Argentine Yankee dabbles in Korea!

I decided to take a quick break from LOL’ing at the everyday silliness of Argentina to focus on the Korea. Since I’m probably the only Californian living in Argentina and visiting Seoul at the moment, I feel like I have free game to speak my mind. Fair?

Turns out Koreans like to use English, more than Argentines even, but speak significantly less of it. This is made more frustrating by the fact that they will guide you just enough to lure you into a sense of security and then completely abandon you. Two signs in English so you know you’re headed in the right direction, and then no more guidance to be found once you know you’re close. All restaurant propaganda in English, but no English menu. Deep sigh.

Here are some examples of the fantastic English phrases Koreans have inserted into Seoul…

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This is a beverage sold at every kiosk. I don’t know what a Pocari is, but unless it’s a unicorn or a wizard, i’m not sure about drinking it’s sweat…

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Perfect name. I think i need a champon from chicken doo…

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Magarrrrzine holder. A magazine holder for pirates.

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Usually you just advertise the “beer and whiskey” and the singles follow, but i like that they eliminated all doubt. Don’t worry Singles Beer Whiskey bar, i’ll be back for you.

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Parents, line up to send your child to this “body friend!” He looks a little bit like a doctor and a lot bit like a prison sentenced child molester.

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This is what all consultants who travel through Chicago during winter say after a 32 hour layover.

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Not exhibition! Just fun & joy! This should have been the slogan at the Venture/Start Up conference we attended all weekend…

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Korean condoms. This is a test men… do you want to be a fluffy tiny with pink heart cheeks, or a fierce tiger? For only $500 won more…

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I mean, two things I like. Generally one creates the need for the other, but maybe Korea just maximizes efficiency?

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Slightly less normal combination, but I guess I prefer my coffee seated and with a table…

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We wanted to do English, but we just weren’t sure how to say what we wanted to fall into fall with!

Note: I think they’re trying to say “falling in love with fall” but that’s just American logic, who knows what i’ve been missing.

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Anyone need a kolon tune up? Or would you rather us not mix your car with your… kolon?

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This is what I’m going to start calling my dinner to all my carb-free friends.

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This guy’s face really just looks like hapiness delight. Which I want to sing, to the tune of “afternoon delight.”

 

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Really isn’t more to it than that.

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Tastes a touch like butternut squash soup, and lots like a mass dose of cream and sugar. Comes with actual pieces of potato in it, which is alarming until you realize it means you can write the whole cream-and-sugar bomb off as a superfood. Win! And I suppose we do “pumpkin spice” lattes, which is essentially the same idea. Though we do keep it to a light spice, not chunks. But Koreans love boba, so I guess they don’t descriminate between liquids and solids in their beverages.

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Nothing to say about this except… pure brilliance. I’ve been waiting my whole life for an excuse to never move my head and call it a productive day. I love you.

 

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A wanderer doomed to wander…

There’s something a smidge unsettling about going “home” and realizing it’s no longer really “home.”

When asked where “home” is I generally default to a generic “California” answer, as I grew up in San Diego, studied at UCLA, worked in LA, and finally moved to San Francisco for the last year and a half. While living in San Francisco… if someone there asked me where I was from I said “San Diego”, though if I was anywhere else in the world I would say “San Francisco.” Why do we do that? “Where are you from” is such an ambiguous question to ask people. You should really say “can i please have a brief history of your geographical choices?” to get the full picture of one’s living sitch, but I digress.

The point is, California is home. But these days going back to San Diego means going back to a town I haven’t lived in for 7 years. It means my parents’ new house and new neighbors, and none of my childhood friends. San Diego is home only because it’s where my parents are. If they moved, would it still be home!? Being in San Diego is lovely, but none of my things are there, and it always feels temporary. All of my friends are in San Francisco (in fact they’re the reason I moved there) and I guess I was eagerly awaiting a warm fuzzy envelope of home-ness upon landing. But upon perusing the city again I quickly remembered, I unfortunately hate San Francisco. It’s cold and grey and hilly and expensive and impossible to navigate and the opposite of beachy. That city never felt like home no matter how much rent I was paying. I left the city precisely because it DIDN’T feel like home.

And as I sit here, briefly back in San Diego at my parents’ house I realize… I’m so excited to finally be going back home. I’m exhausted of traveling, living out of suitcases and playing guest in what should be my home. I want my home. Home is what you make it, and today that means my one bedroom in Palermo… an entire hemisphere across the world, where it’s the wrong season and no one speaks my language. In Buenos Aires I’m relaxed, and I know my neighbors, my friends, my bars, my restaurants, my gym, my bike repair shop, and my routine. I have a job and a self-made support group, and I’m as excited to start my day as I am to come home at the end of it.

I suppose there is not really any point to this post besides solemn reflection. It was mainly a nice excuse to throw in a Carrie-Bradshaw-like… “sometimes I wonder, does everyone eventually find a home? If so, is it really so temporary that 6 months away can make you question everything? I can’t help but ask myself… are wanderers doomed to wander forever?”

Also, my friend Eli who spends a lot of time in Brazil shared this quote which I think is a great piece of thought…

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Argentine wisdom and advice…

1. Women should not run, because it causes cellulite. The rest of the world, as well as science, is mistaken. Obviously, and for no explicable reason in particular, this is not an issue for men.

**This has been stated by not one but many Argentines, including a GYM CLASS INSTRUCTOR. Mind. Blown.

2. Dental floss is a strange invention by Americans and should not be used, as it “causes gaps in your teeth.” [I tried to explain that creating gaps was precisely the purpose, as the gaps are where food used to be. The food, it turns out, causes teeth to rot, which may be precisely the cause of the gaps. See how that works?] Also… braces.

3. Pedestrians/bicyclists… you may think you have the right of way, because of laws and stoplights and such things. But if I have a car, I call the shots around here. Have you seen what happens when a pedestrian and a car meet? Science. Act accordingly.

4. Americans are fat because they eat eggs for breakfast. Argentines eat ham and cheese sandwiches, or croissants filled with dulce de leche. Obviously, eggs are full of fat! Also, if you’re on a diet, you should eat plain white toast with butter, cream cheese and jam. Yes, all on the same piece of toast. Just go to any café and order a “desayuno light”… this is what you will get. Your welcome for cuidando tu salud. (below: croissant vs. egg calories. 10 points for ‘Merica).

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5. If I cannot solve your problem, I have nothing to say about it. Someone stole your phone? Your bike? Pasa lo que pasa. You shouldn’t have locked your bike up outside, you moron. Unless I can directly help, there is zero point in dabbling in sympathetic pleasantries. I am not sorry, because it’s not my fault, and shit happens. “Welcome to Argentina.”

6. “Argentine carne is fat free.” Carne means beef, obviously, which is the only meat that matters. And it’s fat free! But only in Argentina. We’re special.

7. If i am driving, and I put my hazard lights on, it is a free pass to do anything I want. Anything. Drive backwards in a one way street the wrong way? But my hazards are on! Figure it out.

8. If we stop selling alcohol after 10 pm, it means no one will consume any alcohol past 10 pm. There will be no drunk humans, no drunk driving, and no alcoholism. This is also effective if you ban the sale of alcohol on election day. I personally wanted to vote drunk, but DAMN IT I can’t buy any today, so I guess I’ll have to vote sober.

*Also worth noting, clubs open at 3 am. #stockpile

9. There is no time or place where it is inappropriate to hit on a woman. I’m your doctor? I’m your gynecologist? If you’re attractive, you can bet I’ll give it a shot. I’m 85 and you’re 25? Sorry, old habits die hard. I’m holding my wife’s hand, but she’s looking the other way? What an opportunity. You are currently making out with someone else? Always a chance. I’m a cop, and you’re lost? How convenient…

10. Sunday is a day for family. If you want someone to help you with something, anything, tough shit. Cooking, cleaning, massages, haircuts, shopping, markets, services… forget it. You are 100% on your own, so you better plan accordingly. Also, you better like your family. If your family is in another hemisphere, you better like yourself. Or writing blogs.

Argie girls… why are they so nice?

I’m focusing on the girls here, because they have no reason to be nice. I understand why the men are nice, because I have boobs. But the girls in this country, for whatever reason, I have found to be inexplicably warm and inviting, and quick to include and trust a strange foreigner into their group of friends. I think I may have more girlfriends in Buenos Aires than I ever had in San Francisco (where I lived for a year and a half). I should clarify that they are definitely not BETTER friends – I am still infinitely more witty and interesting and charismatic (if i do say so myself…) in English, and there is no one in this world that will hold a candle to my best friends back in the states. But the quantity of girls I’m managed to seduce into friendship here baffles me. Shoutout to the ladies pictured, who for whatever reason have decided to love me and care for me and let me cling onto them (they’re fantastic) friends1 friends1 friends2 friends3 friends4 friends5 friends6 Now obviously I think I my personality is fantastic (you have to think that about yourself, right?), so my confusion here is mainly because I am in Argentina, and in Argentina am a pretty significant pain in the ass to befriend, and definitely to bring anywhere. My Spanish functions relatively flawlessly when chatting one-on-one, but in big groups? Olvidáte. Forget it. Then add a layer of cultural references and years of best friends’ inside jokes, and I am lost forever. I think of myself as a relatively kind and inviting person, especially having been in this position before (studying abroad, working abroad, trying to meet people). But if I were in California and out with my best girlfriends and we met a foreign girl… we might chat a bit, we may even offer to show her around or invite her out with us once or mayyyybe twice… but incorporate her into our circle? Invite her to my WEDDING? Sorry, I’m not that nice. She (this theoretical foreigner, that is) doesn’t speak English. She doesn’t get our humor and slows down our conversations. We have to talk slower, and explain everything we say. Movies, shows, comedians, politics, history, soccer… she doesn’t know anything. She has the vocabulary of a 4 year old. She may be cute and funny when the communication finally get across, but I have lots of cute funny friends. Pass. Hard pass. So why are they so much better? I’d like to think it’s my fantastic charisma, but I’m actually worried it’s the opposite. There’s a smidgeon of terror that people actually like me MORE when they can’t understand me and my mildly offensive sense of humor, and are relieved to have a nice blonde friend who will just sit there quietly and laugh politely when everyone else laughs (cuz she has no fucking clue what’s happening). Or maybe it’s just cuz to compensate for being an incompetent ass in group conversations, I show up with good booze. You can always buy friends right? Kidding. At least a little. These chicks really are ridiculously nice, and for whatever reason I’ve heard (often) the opposite from foreigners about Argentine girls, so I’m here to dispel any rumors. I’ve been invited to bachelorette parties, weddings, asados, family dinners, and group lunches more here than anywhere (excluding the fact that you know, asados only really exist here lol). I’ve been included and reached out to, offered advice and help, and made to feel ridiculously included. If i never come home, I’m blaming the overly accepting Argentine ladies 🙂

What IS Port Salut? And other supermarket-inspired questions…

It sounds weird, but one of my favorite things to do in new countries is peruse supermarkets. I got this from my mother, so please judge her first.

It’s just so interesting to see what they have a plethora of options for, and what is missing. In Argentina, it doesn’t take so long to figure out this country loves meat, loves ham, loves Port Salut (as far as I can tell, it’s just mozzarella?), and has no concept of milk substitutes. If you’re doing the vegan/raw/gluten-free/paleo/whatever else is trendy in LA right now thing… I recommend bringing a lot of snacks.

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I’ll start with the obvious. Massive selection of my favorite thing in the world… raw, pure crack. I mean, dulce de leche. Thick, creamy, extra sugary, extra milky, for topping cakes, for eating plain. Any way in which you could consume this delicious shit, it’s here. Nom nom nom. I’ve only tried about half of these so far (just kidding, i’m not that fat yet) and am definitely not an expert, but i have yet to be disappointed. Argies love their DDL, and I am quite happily jumping on board.

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Next we’ll move onto another Argie love. Strange processed meat concoctions. They’re almost entirely centered around pork as far as I can tell, but I think there may be some cow products in there too. It’s real hard to say, especially when they’re made into various shades of pink rubbery substances and twirled around eggs and ham and some sort of sweet (weird?) spongy bread. It’s called “matambre” and it tastes as weird as it looks. Then there are your purist salames and jamon crudos and jamon cocidos. Prosciutto and cooked ham and chorizo comes in exponential multiples of what I’ve seen offered in the U.S, and if you find the right section you can find em nicely chopped up along with olives and cheese and ready for a little “picada” on a Sunday afternoon with your friends. Don’t think about what part of what animal you’re about to consume, and cheers!

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Cheese. Looks like a vast selection, but alas, upon further inspection you shall be disappointed. Everything you see here – EVERYTHING – is “port salut” cheese. I have never heard of this (i don’t think?) but it tastes like a relatively flavorless mozzarella. It comes in any variety of low or high fats and sodiums, and can come in a massive block or creamy spread. You’ll find the spread version in front of you next to the bread basket when you sit down in a restaurant here, and melted block version on top of any tarta, milanesa, or jamon y queso “sandwich simple.”

If you can look past the Port Salut, there are a few other options. Very VERY mild blue cheese, and brie. And shredded mozzarella, to really spice things up. I’ve had goat cheese at restuarants (never seen it somehow) but it’s always hard block cheese, rather than the delicious crumbly heaven we know in the States. I also once found Feta in China town, and hoarded it defensively until it mocked me and grew moldy, but nada más. It’s a lástima indeed…

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To go with the “Port Salut” cheese of course, you need your dulce de batata or dulce de membrillo or dulce de zapallo. These are chunks of, as far as I can tell, really hard extra sweet jam. They are cut into slices and eaten WITH the cheese. It’s as odd as is sounds, but I guess relatively similar to their idea of spreading toast with Port Salut (the creamy one, obvs) cheese and jam. These are just the block versions. They call it dessert. I call it bullshit, and ask for some dulce de leche.

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Milk and yogurt. They both come in boxes, and the milk is only refrigerated sometimes. They are both nearly always whole milk based, and only sometimes 2%. There are approximately 30 options for milk, and there is SOMETIMES one that is nonfat. It’s a rare find, and I think Americans are the only ones to ever purchase it. Which makes sense, cuz we’re the most obese nation in the world.

Yogurt here comes in bags and tubes and bottles and is often drinkable. Their children apparently do not grow out of the go-gurt phase, and they just went with it. All yogurt, ALL yogurt, is sweetened. Either flavored yogurt, flavored yogurt with fruit on the bottom, or flavored with chocolate and/or dulce de leche with candy pieces on top for mixing in. I am not kidding. You can buy dulce de leche yogurt, throw a bag of M&Ms in it, and call it breakfast in this country. If you need a break from your medialunas smothered in dulce de leche. I’m in love.

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Small shout out to the plethora of fresh pasta in all supermarkets, a hat tip to their Italian heritage. I’m not sure why one would ever buy dried boxes pasta with these miracles on display, but they have that stuff también. You can also buy ham and cheese raviolis or ham and cheese flavored pasta, obviously.

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Finally, you can’t call it an Argentina supermarket experience without noting the aisles upon aisles of maté (Argentine tea beverage – tastes terrible in my opinion but I drink it anyway because I’m convinced the weird caffeine-like substance in it is the only reason Argentines are skinny). You can buy it flavored, mixed with other teas, or straight up. It tastes earthy and bitter, and is carried around during the day for emergencies by many, along with a “termo” of hot water for multiple refills. If you have one with you, you will be asked to share, and you may not know the person asking you. This is not a joke, they really want a sip of your mate. Likewise, you can demand a sip when someone else has some, but just don’t say “gracias” or you’ll be passed. Maté. The reasons Argentines are all so skinny. I remain convinced.

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Last but not least – all the pastry covers! There are tons of options to make your tartas (pictured) or empanadas (not pictured, but consumed.) Argentines are flabbergasted we don’t also have empanadas, and given that they’re about $0.80 to buy or $0.15 to make, I’m upset we don’t have them either. They’re like little calzones, filled with meat (duh) or ham and cheese (duh) or äcelga (chard maybe?) or onions and cheese. They are small and cheap enough you can rationalize them as a snack, but maybe don’t, or your jeans will end up fitting like mine.

Ode to the Dulce…

Ok fine, i DO have a reason for moving to Argentina. It starts with a “dulce” and ends with a “leche.” TITS that shit is delicious. And if i’m really being honest, admitting a weakness for dulce de leche is being a bit generous. It really expands far far beyond the simply carmel-like substance, to pretty much anything with refined sugar (well, or not refined sugar I suppose. Or honey. Or maple. Or agave. You get the picture…) as the #1 ingredient. And it is an addiction.

Thus, Argentina has become a dangerous feeding frenzy for me. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why these people are not more obese, but I can round back to that pregunta in a hot minute. First, let there be food porn.

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I’d like to point out, with more than a smidge of shame, that these are only photos of my purchased goodies. Really only in the last 2 weeks. The actual supply is endless, beautiful, and absolutely delicious. It looks like art! It literally does. Today I saw some sort of “whole wheat flour” cake that had 7 layers and 15 different shades of chocolate and dulce de leche and merengue and peanuts and oreos and mystery things and looked amazing, and was as close as you will see to any attempt to healthen up an Argentine dessert in this country. No gluten-free vegan pizza up in this hizzay… no sir-ee.

And you know what? I appreciate that. Because if you tell me there’s something in there that’s healthy (dates? what even are they, and why do they end up in desserts and make them seem healthier?) in there, i’ll help myself to seconds without a second thought of guilt. And you know what? My pants just keep getting tighter and tighter…

Anywho… this ode really would not be complete without a shoutout to my true love, my real partner, my trusty confidante. Always awaiting me, post lunch, post dinner, for an eager pre-lunch snack. Small or large, and under 100 calories a pop. Vauquitas, I love you, and I WILL find a way to bring you home with me. Even if it means putting a ring on it :-O

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The crime that really epitomizes Argentina

If anything is going to be stolen at gunpoint in this country, it should really be a hunk of steak. I think anyone who’s spent time in Argentina can agree that this country really really loves its beef, and the art of throwing meat on the parrilla is really an honored skill of any Argentine man.

Which is why, this crime is really too great to not elicit a few giggles. No one should be robbed at gunpoint (much less ROB at gunpoint) but i mean… this is just great. I can think of no where else in the world where this would be a thing.

Note: this is a REAL news story. It happened at 6:30 AM on Saturday, May 16th. Here is the news piece (praying they never take it down) http://www.minutouno.com/notas/364217-video-mira-como-un-ladron-escapa-moto-una-media-res-que-robo

If you don’t read Spanish (or can, pero te da “fiaca” as they say here) I’ll sum it up for you with a translation and some pics.

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This says: “It happened at 6:30 am Saturday, when the local meat shop ‘Varón Carnes’, located on the corner of Ameghino and Malvinas Argentinas in the city of Junín, was not yet open to the public and the workers were cutting the meat. After the robbery [stealing half a dead cow], incredibly, the criminal fled with an accomplice and the 50 kg piece of meat on his shoulder.”

This is incredible. Man walks into meat shop with a hoodie and a gun. Waves gun around, realizes there’s no money (this is me guessing, though maybe he never even went for cash) and decides to take advantage of the plethora of raw beef. Grabs half a cow, slings it over his shoulder, and bounces. ON A MOTORCYCLE. What a view. What I’m dying to know… did he eat the thing? Did he try to sell it? Who would buy a piece of meat that traveled open air, on the shoulder of a thief (I mean, he could have at least asked the fellow to Saran wrap it, no? You have a gun, why not grab some Saran wrap while at it?) whizzing through the air on a freeway? Sounds absolutely ridiculous. But as a non-fanatic meat eater (i know, i know, it’s an atrocity in this country) i guess I don’t actually know the economic value of half a cow. Maybe this was a brilliant crime, given the value of the peso these days? Though I wouldn’t say a piece of meat is a great long-term storer of value…

I’m terrified they’ll eventually take this news piece down, so pasting some video screen shots here so you really get an idea of it…

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carniceria 9aaaand off we go!

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carniceria 12on shoulder. Ready to rock. Where my bike and partner-in-crime at? It’s asado time!

Here’s a copy & paste of the full news piece, if you’re dying for more 🙂

Ariel Martiarena y José Ramallo estaban trabajando en la carnicería “Varón Carnes”, cuando se vieron sorprendidos por el ingreso de un ladrón. El malviviente apuntó con el arma Ramallo, tomó la media res de cerdo, se la puso al hombro y se fue.

En diálogo con el medio local, Martiarena relató: “José estaba despositando carne cuando entra el ladrón. Lo agarró con las manos arriba porque trabajando y apuntó con el arma continuamente. Yo, en un momento, salí de donde estábamos despostando la carne, con la cuchilla en la mano, sin saber lo que estaba ocurriendo en el local. El hombre se asustó y me dijo: ‘metete para adentro vos’. Yo, de un costado miraba pero estaba tranquilo, porque veía que lo que él quería sacar era un chancho, aparentemente no tenía intenciones de robar plata ni celulares ni nada más. Me llamó la atención eso”.

“Al principio, yo voy a ver qué estaba pasando porque se escuchaban muchos gritos. Escuché: ‘dame el chancho porque te tiro’ y a ahí me di cuenta que era un robo. A la mañana a veces vienen conocidos y se ponen a hablar fuerte, de futbol generalmente. Pero esto era distinto. Me asomé y el ladrón me dijo que me metiera para adentro. Y así lo hice, tenía que quedarme tranquilo, pensaba que iba a agarrar el chancho y se iba a ir. No quería que disparara. José tampoco hizo nada, largó el cuchillo. Sabemos que si vienen a robar no hay que hacerse el Rambo, que se lleven lo que quieran porque andan armados y pueden disparar“, comentó aún sorprendido por el delito.

“Y había otro chico conmigo, el que trae los pollos. Si nos agarra a los tres y nos saca la plata nuestra y los celulares, podría haber hecho más diferencia. Pero no, se llevó el medio chancho y se fue. Generalmente siempre hay media res de vaca, pero esa mañana estaba la media res de chancho”, aclaró.

Martiarena agregó que andaban dos en una moto. “Imagino que se llevaron la media res ¡en la moto! Pesa 50 kilos…¿sabés lo que es andar en una moto con medio chancho encima? La policía llegó a los 15 minutos, pero ya no había ninguno…Ya había pasado todo“, señaló.

Recordó que cuando hacía poco que habían abierto la carnicería, enseptiembre de 2013, hubo otro robo, pero en aquella oportunidad no había nadie adentro. En aquella oportunidad, los ladrones rompieron una puerta de blindex e ingresaron. “Nosotros fuimos muy confiados, no tendríamos que estar trabajando con la puerta abierta, más que sabemos que todos los viernes y sábados hay líos”, acotó.