Sunday, September 30, 2012


Yeah, sure, nice photo...but the little old lady was right, while we were snapping photos this morning in the park we were worried all the time that our camera battery would run out of power (and yes indeed it did)

There's a sweet little old lady who lives alone in one of the townhouses in our neighbourhood.  We got to know her this year because we kept on seeing her in front of her house whenever we went for a walk in the nearby park.  Although she needs to rely on a walker to get around, she is bright, healthy and alert.   She could see us and hear us just fine from half a block away and we always wave and holler hello at each other as we pass.

"Do you know how old I am?" she asked us as we were chatting one day.  "I'm ninety-seven years old!"

She is in amazing condition for someone in her nineties - we would never have guessed that she is almost as old as Tango!   

In the summer, she'd sit outside her front door with all her friends from the surrounding townhouses and gossip until well after the streetlights came on.  However, it's autumn now and it's already dark and cold by dinnertime.  We have been persisting with our daily walks but when we're outside the little old lady's house we could see that her porch is unlit and she's sitting all by herself in the kitchen.

The only time we get to chat now is on Sunday mornings - we're up at seven-thirty (and after a late night at the milonga - quite a feat!) and we've already finished our walk by nine-thirty.  By the time we are back, the little old lady is usually waiting at the curb for her son to drive her to church.

This morning, she was annoyed.  "Goddamn it, he was supposed to be here at nine!" she said.  Wait a moment - did she actually say "Goddamn"?

We looked at our watches - and the rascal was indeed late by twenty minutes.  And still nowhere in sight. 

We were concerned.  "Are you alright?  Are you cold?  Are you wearing enough clothes? Do you want to go back into your house to wait?" we asked. 

"I'm ok, don't worry!" She was in good spirits despite having to wait.   Another car drove up the street and she craned her neck to see better.  "Nope, that's not his car," she said.

We decided to stay and talk to her a little to keep her company.

"It's great that you are in such good health at your age," Man Yung said, trying to distract her from being irritated about her tardy son. "I hope you will be just as healthy and happy at one hundred!"

The little old lady grimaced and rolled her eyes.  "Oh, no thank you!  It'll kill me to have to live that long!"

We were completely surprised at her response.  "But wouldn't it be a great thing to live to a hundred years old?  You'll get a letter of congratulations from the Queen!"

She cackled at the absurdity.  "What good would that be?  My son is always late and I'll still be waiting for him to show up to drive me to church!"  She shook her head.  "I'll tell you what it's like to live as long as me.  When you're thirty, you worry.  When you're forty, you worry.  When you're fifty, you worry.  When you're sixty, you worry.  Seventy, eighty, ninety.....every decade is sorrow.  You know, my granddaughter just got married this past July - I was all excited and happy and ready to go to the big wedding party in Vancouver.  But I couldn't!  My Travel Health Insurance would cost a FREAKIN' EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS! That's more than all the government benefits that I would get in an entire FREAKIN' YEAR!"

We learned something new today!

1.   We like it when old folks are crabby and honest and tell it like it is.  No painting a pretty picture with all roses and rainbows and puppy dogs or any of that crap!

2.  "Oh, no wonder why it's harder and harder for the older generation milongueros to travel outside of Buenos Aires to teach - once they get up in age, their health insurance would cost a FREAKIN' EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS!"

3.  "Thank god, Man Yung, that we didn't decide to save for a downpayment on a bigger house and instead blew all our savings on traveling to Buenos Aires twice a year for the past couple of years.  It's really is better that you go now, before the milongueros have all passed on - and most importantly, before you get so old that your travel health insurance costs a FREAKIN' EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Martha and Manolo AND Osvaldo and Coca at Viva La Pepa Milonga, September 23, 2012

Now, this is not something you get to see everyday!  Our teachers Martha and Manolo AND Osvaldo and Coca together on the same floor!  And not only will you get to see Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca, you will also get to see Osvaldo and Martha, and Manolo and Coca, AND.... Manolo and Osvaldo!:

This is absolutely fantastic!  Can't wait to see them soon!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Irene and Man Yung perform to "Poema" at Salon Rodriguez, October 12, 2011

We have been so busy this year that there's a lot of videos from our past trip(s) that we haven't posted up on the internet yet.  So in the next two weeks, we will (hopefully) get around to that!

Here's a video we talked about in our post about going to Martha Fama's milonga in October of 2011.  Now, we met Marta Fama (and Man Yung danced with her several times) again when we were at Juan Lencino's milonga at La Nacional (which you can reminisce about here).  She must have had a good impression of us, because as we were leaving the milonga with Osvaldo and Coca, it seemed to us that she was asking Osvaldo and Coca to bring us to her milonga the following Wednesday at Salon Rodriguez for some mysterious purpose (and we were like "?????" because Irene's Spanish isn't that great).

This is from our journal about what happened that following Wednesday at "La Gorra de Rodriguez":

It was like half-past three when we got back to the hotel.  We were free until the evening so we did laundry and took a nap.  Marta Fama's was at 9:00 p.m. so there was plenty of time - we even had some instant noodles before heading out.

Something ugly happened when we were getting our taxi to get to Marta Fama's milonga.  We had to wait a little bit but we finally got a taxi at the taxi stand.  Man Yung already noticed there was a guy harassing the shop owner as he shut down his store for the night, a couple of units down from where we were standing.  What surprised me was that the hobo came over as we were getting into out taxi to harass us!  He wanted Man Yung to give him money, but Man Yung didn't have any change and he refused to be bullied.  The hobo even demanded that we hand over our hats!  No, we wouldn't budge.  The taxi driver - and older, bald gentleman - kept on saying to the guy in a calm voice, "Close the door, buddy.  Close the door."  Finally after thirty seconds of this, the hobo realized he wasn't getting anywhere and we were able to close the door.  However, the guy spat at the taxi, which was nasty.  After this very unpleasant experience, the taxi driver felt quite sorry and embarrassed that such a thing would happen to use as guests in the city and he kept on reassuring us that this was not normal.

The taxi driver was confused about the address - luckily I had the flyer that Marta Fama gave us and handed it over to him because it referenced a landmark called Cid Campeador.  Man Yung had the foresight to tell me to bring the flyer instead of just writing down the address in my notebook - perhaps he had ESP that it would not be an easy place to find!  We had a conversation with the taxi driver about chinese people eating dogs and cats (apparently, that's what Argentinians think that Chinese people do!)... he chuckled when I commented about the poor little pets!  I think he was being extra friendly after the horrible incident with the hobo.

Cid Campeador is actually a statue of a guy on a horse waving a sword.  I think we have passed by before.  The streets around the statue are kind of confusing - going this way and that diagonally, with every road apparently "contra-mano" (going the wrong way).  Finally after a lot of diligent number hunting and going to and fro, we arrive at Salon Rodriguez.  The place looked kind of deserted and it was in the middle of a block of residential street.

The florescent lights made the place look "El Arranque" green - no one was milling about the entrance way, we had to go up some steps to the 1 1/2 floor (past the washrooms).  The hall is big but looked like a smaller hall and a bigger hall joined together.  Marta Fama was teaching milonga traspie in the smaller hall, and she had maybe twenty students.  She was dressed in skinny cigarette pants and a gypsy blouse, looking as chic as ever - and when she saw us she rushed over to kiss us hello.  She told us to sit "over there" at a table by the side of the wall - so we headed over there. The fan was going on pretty strong so we kind of rearranged a table.  We went to pay Marta's dour-faced assistant - and she asked us where we were sitting, and then told us we couldn't sit there - and she moved us to the side near the bar.  We were getting settled at the new table when Marta Fama finished her class - and came over to tell us that we couldn't sit there... we explained to her that's where her assistant put us.  Her assistant came over and Marta Fama had a look of disapproval on her face and told her that we have to sit "there" (pointing back to the place we were going to sit at in the first place).  So we had to haul ourselves back over "there" - the original table!

Osvaldo and Coca came not long afterwards. When Marta Fama greeted them I heard her ask Osvaldo whether his students (us) would do a demonstration for everyone.  So that's what she was talking about at La Nacional!  We tried to protest - Man Yung thought he would get away with not performing as he didn't bring his jacket.  Marta Fama said, "It doesn't matter, people aren't looking at your jacket they will be looking at your feet." Oh well - can't back out of it. And look at the VIP people coming in (now they will have to suffer the agony of watching Irene and Man Yung perform)!  El Chino came with some other old guys - and they sat two tables down from us. 

Clely also came - she sat at the table that the assistant put us at.  We said hello - we are seeing each other everywhere we go.  Coca was hungry - she went with Osvaldo to the bar to say hello to the kitchen people, and when she came back, she already knew that she wanted to order a potato omelet.  "But I can't eat the whole thing, I have to share!" she said.  We went over to get her a piece - they have ready to serve food laid out at the bar and all of it seemed to be potato omelet in different shapes.

Man Yung was off dancing when Blas arrived.  Blas came over to say hello to Osvaldo and Coca, and he said hello to me to be polite - but he didn't recognize me.  He recognized Man Yung though!  His eyes lit up when Man Yung came back and he gave Man Yung a big hug.

The entrada was only 10 pesos.  There was a table of relatively young people on the opposite side - somebody was having a birthday. Martha and Manolo's student Laura (who sometimes teaches there classes for them when they are not available) was there at the party.  She had chandelier earrings on and looked quite pretty in her green jersey dress, and people from her party danced with her, even the dj (who looks like Pablo Veron but not as tall) danced with her.  We said hello, we were mutually surprised to see each other there (the milonga was kind of for locals and off the beaten track - so yes, we were all surprised that we would end up there!).  Man Yung also danced with her a tanda - and a tanda of milonga with Clely.  Guess who else we saw?  It was Stella - Man Yung wasn't sure but I jogged his memory - "It's Stella, the girl from Viejo Correo with her mother!" I said.  She is quite popular with the locals. We thought we wouldn't have the chance to see her now that Nina and Luis's milonga at Viejo Correo is no more.  We exchanged emails and facebook information, and Man Yung asked her to dance.  The other men at the milonga must be very jealous Man Yung is dancing with all their "girls".

Man Yung is doing more and more steps and not sticking to Osvaldo's steps.  He did some steps and asked Osvaldo to look.  Osvaldo looked at his crazy student and said, "Now I've learned something new!" .... NOT in a totally positive way.  Man Yung has to remember that Osvaldo and Coca do not do ganchos.   

It was almost time for us to perform - but Laura had to go.  We said goodbye to her - she asked whether we were going to Martha and Manolo's practica the next day, but we couldn't, we had a birthday party to go to.  The DJ asked us what we wanted to perform to but Osvaldo decided for us, we will dance to "Poema", he said.  So we danced "Poema":

Funny captions that can go with this video include:

1. "What's with the silence and the sound of crickets chirping? (Except for the part where we jumped out of our seat when Osvaldo yelled at Marta Fama for blocking the camera)"  

2.  "Wow, it's quiet - now we understand what it's like for Championship Salon Tango style dancers to perform - people don't clap until the dancing is all finished, and not because they liked it - they're only applauding because they are relieved that they won't have to watch it anymore!"

3.  "Did we forget to bribe the people to applaud?  Don't tell me that Man Yung spent all the bribe money on whiskey!"

4.  "Man Yung!  I told you not to dance with these nice gentlemen's partners.  Now they are all jealous and they won't clap when we perform!"

5.  "Oh no!  Now Laura will go and tell Martha and Manolo tomorrow that Irene and Man Yung performed a Tango and no-one applauded.  They will shake their heads sadly and say, 'We told them to stick to Canyengue instead of unleashing their half-baked Tango willy-nilly upon the unsuspecting masses, but they wouldn't listen!'"

OK, we are only half-joking about the above.  We are kind of spoiled by the enthusiastic applause we usually get!  It was pretty quiet throughout the performance, but it was a good experience for us - we weren't thinking at all of doing any "tricks" to elicit applause because we were too busy enjoying dancing! When it ended we both had the same thought - out of the many times we have had the chance to perform in Buenos Aires, it was the performance that we enjoyed doing the most.  Osvaldo and Coca was proud of us, and so was Blas, who gave us a big smile and a hug after we came back to our table. "Poema" is not a big "applause" song (it is rather sedate - doesn't have big spinning fireworks in the middle like some songs from Color Tango!) and this is the way it should be danced if you don't want to do circus tricks. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


We have been very preoccupied this past week.  In fact, our usual "undivided" (yeah, that's right!) attention to Tango had some pretty stiff competition from happenings in "The Real World".  Like, for example:

1.  Massive protests in Hong Kong over the Communist Brainwashing curriculum:

There was a huge protest outside government offices by students, parents and teachers (over 120,000 people).  Some participants staged a hunger strike. 

"What's going to happen?  Will the government back down?  Will the communists send in tanks and soldiers and turn it into a second Tiananmen Square massacre?" we asked each other.

Finally the Hong Kong government relented (as if!) and announced some kind of sneakily worded (non)compromise...

And then we were worried all weekend that the student protestors would 'buy' into these lies and believe that the Hong Kong government would truly give up on their Communist brainwashing tactics.  We were relieved when the student protestors issued a statement indicating that they were fully aware of what the government was up to, and that they are continuing this brave fight.  Bravo!

2.  The Hong Kong Legislative Council Elections

Sure, we are in Canada, but we were scanning the internet all weekend for news and results.  Go! Go! People Power!

3. Knitting mistakes

I mistakenly joined the left shoulder to the right shoulder when I was knitting the shoulder straps for my Alice Starmore "Eriskay" sweater.  Had to rip out three inches of knitting!  Ouch!

"How come my sweater looks like the Elephant Man and not even remotely like what it looks like in the knitting book?" I asked.

4.  Parking Ticket

I got a Parking Ticket.  I paid for the said Parking Ticket.  What are we going to take out from our budget to cover the cost?

"Now, let's see....I can't really cut into my chocolate and ice cream, shoe, makeup and clothing budget - and we still have to eat.  I know what - no whisky for you this month, Man Yung!" I concluded triumphantly.

5.   Ceiling Leak

Isn't it a bummer when the ceiling of your underground parking spot is leaking and your car gets covered with bits of ceiling plaster and suspicious-looking grainy brownish water?

I asked the contractor, "Did someone's toilet overflow?"

The contractor assured me no.

Whether I believe him is another story.

Your condominium amenities include "Underground swimming pool/Car Wash"

With all this stuff going on, it is a wonder that we even made it to Tango.  But even when we were at Tango, we were obviously thinking about something else....

....Which happened to be a good thing.  We were so distracted, we didn't even notice that:

1)  The DJ played rhythmic music all night! 
2)  Crazy dancers with no concept of personal space had invaded the dance floor and were writhing and intertwining like hundred tentacle demons from Tango Hell!
3)  The guest performance was nothing to write home about (unless, of course, all you wanted to do was bitch about how ghastly it all was)!
4) When tasty complementary snacks were laid out, everyone flocked over to the table like it was in the middle of a Communist China famine and grabbed all they could with their grimy, sweaty hands and created this giant germy health hazard that got communicated to everyone else they danced with, and everybody else that those people danced with etc. etc.!

and last but not least -

5) Wow, what a horrible time we had!

"We should find even more sources of distraction in the future!" said Man Yung.  "This way, we can mosey on right down to the hot burning flames of Tango Hell - and we will literally have our asses on fire and wouldn't even feel a thing!"

Monday, September 3, 2012


Happy Labour Day!  Can't believe that "summer holidays" are over.  It actually doesn't make any difference to us worker bees who don't have "summer vacations" like lucky teachers or students, but still, it feels like Labour Day always signals the end of a season - a season of more daylight hours, more sun, more sandals and light cool linen sundresses, more bbq...and more sweltering hot Milonga venues with no air conditioning (yuck).

We went to our local organic grocers today for a bit of food shopping (yes, they were open - they never take any holidays, not even New Year's or X'mas - they can do this because they mainly do "wholesale" and the business is family-run).  Our friendly local butcher took one look at me and said, "Irene, I think you are skinny enough!  You should start eating more ice cream!"

"Huh?" said Man Yung.

You see, he hasn't noticed at all that I've lost, like, 15 lbs!  All I did was cut out snacking (no ice cream, no cake or cookies, no candies, no chips), drink more water instead of sweetened drinks like juice or soda, start eating breakfast (was too lazy before to prepare it) and stop eating when I was full.  It took ten months, and now I can again fit into clothes I bought ten years ago! Yippee!

Man Yung scanned me suspiciously.  "You kind of look exactly the same to me," said Man Yung.

So I showed him a video we made during practice just one year ago:

I told you we can dance to weird "Non-Tango" music!  Man Yung had no idea beforehand that I would play Janis Joplin - this is the first and last time we have danced to her version of "Summertime".  Man Yung just went with the music - he didn't really care because he could dance to anything!  This is one of my most favourite improvisations by Man Yung

"Look at how chubby I was last September!" I said.  "If you still can't tell, just look at the video we made last Saturday:"

"Just look at the difference!  When we go to Buenos Aires Coca will notice right away, start worrying about my stick-insectedness, and will attempt to feed me so much home-cooked pasta every day I will immediately go up two sizes!"

"Hmmmmmmm - now that you've showed me the videos I can tell the difference," said Man Yung.  "When I see you all the time day in and day out, you look like the same old Irene to me!"*

*  A good thing!  That means that conversely, I can gain 500 lbs and Man Yung will not only not mind, he would think I was exactly the same!**

** Strangely enough, Man Yung ALWAYS notices when I am going even the slightest bit faster, or if my right elbow is sticking out, or if I am dragging my steps the slightest when we are dancing.  AND he will tell me right away - no sparing my feelings or waiting until we go home or whatever!  Super annoying!

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