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.