opportunity to drop into the lives of friends living abroad, the experience is extra special. This visit with Kevin and Adam was no exception. Because of their reason for living abroad, I also have a new-found pride in the services the US Government provides to citizens living and visiting foreign countries.

Kevin (left) and Adam (middle) hosted me at their Buenos Aires home. Their apartment complex includes a pool and the elevators in the building open directly into each apartment. Skeleton style keys are common in most of South America.
The views in Kevin and Adam’s apartment are mesmerizing at all times of day.
The Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires is home to many free gardens. I visited the Palermo Rose Garden called El Rosedal and the Japanese Garden. These lush and well maintained parks in the city center were a great place for exercising and rest.
The MALBA is the Modern Art Museum in Buenos Aires. The rotating exhibit featured art from General Idea, a Canadian art collective active from 1968 to 1993. Their most well known work of art may be the AIDS logo. In the MALBA’s permanent collection are a number of works by LATAM (Latin American) artists including Frida Kahlo.
This room in the General Idea exhibit was especially surprising to see. The poodle artwork is larger than me. This is an official photo of the poodle room.
Street scenes from Buenos Aires. Many residents in this city are dog owners so dog-walkers, known as perreros in Spanish, are also common. It is not surprising to see one person walking more than 5 dogs at a time. In the center of many of the city’s traffic circles there are monuments to a liberator or other famous historical figure.
A countrywide public transit strike took place while I was visiting Buenos Aires. Strikes are a regular part of life in this country. I visited the largest mosque in South America, the King Fahd Islamic Center, on the day of the strike because this center is within walking distance from where I stayed and I wanted to learn more about this religious community in Argentina. The tour guide focused on answering questions about Islam.
News coverage the day after the protest. Posters were visible throughout the city encouraging solidarity with the people on strike and explaining the reasons for the manifestation. No transit in Buenos Aires and the whole country meant many businesses were closed, classes were cancelled, and appointments re-scheduled.
The metro in Buenos Aires is called the Subte. Subte is the shortened version of the Spanish word for subterranean. In 1913 when it opened, this mass transit system was the 13th subway in the world. The system remains clean and user friendly today.
I took a free tour of El Congreso, the federal capital building. The building is a national landmark and was constructed between 1898 and 1906 with many renovations and additions taking place in subsequent years. The national library has hand painted walls, tiled floor, imported wood with carvings, and thousands of volumes of books.
Inside El Congreso there are two chambers, one for the Senate and one for the House. In both chambers, each legislator has a desk and she must authenticate via thumbprint each time she arrives at and departs from her desk. Prior to the digital thumbprint technology, legislators used a key to indicate their presence or absence for the session.
Also inside El Congreso is the blue room, a ballroom where large events are hosted, and a pink room that was historically used by Argentine’s first ladies for formal events.
Through the cultural affairs department of the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, funding was provided to a photography gallery, Fototeca Latinoamericana, to help support an exhibit by U.S. photographer Vivian Maier. I attended a free tour hosted by the gallery director in appreciation of their partnership with the US Embassy. A second exhibit in the gallery showcased Angelica Dass’s body of work called Humane about the colors of skin. She has a Ted Talk describing the origins of the project.
When discussing what to do in the city, Kevin and Adam said the show Fuerza Bruta (brute force) is one of their favorite activities. They were excited to go for the third time so we went to an 11:00pm performance that turned into a dance club around midnight when the show ended.
The audience stands for this hour long show that mixes performance art, theatre, acrobatics, music, and improvisation. I have never seen anything like it. Photo credit to Kevin for the bottom image.
The opening and closing song during the show.
Kevin’s video of one of the acts. In this act, a giant plastic pool of water was suspended over the audience and performers moved through the water.

The staff at the US Embassy in Argentina held a family fun run Saturday morning to raise money for a local women’s shelter. Kids ran short races followed by a timed run/walk for everyone. I met Adam’s co-worker Sara and we walked a few laps around the lake together.
There is a China town in Buenos Aires called Barrio Chino. When Kevin studied abroad in this city during college, he lived near this part of town. I was intrigued to see street signs with Mandarin characters.
This compound on the outskirts of Buenos Aires was originally a school for Naval officers. During the dirty war in the 1970s and 80s, people who were detained or disappeared usually passed through this compound. Now, the facility is called ESMA and is dedicated to keeping the memory of this terrible time alive, research, and the continual defense of human rights.
I walked through the attic spaces where prisoners were held in miserable conditions. Included in the attic space is a room where pregnant women were held and births took place. Also viewable in the building are the officer’s quarters. First person testimonies were projected throughout the building describing the experiences of those held captive in this space.
In the same complex as the museum of the memory, past president Cristina Kirchner constructed a modern museum to explain the history of the Falkland islands, known as Las Malvinas in Argentina. The Museo Malvinas e Islas del Atlantico Sur tells Argentina’s version of the war with Britain over these islands. It is strongly one-sided.
Grab Bag: People in Buenos Aires dress with style. The height (pun intended) of women’s fashion in this city is the platform shoe. Spotted as a I walked one day – a community fridge for people to leave and/or take extra food to avoid waste.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Woessner says:

    Another very interesting blog. Looks like you had a great time. Loved Fuerza Bruta videos and all the rest of the photos from your time in BA. How fun and fortunate to have met up with Kevin and Adam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks mom! BA is a great city. We will for sure have to see Fuerza Bruta if/when it comes to the region. I agree completely, it was excellent to be able to spend time with Kevin and Adam.

      Like

  2. Laura Johnson says:

    Sarah:
    Love the photos of the rose garden, Poodle Room and the platform shoes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to hear it Laura! Each of those places were neat to see in their own way. I hear the Rose Garden at Lake Harriet is stunning right now – maybe you can snap some very similar photos there 🙂

      Like

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