Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Argentina... how I miss thee

     So I am glad to be home, back in the swing of life here again, but I can't help thinking how much good fun I've had down in Argentina.

     I truly miss the place, especially Buenos Aires. I felt it to be a second home for me, one where, given the financial backing, I would move to and live in for at least 6 months, maybe even longer. I love the live music scene there, which is absolutely bangin' right now. Tango, jazz, folklore, fusion, electronica, and  more are an every night occasion, given that there's really no reason to stay indoors on any night of the week. The nightlife is part of the city's magic or charm or whatever you'd call it. It is easy to find yourself out and about through to sunrise, especially if you're a club person, that which I am not. I did find myself out until sunrise a couple times, once soon after arriving in BsAs. after a long discussion with a couple locals, and another after, you guessed it, my first club experience, the final Friday before departure. Otherwise, 2 or 3 or 4am were not uncommon sleep times.
     The food was such a great thing that I wished I had cooked more of. I enjoyed a slew of new flavors and new foods, but now that I look back on it, it would have been much more financially practical to eat in most of the nights. I think that if I get an apartment and settle in, it would be extremely easy to cook all the time. After all, the grocer is usually only a few shops down from a baker, which is in turn not far from a butcher. I did frequent bakeries when possible, as each confection (facturas) are only 1 peso, or 26¢. And the beef! Oh my doG, super-delicious. I have now had the luxury of gorging myself on the world's best cuts of cow. After returning here to the States and eating various types of sirloin, steaks, and ground beef products, I've really noticed the lack of flavor compared with Argentine beef. Also, it's all grass-fed and dirt-cheap at the Argentine grocer, so it's basically like spending $3 on a pound of organic, top-notch beef, which in the States probably reaches $10/pound or some ridiculous price. 
It should be CHEAP to eat healthily and locally; only in America is it something that is much more a luxury than an expectation. That really pisses me off, considering how much genetically-modified and genetically-engineered and chemically-enhanced and chemically-preserved foods are for sale to the unknowing public. With "convenience" the reason for fast-food chains and WalMart and other capitalist ventures that destroy the local stores, you would think it couldn't get much better to be American. But convenience? C'mon man, I'll tell you what is convenient. Walking out of your apartment, down about 4 shops to a grocer or a fruit shop or a baker or even a café for some GOOD QUALITY, LOCALLY GROWN FOOD. That is Argentina vs. the U.S. And to a degree, this is plausible in U.S. East Coast cities such as New York or Boston or whatever else is found on that side of America, when the cities were developed without cars in mind. But as for West Coast, unless you're in the microcentro of Seattle or San Francisco, good luck. Oh, and also, keep in mind that while you can probably cook a lot more in those well-planned cities, it's also going to cost a pretty penny, especially buying organic. This is more for those of you who may be interested. Now back to the normal, unbiased writings.
So, I occasionally get to see some photos from Argentina of sights that I've seen or participated in, and it brings back the great memories. I have not thought too much about what I did during my stay, unless a song or a photo triggers it. At times I wish I could walk down the street for an empanada, but then I remember where I am. I guess there are a few Argentine cuisine restaurants in San Diego, should give those a whirl. I would also like to see some familiar faces of people I met down there, hang out in a cafe for a chat.

So HERE is my trip, outlined on a map for you to look over.

And in case that one is hard to read, here is a close-up:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My final few days in B.A.

So I wrapped up my final time down in lovely Buenos Aires by going out with a few friends, making a few more, and enjoying the nightlife. The Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival 2009 conveniently occurred from the 3rd through the 8th of December, giving me the opportunity to indulge in Argentine and internationally known jazz artists of all sorts.
     I relocated hostel areas, moving back to where I first started out in the city - Palermo Hollywood. I went back to the same hostel, Casa Mi Bulin, where the nice owner Maria offered me a place to stay that weekend. This was after calling tons of places, since I guess AC/DC decided to play that same weekend, filling all hostels with locals and foreigners of all types. I forgot how nice it is to have your own key to the place, coming and going with total free will. Also, I ran into the same British guy, Alex, who had been staying in that hostel since I had met him 5.5 weeks prior. I met his other British friend Leo, a musician and character. So we went to the local market and bought some bife de lomo and another top cut of prime beef, whose name escapes me. It is so cheap to simply cook yourself, as opposed to eating out the whole time. I wish I had cooked far more often than I did, now looking back on it. It only ran 12 pesos for 3 slabs of the same meat that you normally pay 30 pesos for in a restaurant. Following some rice, a tomato, red bell pepper, and some fresh baked bread rolls, we had all that was necessary to keep me happy. I gorged myself, and was not over-full.

     From here, we headed out to the Centro Cultural Recoleta, in Recoleta, which was conveniently near the awesome and famous Recoleta Cemetary, whose site I will visit the next time I'm in Buenos Aires. There were three jazz acts going on, starting at 17:00 and going through till 21:00. The first act was a trio of old people, only which the bassist seemed to dominate. I guess he was also the bass player for Al DiMeola, which is pretty cool. They played good tunes, but I didn't think they were anything spectacular. Especially considering the next band that followed, which was amazing. They are a local band from the city of Cordoba, and they specialized in jazz of the 1920's! This is awesome, since they had ridiculously happy music, with the percussionist going to town on plastic blocks, a splash cymbal, snare drum, and washboard. They had a couple horns, stand up bass player, pianist, and a banjo, making the crowd go nuts. A bunch of people formed a swing dance area, where couples and a few weird singles were showing off their awesome moves. For those of you familiar with the fact I own a novelty ragtime xylophone CD, you could see how I would love the novelty, mass-murderer-happy music that this band divulged unto us. The band proceeding them we skipped, as their were jazz acts happening at several times at different centers and venues throughout the city. Leo and I hopped in a cab across town to San Telmo, to check out a crazy experimental jazz-tango band, with a lot of art dancers swaying with the music. It was more like ambient noise at times, than music, but they obviously saved the best songs for last, since the remaining five or so were incredible and passion-filled. Sometimes I think that experimental music is only for musicians, as it is technically challenging and a kind of "statement" if you will, more so than an audience pleaser. My opinion, anyway.
     Following this band, we were gonna head to some local's place; see, Leo had met a porten~o here, whose apartment he was considering renting out. Anyway, that guy was having a party at said place in San Telmo, so we were already nearby. Next thing was to grab a bite to eat prior to heading there. We wandered the cobblestone streets until we settled on Plaza Dorrego, where several cafes and restaurants lined the corners. We checked out a place called Neferetti, lined with Egyptian art and decorations all over the small, cozy-feeling restaurant. We ordered a ham, cheese, and green olive pizza, and a couple chopp beers (draught in a pint glass), and luckily caught a bossa nova, jazz and blues trio playing several covers and a couple originals. It was nice to fill that Saturday night full of music of all types.
     We walked some 20 blocks more than I anticipated, finally arriving at this guy's house with a gift of wine. He had a bunch of friends from Patagonia staying at his place for the weekend, as they all came here for AC/DC. It was truly interesting hanging out with all these people, as I nursed a glass of Fernet mixed with Coca Cola (very Argentine drink), passing the time away into drunk land. There was a stereo system covering many bands of music, and I soon took over the computer to DJ the playlist a little more. This was either because I wanted to hear more familiar bands, or to please the crowd. Probably a little of both. By 3 o'clock, it was time to hit the hay. The locals were all going to hit a club in Palermo, which I aptly turned down for a bed instead. We taxied our way back to Casa Mi Bulin and crashed for the night.
     Come Sunday, I just hung out at the hostel pretty much all day, since it was raining out and I had nowhere to be. I headed to the concerts again in the Cultural Center, this time traveling solo. Before entering, I perused the local feria that was occurring right next to the place. All the usual crafts, like belts, jewelry, instruments, more leather, clothing, textiles, etc. I bought a t-shirt from one of the stands, since I wanted another medium shirt to add to my limited medium shirt collection back home. After high school, I dropped to the fit weight of 160, therefore dismissing all of my large t-shirts so common to me back then. The problem is now I have tons of large-sized and band logo t-shirts, that I don't yet know what to do with. But again I've gotten off-track. I headed into the Center and caught 20 minutes of an octet, which was pretty good. From here, I headed out to another nearby center for music, called Teatro Sarmiento, right outside the Jardin Zoologico. That act had overfilled the seats, so a group of eager people, including me, had to wait outside in the bitter cold. I don't know where all this cold weather nighttime had come from, as Saturday night was frigid as well. This time I had decked myself out in cold weather gear, so I was faring better than on Saturday. The following act was an experimental quartet, one that I actually disliked but a few songs. Oh well, I had no idea what to expect. From here, I was already only 15 blocks away from my hostel in Palermo, so I decided to stop by a restaurant, stuff my face with empanadas, and then walk around Palermo. I did just that, visiting Plaza Serrano again, where I met Graeme and those two Argentine girls, the very first night I got here. Walking back to my hostel from here made me connect dots as to where I was first dropped off by the taxi from the airport. I feel like I could easily find my way around BsAs, given maybe a month or two more. I reflected on all the good times I had in Palermo that first few days of being here, and lamented on how I'd miss the place dearly.
      Monday, I headed back to Calle Murillo and its Centro del Cuero, to buy that delicious veal jacket.  I wonder what that young calf tasted like prior to donating his skin to me. I shelled out a discounted 400 pesos for it, and went to another shop down the way and got my dad a carpincho belt for wearing. After my large spending, I caught the Subte back to the Microcentro, where I hit up Calle Florida and Calle Lavalle, both pedestrian-only streets that are lined with shops and shopping malls (which are tucked away into hallways that branch off from the main walkways). I got a couple postcards, and managed to literally spend all the money I had withdrawn from the bank that day. I kept the 40 pesos necessary for the shuttle bus to the airport, and 20 for the cab ride to the shuttle location in Retiro. I took an amazing one and a half hours to pack my bags for the airport journey, and followed through with the cab and bus shuttle rides. At the airport, I caught the on-time plane for Miami, crossing again over beautiful Cuba, which I awoke to see, with the dark twilight on the horizon making for some great brain photos. It was a spectacular strip of dark red and black and a darkened spectrum, bordering the Caribbean sea horizon. The flight was 9.5 hours to Miami, and another 5.75 hours from Miami to Los Angeles. Couple this with the 3 hours of waiting, and by the time I reached Los Angeles, I was pretty tired and happy to make it back alive. There was snow on the mountains around Los Angeles, which was pretty unusual, I thought.
     I met up with my dad at the airport, and he informed me of a huge storm that had just raped Southern California only one day prior to me arriving. It dumped snow in L.A., heavy winds throughout the coast, and a record 2.5 inches of rain on San Diego. I guess if I had arrived on Monday instead of Tuesday, there would have been delays of all sorts, that I thankfully didn't have to deal with.
     It truly is good to be home, but a few things hit me hard. First off, it's bloody COLD here, especially because I was bathing in Spring back in Argentina. Second, there is literally nothing going on here, given that it's winter. And third, I realized I don't have a terribly happy bank account right now, so I got to get back to the rigors of job searching, money-making, and figuring out where to move. That is also a challenge, since I don't know what schools will accept me for film yet, so I need to wait until this SPRING to find out what I'm doing next Fall time. Back to the grind.

Will post more on thoughts of Argentina as they arise, maybe how it has affected me in day-to-day living, etc. Also, will keep you all informed of spectacular Oddwood performances and any local traveling worth noting. All for now, more for later! Until then, this is Drew Peters.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

After my search for leather: Tigre and camera theft

     So since I last posted, a lot has happened. The day after posting that blog, my plan was to meet up with Graeme, that Irish guy from the first day of Buenos Aires exploring. He lives in a Palermo apartment across town from where I was staying, which was the Microcentro (downtown area). I packed all my stuff, albeit barely fitting it all into the packs. With now probably 50 pounds in my large backpack, and another 15 in my daypack, I am a beast of burden. I hate moving around so much with all this stuff. I had my camera in the  usual belt case on my left side, the huge pack on my back, and the smaller daypack worn on my front side. I had to catch Subte Linea D to Bulnes, and from there it was some blocks walk to Graeme's place.
     On the subte, it was super packed with people on their usual weekday commute around the city. It was extremely stuffy and humid and uncomfortable whilst riding, as I stood grabbing the railing for support. I guess in that five minute timespan onboard, some asshole decided to take advantage of my general inattention to them, and make off with a priceless piece of memory technology. I am usually ALWAYS vigilant around this city, and every time I go on the subte I keep a close eye on my stuff. I even know you should NEVER have your camera accessible whilst relocating areas with all your stuff, since you are practically immobile. I guess it was my fault to not plan ahead before I reached the subte. So yeah, that was about 1,000 photos from 5 weeks of travel, lost forever due to the thief reformatting the chip or simply giving all my travel pictures and camera to someone else for a hell of a price. It was also my fault for NOT backing the photos up on anything, be it in e-mails or on a flash drive, a smart practice which also would have protected me had I dropped or wetted the camera. At this point, I am still saddened by this act, but will now learn from it. That feeling of helplessness is just devastating on the soul.
     I found out right as I reached Graeme's pad, and immediately was disinterested in carrying out the trip to Tigre for two days. After much persuading on his part, we headed off for my planned destination, a subtropical Venice right on the city's doorstep. With nothing to lose, we took the subte again to the Retiro train station, bought the incredibly cheap ticket to our destination, which is only 50 minutes by train. It literally ran U.S. cents on the dollar, at AR$1.30.
     Tigre definitely feels like a holiday, touristy place upon immediate sight - the brown river flowing along the main waterway, which was lined up and down with tons of transport and cruise boats. It has the look of Florida, with all this lush greenery standing above the buildings, and we would soon see a totally other side to this town.
     We walked up the Avenida Sarmiento, which is lined with small cafès and restaurants, on the other side of that main river. Upon reaching the grand marble structure housing of the Museo de Arte Tigre, it was completely necessary to check out the artwork inside. On the ground floor there were only a few really decent artists, since most of them were doing that contemporary, easily-done-as-an-eight-year-old style. In other words, it's the type of art that would make you say, "I could easily do that!", or "How the Hell could this belong in a museum", or "This is art?!¿?!" Well, it is art indeed, but there were a couple of these Latin American artists, such as Marcos Acosta, Fernando X. González, Cesareo Bernaldo de Quirós, Epaminonda Chiama, et al., that really appealed to my taste.
     When we walked outside onto the museum walkway, the sky was a brilliant yellow, with super low clouds shaping around this building. The museum looks like a magic castle from the outside, especially with the crazy weather. From here we could also see the several river boats, jet skis, and barges passing along the river next to the museum. It was pretty cool.
      Going out for a beer later that night, Graeme and I started up a conversation with a nearby table of Tigreans, joining them and drinking more beers. They were all pretty cool, and my Castellano fared well enough to have interesting conversations. Eventually the night turned from the bar to a nearby casino, Trelenium (the name, I think). Changing 20 pesos into two 10 peso chips, I hit the blackjack table. My luck rollercoastered, eventually scoring 100 pesos, but in the long run, as we all so well know, the casino always wins, and I was down 30. It was surely fun, and definitely FAR less expensive than any casino in California or Nevada, fact. I had to make the money back for a new camera, but I am joking.
     Next day, we searched all over town to find a place for renting kayaks, passing through the local market, Puerto de Frutas, which has tons of wicker baskets and furniture. Tigre`s economy comes from lumber and wicker products, since there is so much of both to be had. Eventually, after asking so many unknowning people, we stopped into one of the several rowing clubs that lined the avenue we walked the day prior. Low and behold, we got a two seater kayak and headed out for a three hour adventure.
     Heading out into the river delta is truly like an adventure into Huckleberry Finn. There were houses on stilts, lush subtropical trees lining both sides of the river, aquatic plants hiding both shores, and a general sense of the Amazon. Completely worth the trip. Later on, headed to a tendedor libre, and stuffed my face full of delicious beef and more delicious beef, in all its delicious forms. Next day saw a wandering around Tigre, and a plan to head back to Buenos Aires. I caught the 5pm train back, and had a hell of a time trying to find an open hostel, that which there were none of. After at least 15 calls, I settled on an open hotel for the night, located again in Microcentro. I met up with two British girls whom I had met on my trip in Valparaiso, ordering for myself an entire large pizza with Roquefort cheese, mozzarella, palmitos, and green olives (another super=Argentine dish), and consuming all but 2 slices. And I burned the roof of my mouth. Oh well.

Anyways, Im pretty tired, so I will try to post another time about the jazz festival I went to here, and what Ive done this weekend. All for now, more for later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BAck in BA

I've seemed to have let a lot of things not come to fruition, such as my trip to Rosario, or Colón, or Parque Nacional El Palmar. As you all so dearly know now, I can be indecisive and quick to switch gears. I am Chaotic Neutral in personality (if you understand, we should play D&D). I've so far found plenty of things to keep me in B.A./BsAs/Buenos Aires these past few days, and I could easily stay here indefinitely. This city is so incredibly excellent, I would live here, if I could find work or some large supply of British Pounds. Who knows, maybe I'll hold up a bank?
     Anyway, I have gone out every single night so far for live music ventures. My two top picks for live music have been Sanata Bar, reached by the Subte Linea B to Carlos Gardel stop-off. Usually the music there doesn't commence until 12 or 12:30 in the a.m., which is fine, since people start shuffling in at about 11:30, filling the bar and eventually overflowing out into the streets. This bar is where I first came to see live tango music, the first few days into my journey. I don't remember if I mentioned this place, but it is definitely a great spot to hear bands every night. The other place is Peña del Colorado, owned by Claudia, whom I met that first night I went to Sanata Bar about a month ago. She has put on great acts almost every night at this brick and stucco, cozy-feeling restaurant. Also, the food is spectacular, with many native dishes of Northwest Argentina, such as locro (a stew with corn, tripe, vegetables, spice, and awesome), or a dessert with a super unusual, bouncy and delicious texture, called ambrosia.  They also have the typical parrilla beef fare, such as morcilla, bife de lomo, and various mouth-watering cuts of meat. Oh yeah, did I mention the music is usually of the folklóre variety? This includes rhythmically interesting genres such as chacarera, gato, zamba, escondido, and a few others. These originate from Northern Argentina as well, which means, for my next trip to AR, I will be exploring the North.
     During the day, I wandered down to the port at Puerto Madero, with several large brick buildings and cranes that have probably been there since the late 1800's/early 1900´s, when Buenos Aires was extraordinarily booming. I had myself an ice cream cone, with the excellent flavors of dulce de leche (in some exotic variety), and chocolate suiso (Swiss). I stopped into a tall ship/floating museum, named Uruguay-something. It was a scientific research vessel that frequented Antarctica in the late 1800´s! A bunch of original stuff was on display, rotting and rusting away into the infinitessimal reaches of time. I hope I spelled that right. There was even a super rusted revolver, which is pretty metal. Literally.
     I wandered into the next tall ship, the 80-meter-long Fragata Sarmiento. It served as the Argentine navy´s flagship, and sailed at least 40 times around the world, between 1898 (I think) and the 1930's. It was also used to train navy cadets, thousands of whom passed through the halls over 100 years ago. The inside stank of some weird odor, and there was the ship's mascot dog, lying peacefully within a glass case, stuffed into a relaxed pose. There were extensive details about each of the frigate's journeys, and some interesting ancient photographs accompanying the posters.
     The day prior to this (Sunday), I headed out to Recoleta for the first time, to visit the weekend feria artenesal , but since it was raining pretty harshly, I guess a lot of the stands had packed up, so I decided it was not worth the trouble to meander through the rain here. I instead taxi'ed my way Northwest to the local zoo, Jardín Zoológico. Walking through the gate, you immediately come across several species of duck or mallard-type birds, waddling around in their usual awkward fashion. They are next to these marsupial-type, rabbit-like creatures, who are only hanging around for the food. And next to those animals was a weird semi-aquatic rodent, which normally should be in a cage, but was consuming the fresh, water strewn grass, only within a foot of me. I held out my hand, and it came up to me, with it's huge outside teeth a reddish hue. Totally friendly, but this put a hop in my step to see the other zoo creatures. As usual, there were snakes, including the deadly pit viper I may have encountered had I gone to Colón, named the yayará. These were all in small glass cages, as usual, and I again felt bad for them. Next were the bears, the polar bear sitting in the rain, bored as hell, and the other bear which I knew not the name of, was circling round his territory. Then came the large cats, such as the puma, Siberian tiger, and eventually my favorite, the jaguar. I stared into its pair of green eyes, and it stared back with such an evil stare that only carnivores can show. I literally got the chills a few times. I came across the carpincho, or capybara, the world's largest rodent, and I wanted to much to kill one right there and skin it. The leather made from its hide is not only exclusively Argentine, but is incredibly expensive. Instead of spending excess amounts on a carpincho jacket, I could hack one out myself, if I can kill enough capybaras. I think one person said you need about 40 or 50 hides. Well, for my next trip to the North, where they live, I will be sure to come prepared. They're so cute and cuddly, and are apparently very delicious, being eaten more in the North. I can't wait.
     Aside from this, there were the usual alpacas, African deer, elephants, a llama, ostrich, yaks, and quite a scary collection of Amazon insects and arachnids. Some of those spiders are so big and skinny that it would absolutely cause me a heart attack seeing one alive in the wild, or even worse, on me. There were a couple MASSIVE stick insects, one being thicker than a thick drumstick, with wings that look just like leaves. There were beetles, tons of butterflies, and various little critters, all of which I would have the pleasure of stepping on if I ventured into the jungle. Maybe some day.
     Just today I visited the Centro del Cuero, a large collection of leather stores and warehouses that are just jam-packed with all things leather, stretched across three city blocks. I started at about 1pm, and finally got done with my browsing and trying at about 6:30! I would walk out of one store filled with jackets, only to immediately enter the next one a door down to see even more leather jackets. There were handmade shoes (of excellent quality, to boot), gloves (of which a pair I bought, lined with abejo, or sheep fur), wallets by the dozen, belts of every size and design (one store had excellently designed carpincho leather belts), leather jackets and blazers and duster coats, some fur clothing, and various handmade trinkets and purses in cow leather. I was seriously overleathered from all the shopping, and I only visited 20 stores, on ONE side of the 3 blocks. I think I am gonna buy a jacket for only 430 pesos (something like US $120), but it is of becerro (baby calf leather), and henceforth is super sexy on Drew, and super cheap compared to America or (gag) Europe. I also bought a really cool and unusual fur belt, that looks more like a tarantuala leg than a belt.

ANYWAY, plans for tomorrow: I am gonna take a day and a half trip, 20km North of BsAs to Tigre, with that Irish dude Graeme whom I went out and partied my first night here. Tigre is a town right on the outskirts of the Paraná Delta, a subtropical, Amazon-like tribuatry filled with lush grasses, trees, and stilted houses, and mud brown rivers, of course. It would be equivalent to having the Everglades just outside of New York, or something to that effect. The place has been called the South American Venice. Cool, can't wait to kayak around, and this time I won't be alone! I have the benefit of staying at Graeme's apartment and leaving my stuff there, so I can save a few bucks.

Will write when I return to Buenos Aires, and post photos either later tonight or when I return as well, for the zoo and live music and tall ships and leather. All for now, more for later. Until then, this is Drew Peters.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Valparaìso, CA (I mean CH) to now

     I didn't wait for tomorrow to roll around for heading out to Valpo, as the bus would've left at 8:30am and arrived somewhere near 5pm, wasting the day. I showed up to the terminal at 10, grabbed the 10:30pm bus directly after wolfing down another cholesterol-friendly lomito completo (slab of beef with fried egg and ham slice), and got (yet) another terribly discomforting seat. Luckily for me, Mission Impossible 2 was playing, only in terribly dubbed Spanish-speaking voices. This didn't help the sleep. The drive rose into the dark mountains, following a heavily winding road for a few hours. At 2:00am, we reached the aduana (border customs station), and everyone filed out into the extreme cold air; afterall, it was probably 4,000m in elevation. The long hour of checking for smuggled fruits passed rather uneventfully, and we all shambled back onto the bus, either half-asleep or half-alive zombies. I will address this further into the reading.

     The hour of 8 brought me down the other side of the mountains into Chile, which, although it looks terrestrially [?, sic] similar to Mendoza or any of the Western "Cuyo" cities of Argentina, feels completely different from Argentina. The roads, the signs, the smells are all different.
     And there were a TON of ad campaign signs for the next up-and-coming Presidents and Senators for Chile and Valparaìso, respectively. Every single space on a telephone pole or sidewalk was bathed in these signs, X for this and Y for that, and Q & Z for this, and G & 67 for that. I guess the Senators do a photo op with whoever they support in the running for lesser positions, leading to some funny photos. One guy looks like Colonel Sanders with the facial hair... and another guy, Lavin, whom I ran into at one point further into this story, had an ad of him profiling from the shoulders up like a Roman statue, jacket draped over his shoulder with his hand.

     Also, everywhere I looked were masses of telephone wires, all bunching up like frantic spokes on a giant bike wheel, all disorganized and jerry-rigged together. We stopped briefly in the sister city to Valpo, which is Viña del Mar, a city relatively popular for its beaches, where I first saw all the signs. But don't worry, Valpo has just as many, if not more, campaign signs in all forms. And telephone wires. Loads of them.
     The weather was overcast, which I should expect from any city on the Pacific Ocean at 8am, a heavy marine layer dangling above the city buildings.

     As we continued on the route to my destination, the hills grew larger and the city was in full view. Valparaiso, here we are! The city was an important maritime city back in the pirate age, continuing through until the day that dastardly Panama Canal was built. Now ships had no need to pass the rough and longer Cape Horn route to reach The West. And speaking of pirates, this place also was sacked by pirates quite a few times, so there were constant fortifications of some of the hills. They were probably destroyed during one of the numerous earthquakes to shake this region bluer than a baby.

     Anyway, I arrived into the terminal and caught a cab with some guy who was on my bus, who was from Chicago and doped up on Xanex at the time of meeting. But hey, it was a cheap cab ride that way. We checked into Casa Aventura, which had spacious hostels with only 3 real beds to each! I guess they value comfort more than money, allowing less people in their hostel, and staying fine and steady in the economy crunch. We were treated to our first real breakfast of fruit, eggs, fresh bread and TWO homemade preserves, strawberry and kiwi ¿interesting flavor?

     Out and about in the city, there are tons of hills, and TONS of colors. Every single building, trash can, and available wall is either painted some interesting color or completely decked out in either physical art or nice graffiti pieces. Art types would fully dig the bohemian, anything goes vibe here. Of course, this place is a little more expensive than Argentina, and I spent about 600AR worth of money in my 3.5 day stay. The houses here are more poorly constructed than in Argentina, but mainly off the beaten tourist path far up the hills. Still, they are bedecked in all the lavish colors and shapes that would make Picasso go crazy, if he didnt already.

     The terrain is hills, then port, then sea. There is a narrow strip of flat between the two, where the downtown center resides, with all of its commercial buildings and mini skyscrapers. It very much resembles San Francisco in that aspect. The weather, however, is far from Frisco, and actually much more resembling San Diego. Some clouds or grey skies in the morning, and the sun viciously burning away all soon thereafter for lots of sun. The air is fresh and salty, and the breeze is equally. Random fact that made me confirm my dubious comparison - San Diego lies around 32.5 degrees Latitude, and Valpo at a mere 33! So it is quite true that, despite the fact we are on different hemispheres, our weather is equally opposing.

     It`s so easy to get lost simply wandering the streets, especially in the hills. There is hardly any city grid, save for the downtown area, and the streets curve and wind and wrap around the hilly mounds all the way up. There are sidewalks and sidestreets and sidesteps and doorsteps and more steps and stairways and walkways and more, but if you can`t find them, don`t try and deny them, since soon you`ll be wishing you just stayed indoors. What a badass poem I just wrote. I don`t even know what it means, but it`s surely true. Valpo is an incredibly secret city. Secret because...I never seemed to know where I was, no matter how many times I looked on the map. I could never tell where people were going or what they were doing, or who they know or don`t want to know. Quite a different feeling than Argentina, but I kind of like the chaotic  and slightly darker-feeling change.

      Anyways, I checked out the famed ascensors (vernicular elevators throughout the city that cut through hills, saving the walk), and thought they were a little interesting, not too spectacular though. There`s really not too many touristy things to do here except wander the streets, and whenever I wanted to visit some place, I ended up somewhere else or not able to find it. That also lends to the subvertive, clandestine feel. Otherwise, the houses themselves, many of which belonged to the Victorian Era, were quite the site, some with rusting tin roofs or fences.

     I tried the local seafood, but only in the form of crab empanada (DELICIOUS), and almost bought some fresh stuff right in the outdoor market to have them cook it for me in a nearby restaurant, but I didn`t. That is because of food poisoning I got from that dammed lomo completo back in the Argentine bus station, which came full-force the first afternoon in Valpo, limiting my normal risk-taking in the foreign food world. I recovered by drinking fresh fruit juices and sipping water, but going out with a couple people to a restaurant and watching them eating made me sad. But the sadness equalled out the nausea, and I recovered fully by Day 2 in the port.

I also had the privelage of stumbling across a carcel (prison), that had been built in 1853, abandoned in 1999, and partially converted into a cultural center. Kids were playing futbol in the prison yard, with two goals set up. Otherwise, the place had a very eery feeling to it, as if someone was always watching you. And there were random shady-looking guys who appeared every now and then on the grounds, lending the feeling of never knowing if someone will jump out and attack you to the mix.

     And for Thanksgiving, I had to be American for a couple hours. I went to the store, bought some raw turkey, a potato, a lemon, two tomatoes, a red pepper, and an avocado, and whipped up a Thanksgiving dinner for myself.

It consisted of turkey breast covered in a tomato-red pepper wine sauce, with lemon-pepper potatoes, and a whole avocado. Superb. And, I shared a bit with another American, adding that aspect in as well.

     After walking probably over 15 km in the few days I was there, up and down and around the city, I grabbed an 8am bus back across the border to Mendoza, and arrived yesterday at (roughly) 5pm. I decided I wanted to return ``home`` to Buenos Aires, and skip Malargùe this trip, and possibly make it a journey for next time. I caught a 6pm bus for the 14 hour trip to Bs.As., and arrived at 8 this morning. I am going to possibly do a day of polo on horseback tomorrow, and would like to head North of Bs.As. on Monday to Rosario, a slightly subtropical town on the brown Rio Parana, to hang out with mosquitos for a few days. I could then head East to Colon, situated right across from Uruguay, separated only by the Rio Uruguay. From here I can visit a nearby subtropical national park, then return to BsAs next weekend for a futbol game and relaxing time before leaving. I leave here for San Diego in only 9 more days!!!!!¡¡¡¡¡!!!!!

All for now, more for later (if possible in these few remaining days), this is Drew Peters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What a weekend! - Rodeo, Barreal, Roadtrip, Wind

     Woah, where do I begin? So the last time I left off, I was unsure of whether or not I would make it out of Còrdoba, with all of my dirty clothes. Sorry for not updating this until now, all 1 of you reading my work (joking...I hope). So yes, the package arrived by the time I did to the bus terminal, and I happily strode onto the bus, rain pelting the terminal. Leaving Còrdoba was made 100 times more exciting by the heavy rains and strobe-light night sky, with probably at least 2 flashes every second. Although there were too many heavy low clouds to see the actual lightning, this made the normally invisible mountains well-outlined as we left the city. Finally some freakin' terrain! I never knew how much I missed San Diego's varied altitudes and mountains until I encountered them this night, in a town West of Còrdoba named Villa Nueva. Argentina, until this point, has been flat. We raced along this beautiful mini-city in the hills, as the lightning and rain stormed on around us.
     I might add that once we were heading into the sierras, it started hailing- when you're sitting on the top deck of the bus at the very front (like I always do so I can see everything when traveling), something like hail slamming into the roof of a fast moving bus makes for some ear-shattering pleasantry. And, despite the curatins, I couldn't escape the strobing lightning. Anyway, I made it to San Juan, and again aquired hardly a few hours of sleep on the damned bus.

     From what I recall now, it was pretty hot and dry out, with not a cloud in the sky. I do much prefer the dry desert heat than shitty humid heat. I checked into Zonda Hostel, only 6 blocks away from the bus terminal. It's a decent place, but still a hostel. I don't really recall what I did that night, maybe walked around a bit. Next day I decided to head to the nearby Dique Ullum, a giant reservoir 14km West of San Juan, which seemed like the perfect place for a swim in this 38ºC heat (100º F).
     I had just missed Bus 29, which leaves on the hour for the dike.  At 14:00 I caught the next one, and rode for 45 minutes into the dry, deserty but very tree'ed mountainous area. I reached the dique and, since I asked the bus driver to let me off at la playa, he dropped me off at the very front end of the dique, about 8km or so from the nearest (populated) ''beach''. The water was a beautiful shade of celeste (I think¿), but I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. SO I did the next thing that Drew usually does when something doesn't work out - he does things his own way.

I walked almost 8 km and hitched 2 more to reach a beach, in the scorching sun, as you can see here. People up here race by at incredulous speeds, and all but one car were unwilling to pick up the bearded dude on the side of the road. A group of 3 druggies gave me a lift to the beach, and I then talked to the willing one, who is friendly, but pretty gone. Upon their leave, I got a ride back to where I started, at the front of the dique, and swam there instead. The water was quite cool, and the mud shore was extremely suction-ey, like the Tar Pits.
     After missing the bus back to San Juan, I was effectively stranded.

Luckily a dude with a mustache and 5 kids pulled over to give me a lift back to the city. I told him I was planning a trip out of San Juan for some nearby towns, and he told me he was a taxi driver who could drive me around that area for 2 days at only $600 pesos! I told him "maybe" and mentally decided I would be better off renting a car than taking busses or having a chauffeur. I ended up in the main town plaza, and from here I walked to the lookout tower over the town. The day was pretty interesting, and I am a lot tanner because of it.
     Next day I rented a car, since I didn't want to have to rely on lengthy and sometimes unreliable busses to where I needed to go. This was kind of expensive, but was worth it in amount of time saved.

My plan was to head to Rodeo, a town 200km Northwest of San Juan, via the famed Ruta 40. This road runs the length of Argentina along the Andes, all the way to the end of the inhabited earth, Ushuaia. So just before leaving, a couple Swiss girls needed a ride to Rodeo, and asked to come with. Hell yeah, since they could help lift the burdenous cost off of me a bit. We headed North, along the beautiful vast expanse of the Cuyo, with desert and mountains on both sides, and hardly any cars. In due time we reached San Jose de Jachal, a tiny village in a fertile valley, effectively getting lost on the unnamed roads, and having to ask 5 or 6 people how to get to Rodeo.

From here, the road went West, winding along beautiful mountain slopes of granite and dried rock floods and an immense canyon. This was surely the best part of the drive, and I am willing to bike it next time. Truly an awesome experience.
 At last we reached the dique near Rodeo, where strong mountain winds come crashing over the lake at 120km, every afternoon. This place is now world-famous for windsurfing, of the extreme variety. I figured I'd give it a go. We checked in to Hostel Lamaral, a nice little place near the dique. Wind was pushing the alamo trees about 45º over, crazy. So after trying to convince the guy who rents windsurf equipment that I could handle the gale, he wouldn't let me go out.
Damn! If only I had a sailboat here, then I could really take to these hurricane-force winds. Maybe next time. Otherwise, it's a beautiful view, and the town is only of 2,000 people and dirt streets. The night held a spectacularly black cloak of sky, studded with as many stars as visibly possible with the naked eye.

The dude at the hostel, Octavio, made us a truly Argentine dinner of cheese-and-green olive pizza and Roquefort cheese raviolis in a tomato-carrot sauce, and proceeded to discuss the corruption of the police here, and why he doesn't want to live in BsAs.
     I guess everyone in Argentina knows the police and the politicians and the high-up business people here are in with the ranks of drug cartels, but most choose to ignore it. This is the opposite of America, in that there is a lot of corruption in the government and businesses, but it is much more hidden and censored by our media, so people DON´T KNOW or DON´T BELIEVE it, rather than KNOWING and CHOOSING TO IGNORE it. ¿Viste? The literacy rate here is 97%, which competes with America, and so far it seems like these people are a lot more musically literate as well. That is good for me. But I digress, again.

     I chose a hammock instead of a bed, and slept under the brilliant night sky. Next day, the Swiss girls were trying to push for me to go visit Parque Ichigualasto, also known as The Valley of the looks like a landscape straight out of Coyote vs. Roadrunner. I didn't want to spend 7 hours driving to a place I don't really have an interest in seeing in this trip, especially since it would cost more in gas, km's, and park entrance fees. I stuck with my original route of heading South, another 200km, to the town of Barreal. But, I also chose that route that not too many people ever take, which consisted of 100km of dirt roads or no roads at all, and another 100 sweeping through various towns along the Andes. This was kind of pushing it in the non-4x4 car, but I stocked an extra 5L of nafta and 1L of oil, as well as some provisions for the (supposedly) 5 hour trip. No one I had talked to knew or had seen the road personally before, which was a tad bit unnerving, but upon hitting the actual road, it wasn't so bad. Here in AR, they don't seem to have to many bridges over rivers, so the roads just kind of dip down into the (thankfully) dry riverbeds. When storms come, they disintigrate bits and pieces of these sections through flooding and erosion. I had to slow to an aching 20km/hr. on a good portion of the first 80km or so, and some of the roads were filled with large rocks and loose, loose gravel.

    The vistas of huge, colorful and partially snow-capped mountains and endless deep-blue sky were quite a site, especially considering that at one point on this road, the outside temperature was ¡42º! (107ºF...not that bad actually, I thought it would be a lot hotter at first). I guess it seemed a little scarier considering that the car could just break down at any time. At one point, I smelled gasoline and thought a rock might have punctured the gas tank or something. Turns out it was only a little bit of gasoline that leaked through the overflow pipe, from being jostled around on the rough terrain; the heat was causing the gasoline to evaporate, in turn causing the smell of pseudo-danger.
     We passed through the beautiful town of Calingasta, filled with trees everywhere and families walking or biking along the roads. Upon reaching Barreal, the view was nothing short of ''Wow.'' The nearby mountains are some of the tallest in all of the Americas, peaking at over 6,000 meters. The first part of the town that I thought was Barreal was simply a collection of houses, so upon driving far enough, I reached the real thing.

     I stopped by the tourist kiosk, where I picked up a map missing roads.We checked in to Cabañas Kummel, and for $180 pesos, we had our own cabin. The owners _____ and Maxi (this old dude) were pretty friendly. By this point I was getting over hanging out with the girls, who are extremely European. By this I mean that they are more independent, less friendly, and talk amongst themselves in suisserdüstch (Swiss-German), if they talk at all. Don't much care for that kind of vibe, especially compared to the openess, audacity and friendliness of the people in Argentina.

I arranged excursions for the next day, first consisting of a hike into the quedabra (valley) to the east of the town, which is a series of massive and colorful mountains known as the Precordillera, and here known also as Cerros Pintados (Painted Mountains). This would be followed by wind sailing/land sailing a flat expanse of dry lakebed to the South of the town in the afternoon, when those strong winds start.

     That night I headed out (on my own) to an observatory in nearby Parque Provincial El Leoncito, where I hoped to catch some stars under the ultra-powerful telescope. This observatory, paired with another on a nearby hill, are under some of the clearest skies in the world, with over 320 days of clear nights (I think). This night happened to be a little cloudy, so I drove all the way up winding dirt roads lining cliff faces, just to find out it was closed from a couple tourists heading back down the hill. I stopped, got out of the car, and turned everything off. The night was still perfectly fine for Drew eyes to soak in, so I looked across the vast expanse of night sky, horizon to horizon being pitch black, with no light pollution. Simply amazing.
     The girls borrowed the car for heading to the nearby river to relax, whilst I headed up into the quedabra with Maxi and his way-older-than-me daughter, Judy. This place is filled with amazing colors, which contrast brilliantly with the super-deep-blue sky. Literally, I have never seen a bluer sky anywhere in the world than here, which is probably due to lack of pollution and the Andes Mountains cleaning up the air. The landscape was pretty lunar-like, and as we stopped into a nearby abandoned mining camp, I picked up a couple souvenirs left behind several decades ago.

     After the girls and I had to go our separate ways (since they didn't want to hang around until I finished windsailing), they took a bus back to San Juan, freeing me from their evil feminist burdens. They were both police cops in a Swiss town, which also made me uncomfortable. I dislike feminists, and I could feel them showering me with the Estrogen of Equality. But as I say, women who strive to be equal to men lack ambition. :)    Ha, I guess I digress again. More photos!

     Before windsailing, a couple people rode in on bicycles to the cabañas, one of which who looked familiar. We loaded up the windcar and headed out to the lakebed. I realized halfway into the trip that the guy who looked familiar worked at the tourist kiosk! His buddy was a 16 year old who lived in a country house with a 2 cows, a horse, and a dog, and maybe some chickens.

We all made friends and the landsailing (carrovelismo) was super awesome. It's a lot easier than sea sailing, only because you can't just stop and hold your place in the ocean,  and you don't have to aim upward of your goal when heading upwind to circumvent the currents. But yeah, much fun. The sky is truly a sight here, with the massive clouds pouring over the top of these highest peaks in the entire Americas.
     So, after leaving Barreal for San Juan up a long and winding series of paved and unpaved roads, the dark night sky was once again a reality, as the stars shone through the windshield.
     I took a bus just yesterday to Mendoza, which is the same as San Juan, but with more trees, more wine and generally a more classy feeling place. I tried 4 new kinds of empanadas, which I have a craving for right now actually. Morcilla (black pork sausage), cabrito (kid goat), some other kind of meat, and another kind of goodness. These were paired with a glass of super smooth Malbec red wine. Normally I'm not big on wine, but this wine was super-fine.
      I am now off to Valparaìso, Chile, to see the Pacific once again, and hang out in this bohemian, chaotic, beautiful city, situated in rolling hills right on the ocean. Can't wait for some excellent seafood temptations, such as king crab and monger eel. I think I will stay there through Friday morning, head back into Argentina to here (Mendoza), and, depending on my interest in adventure, might take a trip 6 hours south of here to Malargüe, to see some awesome volcanoes and more lunar landscapes in Las Payunias. From there I will head back to Mendoza, with a final destination for Buenos Aires. But we'll see.

I will soon upload pics of this crazy adventure and more onto this post, probably in Chile.
All for now, more for later. Until then, you know who this is... or do you?...

     - Drew

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My time in Córdoba

  Day 6 in Còrdoba, and everything is starting to progress forward. Finally all the last few days of planning are all panning out into reality now. The reason I'm still here is because of a stupid mistake before leaving San Antonio de Areco; I had accidentally left a bag with half of my clothing back at Rodrigo's house. D'oh! I was planning on leaving here on Saturday night, but because Rodrigo shipped my clothes via ecomienda (economy class), they're not arriving here until tonight at 10:00, an hour and 15 before my bus for San Juan. What a pain in the ass, especially since I've now walked and taken cabs to the bus terminal 16 blocks from here at least 5 times, only to hear about more delays in one form or another. ARGH.

     But on a better note, I have done some great exploring of restaurants and new foods and a few excellent events and places to see. I have now tried locro, which is a delicious stew normally found in Northwest Argentina, consisting of corn, pumpkin, vegetables, achuras (cow sweetbreads), and some miscellaneous flavors I could not identify. It's very hearty, which explains its increased consumption during the cold winter months in the high altitude altiplano, or elevated desert near the Andes. In that same stew sitting I tried two new flavors of empanada, arabes (meat with Arab seasoning) and a meat and tomato combo one.

      Upon my walking home from the bus terminal, I stopped into a place called Andinas, a tenedor libre (buffet restaurant, lit. ''free fork''), which is one ginormous room stretching far back into the structure, with 6 or so seperate cooking stations and two giant rounds for the various pre-cooked foods, as in any regular American buffet. Tons of food combinations and new words for foods I only knew by sight. I grabbed the first plate and had some paella (a Spanish rice dish with saffron, mussels, fish, and possibly chicken or sausage, or chicken sausage), grabbed a few river fish from the Rìo Paranà, such as surubì and two others whose names I forget, some pork, some squid, and some tripe, a slice of eggplant with mozzarella, and a slice of canneloni. One of the river fish was waaay to fishy, and all three sections of fish still had bones to pick. Second plate was actually a bowl of various stuffed raviolis and gnocchis, only the latter of which did I enjoy. Third plate was for some grapefruit and orange slices, with some red-wine soaked pears, and some carmel covered bananas. MMMMMM. Fourth plate was for dessert, which included flan, a dulce de leche filled log slice, and a couple other things that I was not physically able to consume at this point. A great way to try foods and gorge yourself for $28 pesos.

     I've also explored some pedestrian streets lined with clothing stores, street vendors, more clothing stores, some confiterias, and some more street vendors. Also, you can't forget my favorite: child labor, er, I mean kids selling things. It's terrible when you have to be harsh to these kids that are as young as 5, coming up to your table with random items to buy, such as today's sewing needle kit, or three pairs of socks for $10 pesos, and miscellaneous trinkets and goods. One technique is they enter a confiteria or come directly up to your table outside and place whatever item it is to buy on your table(or your lap), leaving it and continuing on around the place, and returning to collect the fee. Too bad I never needed three pairs of different-colored socks. Usually I just ignore them (the benefit of being a foreigner is pretending you don't understand them), put up a hand, or hand it back to them. I feel terrible for these kids having to learn such a shitty way of life so young. Oh well, T.I.A. (This Is Argentina). The other slight nuisance when walking around is people with flyers to hand out; sometimes I divert my path away, sometimes they walk up to me, and sometimes I have to face-check the person practically. I mean to tell them I'm uninterested in wasting paper, but they'll never know.

     I also spent this whole weekend after 5pm at the local feria artenasal (arts and crafts fair) some 15 blocks South of here. The first time I arrived there was on Saturday at 1pm, finding nothing but booth frames, and learning the correct time for sales. Meandering back I stopped in to a store called Lis de Plata, a souvenir shop with a lot of awesome stuff to browse through, from mate gourds and gaucho knives (facònes) to leather everything and alpaca wool socks. I picked up some cool things for myself and a few others.

I came back to the hostel, played some vicious foozball with an Ecuadorian, Spanish, and Argentine, then watched the intense world fùtbol game of Argentina vs. Spain with a large group of ever-arguing fellows.   

     Returning once again at the correct time to the feria (actually I was late by arriving at 9:30, with the feria closing at 11), I looked at tons of cool artwork of all types. Art in leather such as belts, wall masks and wallets, art in metal such as mini person sculptures, knives, and silverwork, and various ceramics and glasswares, not to mention the woodcrafts that included instruments and clocks and cutting boards. I totally enjoyed the live band, which was Afrocuban and Afrosudamerican music, and was super bummed to find out they didn't have a disco for sale. I gave them a hefty $10 peso tip (to them a lot, to me $2.70 US) and told them they need to make one.

     The Sunday feria was just as exciting, finding more stuff to peruse through and collect, including an incredible booth with stuff from all over the Americas. Run by a dude with long grey-black hair and an equally impressive beard (to which I was far outmatched), there were bracelets made of boar claws, amber and leather, shark tooth earrings, bracelets in cocodrillo, jaguar, fish, snake, and boar, earrings of wild tropical colored birds, and various other awesome collectibles. I had myself a go at some of the pieces, which will hopefully not raise a brow passing customs. ;)

     There was another band following the feria, this time one with some older rockers from the hippy days. And man, Còrdoba is full of hippies and students and probably drugs of the rainbow, just like O.B. (Ocean Beach for all you non-San Diegans). Anyways, the first song I heard upon arriving was ''Owner of a Lonely Heart'' by Yes, which I wanted to burst the stage to sing, since no one was singing it, and was a riff to jam on. After a few misc. instrumental covers more, they played ''Another Brick in the Wall Part II'' by Pink Floyd, for which I did work up the courage to offer my singing. After all, I'm American, know all the words, and can speak English, therefore making me the ideal candidate for the role. It was pretty badass, and I wonder what people thought of my foreign ways. Successful. Then they chose ''Another One Bites the Dust'' by Queen, which I hate. Still with the energy, I went with it, and totally bombed most of the lyrics, repeating lines or muttering so no one could tell it was more of a karaoke attempt. I also interspersed lines from ''Rapper's Delight'' in there, since they are practically the same song. Their own singer didn't like me, since I was already more of a fit for their band.

     Following this, I started home, unfortunately passing by a total drunk Rasputin-looking fellow by the name of Carmen. I tried to escape his drunken clutches and breath of Death, but no matter how much Castellano I used, he wouldn't let me saunder off by my lonesome. We stopped at a beautiful wall mural, so since I wanted to know what it represented, I decided to try and enjoy the conversation. We talked, argued, misunderstood each other, and more, when his ''brother'' came up to us to chat too. I guess he was Brazilian, which explains why I could only understand a few words. Eventually all the hammeredness started leaning more towards ''spare me 5 pesos'', and since I wasn't about to give away money, much less pull my wallet out in front of two transients, I had to think on my feet and begin the ''fight or flight'' mode. I bulshitted and said I lost all my money earlier, which was actually kind of true, since I did have a bag of goods from the feria. I also had my zippered sweatshirt hanging on my arm, and Carmen the bum, after constantly asking for money, took a firm grasp of the jacket saying he could sell it for 20 pesos. Luckily his ''¿brother?'' knew I was uncomfortable with this and helped calm Carmen down enough to let go of the jacket. I then concluded with ''Suerte'' (a common goodbye phrase meaning ''luck''), and Carmen screamed ¡NO HAY SUERTE! ¡NO HAY SUERTE! (There is no luck). I wonder what would have happened if I weren't such a charmer.

      Well, I'm still alive, and yesterday I walked to a beautiful cathedral from the 16th Century (Crèo). I had a field day with all of the impressive architecture, designs, smell, and artwork adorning the windows and walls and ceiling. Luckily I had my mp3 player, and, upon entering the cathedral, put on some Opeth, which is the perfect eerie, Gothic, acoustic music to accompany my memory of said structure. Pulling out my camera, I furiously snapped a couple hundred pics of the awesome lighting and angles and views from the tops of two flights of stairs. I will have to upload some excellent pictures of this for my ''Argentina highlights album''.
      So now I gotta pack up in a little bit and lounge around until my clothing arrives and my bus leaves, both with the same company at the bus terminal, Chevallier.  I really hope I end up in San Juan first thing tomorrow morning, since my clothing arrives only an hour short of my bus departure. Will update this when possible, but until then, all for now, more for later, this is Drew Peters.