Sunday, June 22, 2014

The miracles of modern technology

Man Yung is always optimistic.  Or perhaps masochistic.  Anyway, he still scours Youtube for the newest, shiniest videos of exhibitions from the newest, shiniest, international tango "superstars" for something good.  "If there is something watchable, or even one thing I could learn, it would be worth it!" he says enthusiastically.

What?  Watch hours of aggressive adornation, frantic flailing or spastic spinning from couples who either "Dance Exactly Like Each Other" or who "Promote pushing the boundaries of new tango movement...Right into your shins"?   I've given up long ago.

Recently, Man Yung sat down with a cup of coffee and tried to watch a whole slew of exhibitions - red hot off the festival circuit. 

It was one of those "I told you so" moments.

"I couldn't finish watching even ONE!" Man Yung complained.  "A few seconds into every single one of these videos and I would have to turn the video off immediately from being uttering appalled at the lack of music, lack of grace, lack of emotion, or pure and simple ugliness of the stuff they were doing on the dance floor!  I couldn't watch any of the performances past the half-way mark!"

"Aha!" I said.  "I've been telling you all along, you are wasting your time!  You are lucky, though," I added.

"What do you mean?"

"Watching on the computer, you can STOP ANYTIME.  If you can't resist browsing through the mountain of garbage on Youtube, at least you can stop and go to the next video before it gave you brain damage.  Imagine, a few years ago, if you were watching on a VCR or DVD player, you will have to take eons to FAST FORWARD or skip through the crap to get to the good bits.  And before the invention of all these modern gadgets, the only way you could watch tango would be to be there in person.  Then, you wouldn't be able to escape if you encounter something horrific - you would have to watch the whole thing and have it burned into your brain!  Believe me, with the miracle advances of modern technology you have it good!"*

* In fact modern technology is so miraculous and good, it even knows when to turn the video off before Man Yung does.  Man Yung has a 1st generation iPad and it is starting to have a mind of its own.  Sometimes, when Man Yung is watching, the iPad would flash, shut the video down and take him right back to the home screen.  Man Yung gives up after the iPad kicks him out of Youtube a few more times, and Man Yung's day would become 500% more productive with life enriching activities like playing with the cats or watching World Cup soccer.  Go Argentina!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Friday afternoon milonga at Confiteria Ideal

Man Yung looked happy.  I asked him what put him in such a good mood.

"I was just thinking about the time we went to Confiteria Ideal on our trip.  I had a great time."

"I totally agree. I was always thinking about going back before we returned to Toronto, but we ended up being too busy to make it there again," I said.

Turned out that we both considered our visit to Ideal to be the best part of our trip!

We had been to milongas at the famous Confiteria Ideal in 2007 and 2009 but hated it both times.  The milongas were packed with people.  Tables and chairs were squeezed into every possible inch of space - you had to clamber over them to get to the floor, which was too sticky to dance on. That, however, didn't stop the crowd of tourists having a jolly old time...dancing extremely badly to blaring music.

After those two negative experiences, we vowed never to go back to Ideal again. 

We found ourselves really full after eating an enormous Fugazzetta pizza at El Cuartito on Friday afternoon.  If you have never had a Fugazzetta before, this is what it is like: it is a doughy pizza crust filled with an inch of mozzarella and covered by another inch of mozzarella, some caramelized onions and olives, and I suspect they doused it in olive oil as well.  We ordered ours with ham and extra anchovies on top, because we were afraid it wouldn't be filling enough.*

* Which shows that we know nothing about pizza.  We will let you know all about El Cuartito (with photos!) in another post.

"I really want to take a nap!" I said after we ate the whole greasy, scary, calorie-laden thing.  "But I might die (or gain 10 pounds!) if I take a nap after eating this.  I think we have to go out to dance!"

Man Yung was delighted.  We consulted the milonga schedule for the afternoon.  El Arranque wasn't open until much later, which left us with Ideal as our only choice.

After a short taxi trip (in which our taxi driver told us "all about" the exciting tango shows we could catch at the Confiteria Ideal - we let him talk on, he was just being helpful and friendly) we ended up at Ideal. 

Surprises were in store:  Firstly, the entrada was only 40 pesos, which was the same as El Arranque.  We expected it to be like, at least 70 pesos because we had the impression that Ideal was a tourist trap, but we were wrong. Secondly - the milonga was filled with locals!  It was the El Arranque crowd with some other additional locals.  They were dancing close embrace with good floorcraft. 

We ordered beer and water and before they came we were off dancing.  Third surprise: the floor was smooth and not at all sticky.  

We danced every tanda for one and a half hours, and we only danced with our favourite dancers - that is, with each other!  We didn't have to say hello or socialize with anyone except our friend Roberto Segarra - who was having a grand old, very busy time dancing with all the ladies.  It was wonderful to see him healthy and happy and still dancing several times a week at the age it 93, 94 or 95?  We have lost count.  We told Roberto, "Buenos Aires isn't the same unless we see you somewhere, dancing!"  Bumping into him and seeing him dancing makes us feel that things are still ok.

Man Yung and I looked at each other after every tanda with big smiles on our faces.  We didn't stay long, because we had another event to rush to afterwards, but it was good to spend time just with each other.

We didn't talk about our time at Ideal until we got back to Toronto - and it is the fourth surprise, that we both agree that it was the best time we had on our trip.  It is terrific for us to spend time with our teachers and friends Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca, Paulina, Susy Tilbe etc., and spending time with the people we love and whom haven't seen for a long time is the main goal of our trip - but with our friends there and the obligations we have when they are with us distracts us from enjoying our dancing!

Man Yung says that we can end this post with the Chinese saying, "If the Heart is pure, the Land is pure." Confiteria Ideal happened to be "ideal" for us because we had no burdens and felt so free. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Current Argentina Entry/Exit Requirements for Canadians

We learned the hard way this trip - 45 minutes until boarding at Pearson Airport and unable to check-in because we didn't have our paperwork ready for the Reciprocity Fee!

We thought that we had to pay the Reciprocity Fee upon arrival like we did the last few trips, but during the 18 months since our last trip, the rules have changed (apparently as of January 7, 2013) and now you have to pay online before arrival and present the receipt to the airline during check-in.

Here's the link to the Government of Canada website with the link to the information on the Entry/Exit requirements, which contains the link to the official website in Argentina for the payment of the Reciprocity Fee, which is $92 USD:

The fee is valid for multiple entries into Argentina until one month before the expiration of your passport.

Luckily, we were able to pay the Reciprocity Fee online and print our receipts at the business centre located at the Sheraton Hotel attached to the airport terminal, and there were no line-ups at US customs and immigration (we were connecting through the US - yuck) or at security otherwise we would have missed our plane!

We managed to board the plane at the very last minute but then, when we arrived in Buenos Aires...our luggage with our tango shoes inside it was missing.  Not all was lost though, with Comme Il Faut just steps away from our hotel - an excuse to buy shoes!*

* But unfortunately, Comme Il Faut still doesn't sell men's shoes, Man Yung had to get his at Artesanal.

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