Friday, December 26, 2008

The coolest advert on the internet

One day when I grow up I want to be as cool as the people who came up with advert. To hell with search engine optimizing and all the other numbers games that the internet has become obsessed with. What we need is more absurd humour and hidden sub-sub-references. Go to asofterworld, click on the advert, buy things, give funny people money.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How not to get from Buenos Aires to Montevideo

Most people write home about their holiday experiences in a glossed over idealistic haze. I think I do the opposite. I would far rather write home about the experiences that at the time may not have been all together pleasant, but were in some way unexpected. That being said, I find pleasant unexpected experiences equally interesting. I just wanted to say that and at the same time assure everyone that I am having a great time, despite the strange aesthetic of my blog posts. So here is the story of how not to travel from Buenos Aires to Florianopolis. There are a few do's thrown in there amoung the don'ts though.

1) DON'T drink until sunrise in Buenos Aires the moring before you have to leave and then get convinced that going out for beer and bacon is a good idea when you have to leave the hostel in about 3 hours.
2) DON'T arrive at the bus station 1 hour before the bus you want to catch into another country and expect there to still be seats, there won't be, there will only be free seats in 3 days time. That will be too much of a wait for you.
3) DON'T decide that going anywhere north will be OK, and book tickets to Montevideo (which must be a cool place, its the capital of a Uruguay right, it'll be fun). The fact that you will have to kill 12 hours before the bus comes, with your stuff locked in a bus station locker and about enough money to buy 2 hotdogs (SUPER PANCHOS) should put you off this plan, but it won't. Once in tthis position there are a few do's though.
4) DO go to the Cemeteria del la Recoletta. Visit Evita's grave (It's not as big as you think it would be). Realise that these graves (Mausoleums really) are bigger than most apartments in New York. After a while start imagining the necropolis as full of zombies, maybe get a bit too involved in the fantasy. The night before is starting to kick in on your consciousness. Maybe it is time to leave.
5) DO find a park bench, first check that there are enough people around to protect you from pick pockets, see a police cop and decide that its safe enought o fall asleep.
6) DO fall asleep and kill 3 hours in a beautiful argentinian breeze.
7) DON'T wake up really hungry, it's super pancho time. Start your way back to the station.
8) DO catch the bus to Montevideo. DO Notice the moon. The moon seems unusually low for this time of the night. Its altitude leaves it with a strong red hue as the light refracts through the thick atmosphere. Looking out the bus window, the rising red gibbous orb is the sole feature on the flat plains of Argentina. There is a palpable feeling of calm over landscape, a quiet reflectiveness comming from my mind and washing over everything you see. The calm seems at odds with what should be a vaguely menacing red glow from the moon. Instead the red bleeds into the mind's pallette, finding its place amoung the other sensations, never jarring, simply complementing.
9) DON'T think that you are lucky to be sitting next to a pretty Argentinian girl who speaks english and is offering to let you stay at her flat in Uruguay. Argentinian women are tricky and are not to be trusted. Espcecially ones that are flexible looking yoga teachers.
10) DO fall asleep for as long as possible, wake up at the border post.
11) DON'T get pissed off that the border police are ruffling through your stuff and crumpling your newly cleaned and folded clothes. They work for minimum wage and will have not compunction about making you life hell.
12) DON'T go to Montevideo, this is pretty overriding, especially don't have to wait another 12 hours there. again with your stuff locked in a bus station locker and having my Uruguan Pesos.
13) DON'T get confused between US Dollar prices and Uruguan Peso prices, The locals will not find it funny when you try pay for 1/20'th of the price for a beer.
14) DO Go to the Gaucho museum, Gauchos (The south american version of a cowboy) are awesome, in my next life I want to be one. They have guns, knives (big knives), whips, bolas, lasoos and cool hats.
15) DON'T got to the national history museum, its really bad and boring, basically it's just a bunch of photo's.
16) DON'T assume that because the cops in Argentina didn't mind you sleeping on park benches the cops in Uruguay will be fine with it, but try anyway. You will get a good hour or so of sleep before getting poked with a baton and told to move off. Realise that you now look like a dirty homeless gringo, you look like what you are. Buy a beer so you can use the dirty bars dirty bathroom.
17) DO at last get on the 18 hour bus ride to Florianopolis. DO realise again how loud people from the US are. They talk so much. How do the interact around just themselves? Do they just constantly talk at each other trying to be the loudest.
18) DON'T Finish both your books and have the batteries on your Ipod and EEE PC go flat. Start having wierd bus dreams. Bus dreams are bizzarre, they last for hours at a time with you in a semi-lucid state. Your body has become so used to in action and your mind is so starved for stimulus that whole alternative realities are brewed from the dank depths of your psyche. Some of the things you dream will stick with you when you wake up, they will worry you, they will make you ask questions. Are more questions what you really need at this stage of your life?
19) DO Sleep almost all the way to Florianopolis.
20) DON'T expect all the ATM's to work with your credit card. Swear under you breath, walk across the road and try there. Contemplate robbing as stupider looking tourist, realise that tourist may be you. Finally find an ATM that works, breath a sigh of relief.
21) DON'T get off the second urbanbut at the wrong stop.
22) DO get some cigarettes from fellow travellers and give them to the slightly menacing teenagers hasnging around the very vunerable looking tourist herd. Make some friends, cigarettes work wonders everywhere.
23) DO wait another hour for the next bus, which is packed and is really unhappy about having to take you with your backpack. but at least they tell you right stop to get off.
24) DO get to an awesome backpackers, have a beer, go out for a pizza buffet, drink, sleep, go to the beach, eat about 30 prawns for almost nothing, sit out at the hostel bar and look at the view (Below, but less overexposed) while writing this.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Strikes in Buenos Aires, a good time all round

Apparently Strikes have become an almost weekly event is Buenos Aires, but we didn't know this when we got there. This week Friday had 4 simultaneous demonstrations, that pretty much blocked up the entire city center. The bulk of it was a subway workers strike, but there were also bankers banging drums, street vendors protesting against the Mayor and a group celebrating 25 years of freedom from military rule.

The overarching quasi-communist revolutionary aesthetic (Complete with huge pictures of Che Guevara, communist pamphlets and books, rousing and angry Spanish Speeches and a Balaclava clad security details with massive sticks) gave the entire event an edgy feel, but at the same time the constant drumming, colorful flags, and large amount of families gave it a festive feel.

It all reached a head in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential palace. Its a location famous for being used by Evita Peron to rally the masses to free her husband (and soon to be president) Juan from prison. For me at least I found the whole thing hell of a novel, really quite an event. So if you are ever in Buenos Aires, try catch a strike or protest movement, if you are here for more than a week you are pretty certain to catch one.
Some protesters protesting something

So this is how the other half lives

When you're backpacking around, and come from a third world country with a third world currency, you don't normally have allot of money to spend. So you end up eating in the cheap places, getting the cheap seats on the bus and sleeping in places that resemble an army barracks. This gives you a pretty skewed picture of the place your visiting and up until now this is exactly the experience we've been having. But yesterday we got to see a whole different side of Brazil, or less euphemistically, a whole different class of Brazil.

We've been staying with Eduardo, a friend of Warren's, in Vitoria. Vitoria is the capital of the state of Espirito Santo and is about a 8 hour bus trip north of Rio. Eduardo recently graduated as an environmental engineer. Each year there is a party for all the engineers in the state of Espirito Santo, and fortunately for us it happened to be on the weekend that we came. So we got all dressed up, shaved, borrowed leather shoes and put on our best shirt (our only non T-shirts) I think the phrase that best explains the evening was "Enigineer's Heaven". To all the guys that studied engineering to make money and get a pretty wife, you should have been studying in Brazil. I have never seen so many beautiful women in one room in my life, and half of them were the engineers, not the partners. I have to admit I was shocked into complete ineptitude.

It was in a huge waterfront club (club as in country club, not night club), with waiters constantly bringing around more beer, wine, cocktails and food. There was a big Italian dance demonstration (Yes I know, we're watching Italian dances in Brazil, but apparently there are allot of people of Italian descent in this part of Brazil) and later in the night a live band played Forro.

Forro (pronounced for-hor) is a type of "romantic samba". Apparently the name comes from the originator who when speaking in English claimed that this was a a type of dancing for all people. So the name is a Brazilianisation of "For-all". Apparently though I am not a apart of the "ALL" that can dance to it, even though even I could figure out that this should be the easiest dance in the history of moving feet. At its simplest you only really need to learn one step, a really easy one, but even that proved to difficult for a slightly drunk and uncoordinated James. Well win some you lose some.

I think I came away from the whole experience with 2 things. Firstly that being wealthy in Brazil is awesome, as is being wealthy everywhere else. Eduardo is on to a good wicket. Secondly is something which I have obviously suspected this for a long time but have never seen such stark empirical evidence. Beauty follows money, or maybe money creates beauty. I'm sure that the beauty genes slowly aggregate in the wealthy classes, for obvious reasons. I think if there is any good reason to get rich it is so you can enter parties with these sorts of women.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quatro Horas em Rio Rodovario (4 Hours in the Rio bus station)

Get off the metro bus. Run to the ticket office. Look at the clock. Realise you are two minutes late. Swear under your breath at the traffic in Rio. Realise that some words are pretty universally understood. Look slightly sheepish. Run to next bus company. Realise you also missed their bus. Buy a ticket for the next bus, it leaves in 4 hours. Wonder around looking for the public telephone. Phone Eduardo to tell him we'll be delayed. Get one of his relatives on the phone, they can't speak English. Use broken Portuguese to try ask for Eduardo. He isn't there. Buy a coke. Find an Internet cafe. Use sign language to get onto a computer. Email Eduardo, hope he reads his email this afternoon. Go down to the overpriced Via Rio cafe. Buy a something, you can't really tell what it is. Eat it, it's not that bad. Try stay awake in chair. It's not working. Strap your back pack on and clutch onto your day pack. Sit down by the wall. Fall asleep. Get woken up by a street kid. Check you still have wallet and passport. Relief overcomes you. Still waking up trying to figure out what the kid wants. Take out R$2 and give it to him. You are now amigos. Stand up, look around. 2 hours still to go. Lady next to you offers you some biscuits, you decline, she insists. Try to explain to her that you are allergic. Horribly mispronounce "alergico", may have said something insulting by mistake. Women looks very confused. Go buy another coke to break the tension. Sit down, try find the city you are going to in the Rough Guide. It's not there. Go look at the magazine stand, realise that the only magazine you could possibly understand is the playboy. Contemplate that for a few seconds, decide against the playboy. Read about Argentina in the rough guide. Try work out how much money you have spent. Sit. Wait. One hour to go. Write this down. Wait. Think about buying a beer. Think about how awesome it is that you can buy a beer anywhere. Decide not to buy a beer. Realise you have bought neither beer or porn. Question your masculinity. Decide to go to the bathroom to help break the monotony. They charge R$1 for the use of the sanitario. Fumble around for money. Go to the bathroom. Come out. About time for the bus to leave. Find the platform. Try to fill in little traveling form. Can't understand what all the fields require. Lend someone your pen, in return they fill in your travel form. Get on the bus.

Monday, December 1, 2008

3 Things that are everywhere in Brazil

There are 3 things you find everywhere in Brazil that you don't see everywhere in South Africa. Between them they give an interesting picture of Brazil.

1) Beer
Wherever something is being sold it, it is being sold with beer. Any place, at any hour you can buy beer. The idea of a liquor store is completely foreign here. Why would you need a special store when you can just sell it anywhere? Beer is generally sold in big bottles, 600ml. When you get a a beer you get a small glass to drink it with. You don't get big beer mugs, like when you get a draught is RSA. It's a bit hard to feel manly when you're sipping beer out of a child's glass. But when the beach vendors are walking along shouting "Agua, Cerveja" (Water, Beer), I think thats pretty cool.

2) Tattoos and Graffiti
Everyone has ink. Every single Brazilian has a tattoo, and most have a couple. Everywhere is also graffiti'd. It's like the tattoo's don't stop on the skin, instead they've spread over the whole city.

3) Porn
There must be 5 different versions of playboy here. And They are all displayed in the front of all the shop windows. You will have the daily newspaper and right next to it will be 20 different porno mags. If you have a fetish, any fetish, there is something for you here.