March 15, 2017 – Argentina Tour – Stellae Boreales at at Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano
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We woke up today realizing half of our trip had already passed. The Stellae gang woke up and had the usual breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we went to Northlands School for our second performance of the trip. When we arrived, we were surprised to see hundreds of little students, squirming through the auditorium into their seats. Since the auditorium was stuffed to the teeth, we were all very hot. With sweat streaming down our arms and legs, our hands were extremely sweaty. They were so sweaty that when we tried to shift to second position, our hands resulted in slipping to 8th position. Despite the odds, we managed to pull it off, and the crowd of primary and senior students thoroughly enjoyed it. Northlands School then kindly had us for lunch. Many Stellae members enjoyed pasta, chicken, and rice. During lunch some Argentinian chicos asked us to do a quick interview on the northwest passage in Canada. Joel volunteered to do the interview partially because he was the only one who knew the answers to their questions.
After lunch at the first school, we bussed to the second location of the Northlands School. We enjoyed playing cards and socializing on the bus. We were then guided to our warm up room to prepare for our second concert of the day. Before we played we got the opportunity to hear Northlands School orchestra play a few songs. It was really interesting for us to hear another ensemble from the other half of the world. Then it was our turn to play. The concert was a success! The crowd was very supportive and enthusiastic. After the concert there was a brief Q and A. The students were able to ask us questions about us and the violin. Some of the questions were: “when did you start learning the violin” “how do you feel when you play the violin” and “how long do you practise a day”. The questions allowed us to further understand ourselves as a violin player.
After the concert we headed by bus to the Canadian Ambassador to Argentina’s house. On the bus ride, many Stellae members sang a Capella style to our Stella repertoire. I could say we harmonized nicely, and it was a fun time. The bus ride also included a game of president and the braiding of Devon, Sofi, and Jezlyn’s hair. We finally arrived at the house, and we discovered it was incredibly beautiful. The inside was decorated with elegant furniture, but the backyard stole the show. It was equipped with a swimming pool, a trampoline, a soccer field, and badminton and volleyball nets. Truly a kid’s paradise. Stellae enjoyed using these activities, eating a delicious meal, and mingling with the ambassador and his family. Sadly it was time to go back to our hotel. When we got back to the hotel we all played some cards against humanity which was a hoot to say the least. Then we all went to bed, thinking about the great day we had.
Tonight, many of us went to the tango show at Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Argentina. It was supposed to be all of us but unfortunately there was a protest and none of the taxis with the girls could make it! The guys were there in full force. It was a beautiful show. Afterwards, outside, the guys were inspired to strike poses they saw in the tango show! Their performances of tango music will be so informed after this! Cafe Tortoni management very graciously offered to let those who missed tonight’s show see the show Thursday evening. They are in for a treat! After this first exposure to authentic Argentine tango, we are looking forward with great anticipation to a tango dancing class later in the week at La Viruta, a milonga in Buenos Aires very popular with Porteños and visitors.
March 14, 2017
Today was an interesting day; we had a chance to visit the downtown shopping street, Florida Avenue. To get there was possibly the longest taxi ride of my life. Although the distance to downtown is only around 7km away, it took us 1h to get there because of traffic. Our taxi ride was quite terrifying since Argentinian traffic does not follow the same order as Canadian traffic. As Daniel put it, our drivers seemed to be driving in “all lanes at the same time”. Blinkers were never used to change lanes and lane markings were merely guidelines.
As for Florida ave, the narrow walking street was fairly busy, lined with expensive clothes stores such as Nike and Adidas and sprinkled with small kiosks selling souvenirs. Every few metres, a person would shout, “Cambio, cambio!” – change your money. We walked into the the Gallaria, a shopping mall. Its Victorian architecture fit in with the rest of the buildings around it. In the centre of the mall was a Sistine chapel remake and a fountain. There were many familiar stores to us such as Timberlands and Lacoste, but to our dismay, they were a great deal more expensive than in Ottawa. For lunch we had delicious empanadas and for desert a few of us went to Freddo, an ice cream chain that almost tops Stella Luna for the “world’s most expensive ice cream” award. The smallest size is very small (2/3 the size of a Stella Luna small) and costs $6CAD. We walked around a bit then attempted- and failed- to hail taxis outside the shopping mall for all 20 of us. A few people managed to get taxis and the rest of us headed to a bigger street and successfully got taxis.
At the hotel, we rehearsed our pieces and went swimming. Today was the warmest day so far 26 degrees in the afternoon.
Dinner was pizza at the Kentucky pizzeria, that we went to on Friday. Ordering skills have greatly improved since Friday, most of us can get by ordering food with minimal help from Sofi.
After dinner came quite a strange ordeal. Arlene, Minh Anh, Sofi and I got into a taxi, on our way to a tango show. The show was downtown, close to the “Casa Rosada” (Argentinian Parliament). Two taxis had already left (an all boys taxi and the Rentenaars). As soon as we got into the taxi, the driver started rambling at us in Spanish. Sofi was quick to translate: “he says that all the roads to the tango cafe are blocked!”. We kept talking to him and eventually understood what was going on: there was a protest going on downtown that was blocking many the main street (Avenido 9 de Julio). “Well can’t we walk?” we asked. The answer, to our dismay, was no, the rioters were too violent. He warned us that the protesters would cut our bags open and steal our phones. We decided to turn back, and met a few others at the hotel. As it turned out, the boys’ group and the Retenaars had made it there safely, and had walked a few blocks to the cafe when the cabs could no longer get through. At the hotel, those of us that were left (aka all the girls) gathered in Sarah’s room for a girl’s card game night. We drank matte (traditional Argentinian tea), ate snacks and talked. Although we are sad that we missed the show, the tickets Judy (who was at the show) managed to change our tickets so that we can go Thursday night, so at least we are not missing out. (Now begins a part written by the boys who went to the show)The tango show was nothing short of spectacular. It was a great way for us to explore the Argentinian culture and traditions. On the way back to the hotel, the stellae guys took taxis, which led to the “epic taxi race” between the senior stellae guys and the intermediate stellae guys. The taxis were neck in neck all the way to the hotel. Once the taxis got to the hotel, all the guys sprinted out of their taxis, and ran up the stairs at such a fast rate to see who would get to the ninth floor first. In the end, the senior stellae guys came on top as Austin took the elevator instead of walking. They celebrated by taking the W and think that the intermediates are sore losers.
This adventure starts on a Thursday afternoon in Ottawa. Everybody arrived at the airport around 4:30 and after a bit of confusion about where spare strings were to go, goodbyes, (and pictures of course) we were off. After a short flight to Toronto, we had an extended wait in Toronto before our next flight. During this time, people looked for food, mingled, and even did homework (shameful, I know). We then got on our second of three flights, to Santiago, Chile. While some of us watched movies and shows for the duration of the flight, others tried to get as much sleep as possible. Nevertheless, we arrived in Santiago in good time, and then waited for a little while to get back on the plane to head to Buenos Aires. The flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires was pleasantly shorter than the one to Santiago. Once we arrived in Buenos Aires, we soaked in the sun and the heat, which we had forgotten actually existed. We then took a shuttle bus to the hotel where everybody was dozing off. After a quick stop to check out our rooms, we headed out and walked to get some pizza, where Aaron attempted to order the pizza in Spanish, which was comical to say the least. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, and I now listen to Felix and Austin practising and the busy night life outside as I finish writing this blog. But it’s safe to say, that after 24 hours of travelling, we could all do with some sleep.