Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tranquility and Beauty in Rosario

Life in Buenos Aires was just becoming too routine and mundane with my work schedule here. I've been working much more to save money to fund more travel in this country. I had an itch to pack the bag and put on the travel shoes again since I hadn't escaped the city in over four months, Iguazu being the most recent. It's imperative to see the many places outside of Capital Federal to fully experience this country. The decision process on where to travel next was very short-lived since we had heard so much about the beauty in Rosario, which is just a 3-4 hour drive northwest of Buenos Aires. The beauty of the small city atmosphere, the beauty of the people (opinion of many that the most beautiful people of Argentina reside in Rosario) and the beauty of simpatico. It is a popular conception that people from Buenos Aires are a bit more snobby than people from the provinces. My tendency to see past the popular conception may be mistaken in this case. The two day hiatus in Rosario quickly proved this conception true.

We arrived Saturday evening around 6pm with a familiar excitement for being in a new place once again. It took the bus 5 minutes to transport us from the station to our two-day residence, Cool Raul Hostel. Omar was the nice young man, who sports big curly red/blonde afro hair, who is the heir owner of the hostel. Yes he is grandson of the cool Raul himself. The atmoshere of this hostel was much like that of a friend's house. Omar and the rest of the crew were so open and friendly, it was strangely as if we had all known each other for years. There was no awkward 'where are you from and what do you stand for?' conversation. The ice was broken once we arrived. My joy for travels were immediately refreshed in my mind once we met the other travelers passing time at the Cool Raul. After a yummy pizza dinner at the Malteria just two blocks from the hostel, we all started the night of consuming Quilmes (beer of choice in Argentina) and mingling with our newest network of friends. (In pic below/left is Omar, myself, Rodrigo and Shanina. Below center is Laura (Germany) and William (aka Prince Harry from England. Below right is Mike, his two girlfriends and I)

No plans had been set for the night until Omar approached us in his scratchy voice ¨You guys want to go club?¨ Needless to say, we simply nodded "Si senor" since we had heard so much positive about the nightlife in Rosario. Fernanda and Shanina, both from Buenos Aires, hopped in the car with Mike, Omar and I as we set out for the club around 2am jamming to Led Zeppelin. Strangely, the club we went to had an age requirement, no it wasn´t 21 years old..... it was 25 years old. Wow, I the feeling of bein under age gave me that excited feeling in my stomach for using some janky ID to enter the club. Shhh I know I´m such a rebel. We passed the night like rockstars in the 25 and up club only to sleep until 2pm the next day and miss out on the huge protests in Rosario.

Oh, you didn't hear about the protests? Neither did we until after they happened. Sunday was a huge holiday in Argentina, 25 de Mayo, which is the Argentine national holiday in memory of the Argentine revolution. We were well aware of the holiday but didn't expect there to be a 350,000-person protest in Rosario. Why the protests? You may have guessed it, the farmers are resuming their strike as a reasonable compromise has yet to be reached between the government and the farmers. After collecting our wits from our fun night, we walked the city which didn't take too long and were able to see the aftermath of the protests. People were walking the streets wearing flags, we weren't really sure if it was for the protests or the holiday... or both. (Pictured below/left is Parque Nacional de las banderas. Pictured below right is just one of the many who was sporting the flag. Blue and white was everywhere)

With all of that said, we still really enjoyed seeing the city center and Parque Nacional de las Banderas. This plaza had a true Argentine ambience with all of the flags and people dressed in the national colors, light blue and white. We proceeded to eat at VIP, a little restaurant along the river meanwhile watching the Boca Juniors futbol game. Boca Juniors is the popular team in Argentina and you either love them or you hate them. After walking the city to the fullest, we returned to the Cool Raul and mingled more only to live up another night as 25 year olds in yet another 25 and up club. Needless to say, Rosario came through with its promise of good nightlife, fresh air, nice/beautiful people and good small-town atmosphere.

Upon returning to Buenos Aires, I felt a renewed energy from the weekend travels. Before this weekend, it was as if I had forgotten that I was living in another country, it had all become too comfortable. This renewed energy stimulated from the Rosario weekend has only spurred my motivation to travel and see as much of this country as I can in the coming months. It all brought me in full circle to my message from Euro travels, live your life, it is so easy to forget sometimes we only have once to fulfill the life we want to live.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Too Happy? Read the News

It had become a common routine for me, returning home from a good day of activities in Buenos Aires only to open up my laptop and check out the news. Talk about going from good mood to utter disbelief in the latest news story on cnn.com or bbc.com. News anymore, whether you receive it from your television set or internet, is synonymous with a prescription to turn happiness into a downer. Sometimes, you have to question how much you can take of Obama vs. Hillary, the Olympic protests, the Bush Administration´s Iraq policy, Zimbabwe´s new President/s, some idiot who tried to cash a $360 billion check in Texas, and the sad list goes on. If you excuse me while I go on a tangent, really American politics? How many different ways can you divide the votes? (black vs. white vote, men vs. women, Hispanic woman vote vs. white man vote).

Oh I´m warmed up now, tangent number 2, a kid tried cashing a $360 billion dollar check. The ignorance of people never ceases to amaze me, so sad you can´t help but laugh it out. Needless to say, the news was just a bit too ridiculous for my taste. After too many smiles had been turned upside down by the steady feed of depressing news, I decided enough was enough. A news fasting period, as I like to think of it, was in store.

The fasting period would be for 10 days, I went without checking the typical yahoo news, cnn.com, bbc.com or whatever it may be. The only exlusion from this group was espn.com, I mean come on, sports news aren´t that depressing unless you´re an avid New York Knicks fan. What would I do with this excess free time? I decided the internet is a tricky place, but lucky for us we can go anywhere that piques our interest. The time spent on my computer was now going to expanding my knowledge on different topics, mainly on wikipedia. I would choose a different topic each day which resulted in a new self-education system. The majority of my time went to reading up on health, cooking, history of Argentina, globalization, Ronaldinho and many more random topics. Another portion of the time went to keeping in tune with the world of commerce via the McKinsey Quarterly and Economist.com. This period of researching whatever the hell my little heart desired brought me back to restored happiness in terms of my internet reading. Things weren´t right, I was just letting my mind wander and the happiness was getting to be overbearing. Time had come to get back to the ¨real world¨and read the news.

My first visit to cnn online after a 10 day hiatus welcomed me back in open arms. ¨22,000 people killed in Myanmar Cyclones.¨ This number of casualties has now been estimated near 100,000. The harsh reality of natural disasters has come back to remind us of the tsunamis in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina just several years ago. My only hope for cause of action right now is that aid arrives to the few survivors in Burma more quickly than the case was in 2005 with Katrina. My thoughts go out to all of those effected by the cyclones. The fact that a large proportion of a country´s population can be whiped out in a matter of days is a cold reminder that all of our personal problems are very miniscule contrary to our neighbors around the globe.

I thought this was bad enough but the next headline grabbed my eyes even more, ¨Drug raid hits SDSU.¨ Great! Now my alma mater has a polished reputation for drug trafficking from Mexican cartels straight to the fraternity houses resulting in two deaths of drug overdose in the last year alone on campus. Ironically, the majority of them were Criminal Justice and Homeland Security majors. At least my resume will be nice and ready for my job interview next week in Medellin, Colombia as a druglord. See you in Miami! Needless to say, I´m feeling a bit sarcastic today. It only took one day for the news to recapture me in its illumination of the madness.

Back to espn and the wiki!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Waking Up in a New Room, Again.

Time is escaping quickly, I just realized I haven't posted anything in several weeks. I moved to a new part of the city, San Telmo, which is an authentic older part of the city known as the tango district. The culture is very rich in this part of the city as you can find a place to dance tango within nearly four blocks of corner and the nightlife is second to none. San Telmo is the place to be on Sundays as it hosts a large street fair where numerous creative artists make an appearance to earn a couple pesos for their hard work. The antique, cultural ambience in this barrio provides a confirmed sentiment that this is the Argentina I had dreamt of before flipping my world.

Not to be confused with Palermo or Recoleta, which are much nicer areas of the city, San Telmo still has everything you need and fills the role of tourist central on the weekends. However, it is not an area to be a naive tourist aimlessly wandering the streets late night, some of the areas in San Telmo are to be avoided after 1am. I've discovered the best way to walk 'shady' streets late night while alone (which is not recommended for white boys in Latin America) is to camouflage yourself with your surroundings. Not literally but walk with a purpose and have a sense you know where you are and where you're going (even if you don't), street smarts: 102, feel free to laugh it out. As I'm writing this, I search for the nearest wood to knock on as to avoid jinxing my white boy street smarts.

The house:
Now, the neighborhood is great but its really about that place we call home. I found this home on a local website for renting apartments in Buenos Aires called compartodepto where you can find more reasonably priced apartments than craigslist. The catch, be ready to negotiate in Spanish. This was my a great experience due to the fact I had to call the owners (duenos) of these places and arrange times to meet and negotiate price, if necesarry, all in castellano. The house we settled on is a Bohemian style artistic home that provides a rather endearing feeling. My distractions have been cut enormously since there is no television here. Without a television present, this has left a greater amount of time for reading, internet research and conversing in Spanish. Every day I leave work, I leave the English language behind as well. The house is very simple, artistic, cultural and only one language is spoken, Spanish.

Vanessa y Josephina loving life over some mate

Since moving here nearly two weeks ago, I've already noticed a difference in my conversational skills. One of the housemates living here is an Argentine, Danny, who is from another province and prefers to speak mostly slang. Therefore, we are learning a lot of street Spanish which is hugely beneficial. Josephina is the renter of this apartment and she is an incredible artist. She is the reason this house has such a creative, cultural feeling. Josephina is in her 40's and possesses of load of knowledge from her many years of travel. Her stories are incredible and my favorite is how she climbed the Incan Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu with Manu Chao, who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. She has the picture to prove it because I certainly did not believe her at first. Unfortunately, Josephina and Danny are moving this weekend to travel more. Alexis (the funny French kid), Jenny (Australian study abroad girl), Mike (Chinito) and I (Colorado) round out the rest of the international vibes.
Josephina y yo Mike and I with Danny and Josephina