Friday, May 23, 2008

Argentina, scattered, smothered, covered....

This is a quick cultural sandwhich, with everything on it, I just felt like throwing out there for all you folks. Some interesting aspects of Argentina that an American whos never left the red, white, and blue soil would never think anything about. This is gonna come out as random as my mind creates it, and we all know how shot-out that can be at times, so here we go. All the gardners here work out of three different means of transportation, 1. a pull behind cart with big wheels (like the chinese taxis you´ve seen sometimes in films), 2. this same cart attached to a bicycle (never knew bikes had trailer hitches did you, me neither, but they do) 3. same cart again but pull by a motorcycle. These ole boys load these jokers down with everything as well; weed eaters, lawnmowers (make note the both of these appliances are always electric) extension cords, ladders, I´m talkin´ the bloody works to do all kinds of stuff to any plant product. These boys live out the example of "where theres a will theres a way." There are lines here in Argentina for everything. Whether it be at the post office, grocery store, especially the government traffic building (hallelujah, that beast is blown up unbelievably every single day of the week, from sunrise to sunset. A line that looks like some mutated boa constrictor made of people laid out to take in the sun´s rays. I´ve no idea what´s happenin there.) They love to rig stuff here to the point it only functions. Ex. In the new bathrooms here in the computer lab at school not a single one of the men´s bathrooms toilet lids will stay up; taking a leak ends up being an acrobatic feat of cat like balance and hand eye coordination like you wouldn´t believe. Breakfasts involve a coffee, tea, some little pieces of white bread with this sweet caramel style spread called "dulce de leche", and that´s it, suck, swallow, and hit the road. After more than three months I STILL have not gotten accustomed to that one. Lunches are much more heavier thank goodness. The bad part is these folks don´t do supper until 9, 10, or sometimes 11. Everyday of the week all the restaurants are open to at least 12 and throughout the weekend 2 or 3 in the morning is not uncommon. The folks here are also all about this herb called "yerba mate." You put it in a small type of coffee like cup, "the mate" that has no handle, fill the "mate" with the "yerba" (the herb) a little more than halfway, then proceed to put this type of metal straw that is sealed off on the bottom but has holes in it that allow the water infused with the herb to pass through. The interesting part about this experience is everyone uses and drinks from the same straw, called "bombilla", here. It is very common if you encounter someone you´ve never met to share this beverage with them, still using the same straw. I will elaborate more later. I gotta roll outta here now to develop some pictures for my photography class. Pardon the tardiness on the post, I assure you all theres more to come soon. I´m gone!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fly me to the moon like a....out uh´ Crampton!!!!

As I´ve told so many of you any various times throughout my life, my one wish of all time, hands down, without a doubt, would be to be able to fly like Peter Pan. Yes, I realize that sounds cheesy, but whatever, get off me, that´s how it is, I WANNA FLY PEOPLE!!!! I´m here to tell you that this weekend, it went down, straight up “pixy dust in the middle of Neverland” style. Me and some of the crew headed off to a place called “Cuchi Corral” (I know, what a name right, :) in La Cumbre. After a 15 minute drive down a mountain road we end up on the top of a mountain where it´s as though the top has been cut off. There were a good handful of folks, not to many though, just enough to give the atmosphere that background action you need, and wild jokers flying around with parachutes all over the place. This sport is called paragliding, and no I´m not talking about the parasailing you do down in Panama City on Spring Break with the ole boys, PARAGLIDING, quite an upgrade from “parasailing” in my opinion. It cost me about 60 bucks for a 30 minute flight and Hallelujah!!!, every last bloody cent was worth it. Here´s how is went down: Toti, my guide in the most recent pictures I sent ya´ll, strapped me up, attached himself to my back (cause you know there´s no way in Hades I was gonna try something like this the first time bymyself), and we began to wait. Here I am chillin on the side of a mountain about 15 feet from the Cliffside sweating like a joker as anticipation about blew me up. As so as the right amount of wind hit, Toti launched our shoot, we start running toward the cliff and proceed to jump off the side “acid trip suicide” style and BOOM!!! The sensation of standing on the ground and sensation of gravity is gone. People, this has made it into one of my Top Five greatest experiences of MY LIFE!!!, true story. Because I´m out in front of Toti and he´s driving, I have a view absent of cables for 200 degrees. I´m literally flying through the middle of the sky, and the only present sound is the wind blowing. The only thing I was missing was the green hat with the feather and set of green tights and I would have been the real deal Pan. We´re zooming through the mountains, at times less than 20 feet from the mountain side, while other moments we approach some overhang and I feel like the wreck in the sky is gonna take place, but Toti works his pilot magic and we zip up real quick like “Airwolf” (reference for you old schoolers) and pass over the overhang smooth as can be. This was crazy, at one point, no more than 10 feet away these two Condors decided to join us. Make note, I´m now not only flying through the sky but hanging out with two Condors as if we´re about to have mid air tea time, absolutely ridiculous. I could continue to elaborate on the details of this Rocketeer-esque journey but I have class, the good news is I made a couple videos of the experience I´ll share with ya´ll upon my return. Much love to my people, I´m giving another shout out the most recent comments, I LOVE EM!!!! AND LOVE ALL OF YA´LL EVEN MORE. I´m outta here!!!!

Some more photos. Bout flippin´ time right!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NASCAR-ish part 2

Tents were already setup, lanterns burning so each person was able to mix just the right amount of Fernet and Coke for the perfect late night Rally beverage while the fire had settled to a mound of hot embers that allowed the asado and vegetables to cook nice and slow. Praise God for Argentina and its abundance of beautiful asado. We were a group of about fifteen, as always with this crowd, while two other crews camped close to us combined to be another fifteen. As the evening progressed, the cups of liquid courage turned three distinct groups of ole boys into one giant social circus. The bullcrapping was something serious and here I am the lone white boy, doing everything in my power to follow the conversations and at lightning fast questions in another language. Finally, one of the guys from the other group brought out the guitar and proceeded to play this “classic” style progession that many boys from the country here play. The beautiful part about this, and extremely impressive aspect, is that on top of these two chords, two other jokers start taking turns improvising in a story telling style way that I´ve never seen. It was a mixture of spoken word with a distinct vocal tone and flow. For me it was very difficult to follow the themes, but one did not need to understand the language to appreciate the rhythm and fluidity of their phrases. I had played for crew a couple weekends back at the Papi´s country getaway, so as the improve action came to a close I was haggled intensely to play something, oh man, this is where it got ridiculous. I played for a good bit, sang a little, and received such encouraging support and feedback I didn’t wanna stop. Another guy from the other group, I forget his name, step in and began playing all sorts of popular songs we all know from the states, including other obscure Radiohead tracks that I adore. I have to say the ole boy was a good player. Nonetheless, me being the only native English speaker and musician, I was elected to sing. Ya´ll, I have never sung so much in my life!!!! This wildness went on until almost daylight. The following morning my throat and voice hurt so bad it was hard to speak. Me and Tommy slept in the car for about three hours and around 9:15 we got ready for the first car to pass. The atmosphere is so tranquil at first, with all the fans piled up on either side of the road, waitng for those 10 seconds of glory and madness when the first car passes. You begin to hear that faint chopping noise in the background from the helicopters filming the lead car combined with spurts here and there from the “bumblebee on crack” exhaust. Suddenly out of nowhere, comes this two door couple barreling over the hill as if he´s trying to launch himself to the moon. This frontman, and winner of the race, Sebastian Loeb from France, passes through an old stone wall gate right in front of our campsite like a bullet through the end of a sniper rifle. There´s dirt and gravel streams flying through the air creating a shower of stone and earth. The following gate, just barely bigger than the width of the car, was rather close, and at such a speed, you´re thinking he´s gonna crash and blow this little car all to Hades at any minute, but somehow, the four wheels just stick to the dirt and he squeezes through the next gate flawlessly as his door handle licks the rock of the left side pillar. You wouldn´t think that so much adrenaline would be drawn out of you in such a short period, but trust me, you are doped up something serious and wait anxiously for the next dirt storm and threading of the four wheel needle. As soon as you hear that faint buzz in the background, senses heighten, muscles clench, and seconds turn into minutes as you tune in for that next overload of endorphins. Man I wish we had the Rally back home!!!!

Nascar-ish....On a DIRT ROAD in the middle of NOWHERE!!!

At this point, as the adventurous weekends seem to integrate themselves as a part of daily life, I´m realizing that my leisure time and recreational experiences are comparable to the hosts on cable T.V. Yeah, I´m that frickin American guy on the Travel Channel that gets all caught up in the middle of some culture far away, and gets his mind blown by the hour as the viewers at home wonder, "geez, that lucky son of a gun....and this guy is getting paid on top of that!!!" Unfortunatley, I´m not getting paid....yet,....but with all these novel worthy, unforgettable moments, a dollar don´t mean squat, period. Alright, enough gloating about "The Goodness," let´s get some meat on the table here!!! Unfortunatley we don´t have a "Rally" in the States, some of you may have seen it on ESPN Extreme or something of that nature, but Córdoba for dang sure does!!! It happens to be a host to one of the circuits throughout the worldwide competition. This "Rally" is essentially a race that takes place in the middle of the mountains, desert, jungle, or any other "middle of nowhere" style atmosphere, that incorpates high performance, b-a cars that haul nuts down dirt roads through a combination of obstacles and turns that would seem to create a "slow" pace for the drivers. Well, it is quite the opposite my friends. These boys, known as pilots here, have no doubt, lost their minds years ago. You would not believe the speed that these automobiles travel on these, again I stress, DIRT ROADS. In order to remain so calm and navigate these beast machines with such accuracy and precision at such a pace, they all must have some genetic defect and lack the ability to produce adrenaline, therefore making a trip at 120 miles an hour on a strip of raw dirt intended for a horse and buggy feel like eating a bowl of Cheerios on a Wednesday morning. The daily competitions last about 3 hours a day, a grueling length in my opinion to maintain such speeds, and a few days from city to city. I don´t recall what the location was before Córdoba but the next stop is Mexico. My crew and I arrived late Friday night to a random spot about 3o feet off to the right of a portion of the track. This atmosphere was so wild. The law here in Córdoba states that 30 meters on both sides of the road belongs to the government making it possible for anybody and everybody to camp wherever you feel like, for free!!! Of course some of the crew had already setup shop earlier that afternoon, so at the point we arrived, the action was already taking place at full speed. (I´m posting this now so I don´t lose any information, but no worries, parting is coming right behind it. Hold strong!)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes I can't believe that this is actually, MY LIFE!!!

Lawdy, lawdy, where do I even start for real on this one. So essentially the last few weekends may have made to the top ten in my life, Im not even playin with ya'll, absolutely, cottin' pickin' ridiculous. We had almost a week off for what they call the "Semana Santa" here, basically a week to celebrate Easter, right on eh!!??!! My buddy Tomás, as always, brought my in on the inside with his "crew", and man what a group of jokers they are, again and we made a trip out to the country to a cottage that his buddy has. Im here to tell you what, it was if I had stepped back into the 19th century in the middle of South America. The wild part and beautiful is that we were only about 30 minutes outside of the city, dang I love Córdoba!!! This house, or cottage, or whatever you wanna call it, an Argentine dream in my eyes, was built back in the 1800´s so you can just imagine what the atmosphere was like. There are essentially no ceilings being that the cane roof is right there in front of you, though the headspace is something serious, (they have since put tin on top of it but the cane is still very visible inside), no electricity aside from a generator for minimal and specific use. All lighting at night was old school oil lanterns that hung throughout the hallways and sat on each nightstand in the room. Floors were old wood planks and the decor was obviously from some time ago. I felt as though someone that owned a museum decided to let us use it for a night to basque in all its historical glory. We passed the majority of the day just bullcrappin, drinking coffee, mate, tea and soaking up the tranquility of the mountain life. This cottage was smack dab in the middle of mountains, small mountains, more like hills, with a little creek out past the front yard. Old stone walls still erect absent of any form of mortar, just find the perfect rock for the perfect fit, built by the folks from waaaaaaaay back. The horses just run wild on the property, another amazing addition to the backdrop, as Im sure you can imagine. There is a family that lives on the property to maintain it and keep it up. (Sidenote, this isnt some old beater mountain cabin, this is a serious nice place and had to have been built by some wealthy folks back in the day, I found out later that the old boys Dad that owns the place has a wompus factory back in Córdoba, those folks have cheese, makes sense.) I buddied up with the Daniel, the father of the family and "gaucho" of the property. This guy was impressive. He showed me an unbelievable amount of things that he hade made from scratch, and by hand at that, for the horses on the property. Jenny, this comment is for you, every last flippin thing you can imagine for a horse, this guy had created and of serious quality at that. I observed a handful of the items, and you know me, examined each with the hawk in order to attempt to appreciated the intracy of each piece. Again make note, his approach was as "from scratch" as it could possibly be; from killing the animal, skinning it, preparing the sking, making the leather, and then refining each piece of leather for its specific application, and THEN, actually making the product....UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!! This man was no doubt doing just what God had put him on this earth to do. One of only a few people I have met in my life that I could say that about, and a heart of gold on top of all that. Needless to say, after I got my mind blown by Daniel the Gaucho, as soon I set stepped back outside the smell of goodness took me over. All the food outside of the home here is prepared outside with wood or types of charcoal, NEVER with gas or electricity. This "horno de barro" looks like an igloo made of mud elevated about four feet off the ground. They cut up potatoes, onions, peppers, and placed 4 whole chickens inside with just a few embers, put they door, and let cook for hours, forever it seemed like. After I grew a beard and planned out the rest of my life, in Spanish, the feast was ready. Hallelujah, good lawd, great googly moogly!!!! Yall dont even know the experience of this meal. DANG!!!, I mean DANNNNNNNNNNGGGG!!!! Party in my mouth, my stomach had a seizure from the excitement. Best meal in Córdoba so far, hands down. You would think this is enough for an evening right, but oh know, the climax is yet to come. Daniel and Papi, the owners son, decide to round up six horses for us all to take a little night ride. When Tomás tells me whats goin down I dont really know what to say. Praise God I had taken a month of horse riding classes when I got here so I had just the teeniest, slightest little idea of what to do, bloody basics here folks, bare bones basics at that. So we all mount up and take off. Papi was on a Peruano that had the most unique stride Ive ever seen, cant describe it, get on youtube and check it. The coolest thing to see in person though, the beauty of the rhythm (I know you feel me on this one Jenny, hahaaaaa!!!!) Again, focus on the point that we re in the middle of nowhere and there isnt a single other house, horse, or person around besides us, just the moutains, dirt roads, good ole Argentine boys, a gringo, and a bright full moon without a cloud in the sky. This "cabalgata" lasted about three hours and every second was fenomenal. For some reason my horse just didnt feel like walking, so when there was an open stretch on a dirt road I let em' rip, and Im talkin rip!!! This is no other sensation in the world comparable to sitting on the back of a horse at such a speed in the middle of a cool fall night, praise God for that one!!! WHOOOOO!!! I cant even stand it, I just got excited all over again. WWWWWWWHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Once we reached the peak of the mountains we let the horses rest, let our legs dangle, soaked in the view. On one side of the mountain you could see the lights of Córdoba and on the other the city of Alta Gracia, absolut-ah-mentay spectacular. Thank you again Tómas, Im gonna owe you for a while on this one. The ride back was everything in reverse and just as enjoyable. What a weekend right!!!???!!!, wait until next time when I tell you about the "Rally" we went to this past weekend, again in the middle of the mountains, yall arent even ready!!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What are the chances?!!!?...

So you folks back home are gonna love this one. This past weekend I had another great opportunity to pass time with my tutor, thank you Lord so much for Tomás, and his group of 20 ole boys. It was a trip made in seven cars full of Argentinos, and one lanky gringo slung in the back seat of a European hatchback. Destination: some frickin´place in the middle of who knows Motive: Play paintball Conclusion: Good lawd!!! For starters, throughout the ENTIRE day I didn´t understand a bloody thing, I´m talking about nothin!!! These boys speak so fast with so much slang, and obviously with a group that big the themes are complex and built up over time, it was impossible to follow anything. That´s all good though, that didn´t change the way a fired my gun, hahaha!!!, the yankee (their word for norteamericanos), pronounced "junkie" got his in the end. For starters we arrive through the backyard of some guy´s farm literally in the middle of this cornfield lookin´place with an old abandoned brick house as the centerpiece with two guys workin´this paintball "deal" out of the back of their pickups . There wasn´t really much of a road and considering the fact we were all in little hatchbacks, I wondered how in the hades are we gonna even do this. Nonetheless we get "kind of" parked, if you wanna call it that and head out for the extravaganza. The paintball experience was great and after 4, maybe 5 hours, only cost about 17 bucks for EVERYTHING, right on eh! Suddenly, and I mean out of nowhere these black clouds move in. It literally looked like movie twister. I´ve never seen clouds that black move in the fast and completely take over a crystal clear blue sky in just a few minutes, it was so wild, almost like the apocalypse or something. Well, we decide to end it obviously and start paying our tabs. Ya´ll, here´s where it gets good. The bottom falls out like a monsoon in the middle of some African plain. Sheets and buckets and wind like you wouldn´t believe. A hurricane on land you could call it. The catch is, we have our seven little hatchbacks plus the other peoples cars playing hangin out in this super soft field mud. Every last single one of them, due to this monstrosity of water, was sunk up like a joker. Are their two trucks here, no. Tractors possibly, no. Then how are you gonna get some 10 odd cars out of this swamp in the middle of podunkville back to dry land..........with a WHOLE LOT of manpower. It literally took all the guys pushin and rockin´every single car and pushing almost all the way out of the field back to the road. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! I´m not one to use cuss words that often but I´m here to tell that day I took on the mind of a sailor. Eventually everybody settled in and it became one big joke that nobody could believe and praise the Lord we all made it back home with our adrenaline crash and slept like babies. Change of subject. Last night was a real epiphany for me, so wild. I was takin´it easy with Tomás, once again, two of his friends and another girl in my program named Emily, from New Jersey, this girl dominates Spanish (essentially the only other yankee I pass time with) and Portugues, LUCKEEE!!!! Nonetheless, this experience from a Castellano perspective was completely the opposite from the Sunday playing paintball. Somehow I just "tuned" and got caught up in the mix. A couple points throughout the evening "I realized", wait uh´minute, I´m communicating in Spanish, but I had not been aware of it until I conscientiously thought about. It was SOOOOO wild, but I savored everyminute it. I´m here to tell you, in a second language, its the small steps. A random story I know but very interesting, at least for the guy experiencing it. Final shout out goes to all the new folks who´ve left comments recently. I sure do enjoy them. Much love to my people. Time get back in "The Groove"