Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A sum of the parts

For the Feria de Libros soon to be published booklet, each of us writers must include a bio. Here's mine:

Ambi Alexander is a writer and Ashtanga yoga teacher living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She grew up in Los Angeles and attended San Diego State University where she double-majored in Political Science and Women's Studies and minored in French. In 1995 she moved to San Francisco where she lived and worked for 12 years, primarily in marketing for Oracle, Autonomy, Autodesk, E-Translate, and Charles Schwab. Additional work history includes waitress, speechwriter, magazine editor, camp counselor, event planner, book researcher, chiropractic assistant, bank teller, registered stock broker, babysitter, political organizer, and sex educator for teens. Ambi launched her travel blog Argentinedreams the day she moved to Buenos Aires -- March 16, 2007. Her love of language began early with Richie Rich comic books, Charlotte's Web, The Black Stallion, and The Nancy Drew mysteries. She last read a collection of stories by Roald Dahl. Her favorite book ever - Lolita!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Feria de Libros

One of the biggest events of the year in BA is the annual book fair. Yes, it sounds odd even writing it down but I guess in a country with more than a 90% literacy rate and free university education it makes sense the people here love to read. Last year more than 300,000 argentines stood in line for hours to get in to the fair. The event lasts two weeks and is packed with workshops, seminars and a huge exhibit hall of vendors.

This year I'll be a participant not just a spectator at the Feria de Libros in May. Thanks to one of the well connected members of my writers group, we will present a one hour workshop (sponsored by the US embassy - they're also bringing Tom Wolfe down for a keynote sesssion) on How to Launch a Writing Career in Buenos Aires Using the Internet. For my piece, I'll give a how-to on blogs and show ArgentineDreams. Others in the group will cover how to get exposure and earn money entering writing contests, doing freelancing work and the other online resources available to writers today. Did I mention the session will be in spanish? or in english with simultaneous translation if necessary but I am going to try and go full Portena.

Also, our group decided to put together a booklet of our recent work. Each of us will submit 2 or 3 pieces (short stories, poems or for a few - an excerpt of their in progress novel). The embassy agreed to pay for the printing and will hand out copies at their booth. So, if not already, after May 7th, each of the 7 of us will be officially "published" writers.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Estancia-ing it

Friends Brad and Laura have been hosting their good friends Amy and Sanjay from NYC this week and invited us to accompany them to an estancia for the night. Amy and Sanjay love BA so much they make a yearly pilgramage - this is their fourth trip in as many years. We spent a lot of time by the pool. Utta got her first ever dip in the pool. She was mostly terrified but it helped cool her off. She also chased roosters and nearly gobbled a cow pie but Hugh fished it out before it made it all the way down her throat. On the one hour drive from BA I received my first "business" related calls on our cell phone. (i put our cell # on my new Yogarina cards) The first from an Argentine woman who lives around the corner from the studio I teach at on Fridays with some questions about the style of yoga and what she should wear. The second from a pregnant woman who lives about 40 minutes outside of BA. She wants me to come to her house for a private session on Tuesday. She'll pay my hourly rate, my travel expenses and any other extra amount I want to tack on for the trouble of leaving the city. Both new students speak only Spanish so looks like I am officially a bi-lingual yoga teacher now. My Friday class was a text book challenge. One of my students didn't speak english and was a real beginner to yoga. The other student doesn't speak spanish and is quite advanced and more flexible than me (i think she trained in ballet at some point). Designing a class to suit the needs of everyone is part of the challenge and satisfying when it works.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Marketing my Namaste

This week marked the official launched of "Yogarina" my new yoga business. Yes, I've been teaching now since early December but did not have anything tangible to say - yes, I'm a yogarina. Now I do. Soon to be brother-in-law uber talent Rey designed my logo, and accompanying business cards and a flyer. It was fun to work on together and reminded me of the year I spent at a former dot com rebranding and ultimately renaming the company. Rey did all of the illustrations with help from a yoga book I left behind in Sf and my sister doing a few live demos in the living room. The colors I knew from the beginning. In high school my favorite color was navy blue - kind of mature for a teenager I guess but I was obsessed. Navy and white polkadotted dress, navy tees, navy pinstriped pants, dark navy jeans - whatever I could get my hands on. I've always been very inspired by color. The past several months I've been seeing turquoise and dark pink. Anything of those two colors - either separate or together I just have to have it. Pictures in a magazine, little dolls, lipsticks, anything. So, I told Reybone (his nickname) to design around these colors. In his first round, he informed me that I had in fact chosen the Vagisil color palette! hahahahaha well, what can I say? The Vagisil team obviously did their focus group research and chose well. So far, my students and others love my new logo and marketing materials.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Las Tonninas

Gaby, (far left in sunglasses)is so far, my best friend in Buenos Aires. We hang out at least a few times a week - usually one night out for drinks or dinner on a week night and on the weekend we often meet for mate in the park to lay out and chat, or see a concert, run in a race. Last Tuesday we met in Puerto Madero - to have happy hour with Judith (captain of our running team) and enjoy the summer sun. Puerto Madero is currently the hippest, most expensive, modernist area of the city at the old port. For me and most foreigners, its not so alluring. Reminds me of the area in SF near the ballpark - recently built up with high rise apartments and loft like expensive restaurants. Been there, done that. I'll take a tattered french building with hole in the wall parrillas any day. But it was fun for a night. Gaby was celebrating her new job - situated a block from the water at a french cosmetics firm. Judith also recently got a new job in HR for a well known HR consulting outfit - her first real job after a two year search. Thursday, Gaby, Laura and I met for dinner at Tandoor Indian restaurant after I took a yoga class nearby. We all three share a fascination with India and are making tentative plans to vacation there together in the next year if we can manage it. The food was tasty and typically spiced. Argentines have notoriously sensitive palates. After one bite of the chicken in coconut curry cilantro sauce, Laura couldn't eat anymore. We also had to stop at a kiosco on the way home so she could buy water to drink before bed since her tongue was still "on fire". Gaby too complained the next day about the spiciness even though she loves the flavor.

Friday, Gaby and I took a roadtrip to Las Tonninas for the weekend. Her grandparents bought a small shacklike casita there many years ago and now her parents own it. Everyone in her family takes turns staying there over the summer. I wasn't sure what to expect as I've not traveled much and only been to the beach once since we got here. The town was, how shall I say this...third worldy. The buildings were mostly run down, dirty and ancient. Reminded me of how people live in tiny villages in Mexico - wrinkly old women sitting in broken chairs on the front "lawn" while soiled naked children run in circles chasing a half starved dog. Wow -I thought, this is going to be a real taste of how the peeps here live.

The house was filthy and I am not a fastidious person. In fact, most people who've been overnight at our place here or in SF will attest to our mutual piggyness. However, even I have my limits and they were tested this past weekend. The casita upon entry reeked of dust and mildew as if no one had been there for years (her brother and friends had just visited the weekend before). Bathroom and kitchen had not been thoroughly cleaned since her grandparents bought the place 40 years back. I think the same shower curtain was in use. Technically I think it was white but carried a patina of black soot with the ever growing spores of mold. We slept in the bedroom with two sets of twin beds. The mattress I slept on was but a 3 inch dust bunny and mite encrusted piece of old foam. The sheet covering made me yearn for a Motel 6 bedspread. Oh, did I mention the "shower" drickled water. None of this seemed to bother or embarrass Gaby. She was so used to it and said that when she was younger and her grandparents were still alive, they'd have 15 family members all stay the weekend - yes, sharing that same bathroom and the one dingy gray towel.

We were just a half block to the beach so I saw a lot of the ocean which was nice. It was windy so the roar of the waves was also always in ears reach. We brought books and mate to the waters edge and watched mostly families play in the rocky surf and pitch tents on the sandy dunes above us. We ran at dusk, ate oodles of meat at a local parrilla and strolled the town's main strip at midnight. Teenagers littered the arcades and ice cream shops giggling and swapping saliva. It wasn't as warm at night as Buenos Aires but it oozed summertime and was in the end, an all around good time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Coach B and Heather visit

Ex-bootcamp coach Greg and fiance Heather arrived Friday night. His bootcamp/personal training business ( has grown a ton since we left. Now he has 5 sessions a day at Dolores Park, the Marina, even a mid day workout downtown. We've been spending a lot of time reconnecting and sharing the city and argentine customs with them. The last two nights we made dinner here at our apartment. Very simple everyday food but tasty. First night we made chicken and beef milanesas (thin cuts of meat lightly breaded and then fried in olive oil). Hugh took charge of the meat and I made a light salad and we ordered empanada appetizers. Afterwards, we took Utta and walked down to Persicco our favorite gelato shop for ice cream. It rained for about 10 minutes when we got there which felt good at the moment. It was around midnight 85 degrees. Last night, I took Heather for a long walk around the lakes (where I usually run but it was too hot to run) and we stopped to visit my running coach Martin. He gave her a taste of Las Halcones and the drills we do here - similar to the bootcamp routines we did with Greg.

My latest ailment resides in my throat. I've had a constant hacking cough for the past 6 or 7 days that won't quit. It's worse at night when I lie down to go to sleep and continues every half hour or so until dawn. I kept Hugh and Utta up along with me the first several nights, then tried sleeping in the second bedroom but that didn't help much as we have to keep all doors open at night to let the air conditioning in the living room circulate cool air throughout the rest of the apartment. Everyone says its because we are overusing the a/c but dang how can you just sit in a hot stuffy apartment? Sweating. I thought the cough would eventually go away but yesterday it hadn't yet, so I spent four hours at the hospital waiting to see a doctor, being seen, going for tests (she thought maybe I had strep throat), returning for the test results, then finally giving up and going home for a nap. I'm beginning to understand why most Portenos head out of the city for the month of January.

Tonight Greg and Heather will come to the Ashtanga Yoga class that I now teach (wheeeee!!!!). This month I may rename it Hot Ashtanga Yoga as we will surely work up a sweat.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A hot new year

The new year rang in as a heat wave enveloping the city like a blanket of steamy wet towels. The only escape was air conditioning - the fabricated reality of a breezy autumn day in San Francisco. Open a window or the door to outside and bam - the thick soup of summer stagnation. Natures message to every living thing to slow down. Saunter not skip, crawl not race, shuffle not walk, doze, doze, doze the day away. Afternoons pass with little more activity than the low hum of a bird foraging the trees for a seed or two. The sun rises mercilessly early and long after it retires, the sidewalks steam with the radiant heat of the day. Crowds crowd the outside tables of ice cream shops until late in the evening - the only meal worth having. Lemon meringue, mango nectarine and tropical peach cones penetrate the dreams of every child and acquiescing adult. Time to siesta says the squirrel. Time to shut the shops and holiday says the faun swan. Flee to the playa if you can - or just cower inside by the stay alive machine pumping air into your cave. It's a new season and Mother says listen.