Friday, December 24, 2010

travel "worries"

Saludos boludos,

Worrying has never been my strong point. Don’t get me wrong, I worry far more than la vida demands, but I tend to screw up the process. I neither productively utilize my anxiety to stay ahead of the game (such as packing well before my departure dates or keeping a calendar), nor do I maintain the consistent levels of distress necessary to win me a Valium prescription. Both of these personal failures were recently made evident before my visit to the USA. On Sunday my blood progressively pumped through my veins quicker and more forceful; my breath grew shorter and my brained seemed incapable of concentrating on anything but the hundreds of things that I had left uncompleted. It felt as if my scheduled biannual life crisis was fractioning into trimesters. Walking home from a White Elephant Christmas party, I had a mini panic attack.

While no stranger to worrying, panic attacks are well out of my usual emotional responses, and as a result I was quite, well...worried. I was unable to focus on any one subject; rather my mind raced from my empty suitcases still stacked in my closet, to unpaid bills (my cell phone has since been cut off...oops), to unanswered emails and phone calls. In other words, I was fucked. However, true to form, the suffocating anxiety that might have spurred me to stay awake late into the night editing research proposals, laying out holiday outfits and searching for my immigration forms was short-lived and conquered by 1.5 milligrams of melatonin. Two hours later I was home drinking mate (mah-tay) with my friend and laughing at just about anything and everything. I can pack tomorrow, I told myself.

I woke up early, but I had a breakfast date with a friend who was visiting from Australia which meant I had roughly five hours to pick up my laundry, take out rent money, pay my phone bill (late, too late, still cut off), print out and bind a 150-page thesis on virtual identity construction on Internet dating sites; buy alfajor cookies, yerba-mate, wine, airport snacks and headphones; call the airline to request a vegetarian meal, call to order a taxi to the airport, have coffee with my professor downtown, have lunch with my friend at my house, get my documents in order, and pack my bags. At four in the afternoon I had finally unzipped by bags and starting wrapping my jeans around the wine bottles when the taxi driver rang my doorbell (he was supposed to get there at 5:30)! It took 20 minutes to chuck everything that was categorized and piled on my bed into my bags and another five minutes to throw on shorts and a t-shirt (an act I later regretted sitting in the 50-degree airport terminal). Upon climbing into the taxi, the chauffeur told me that the piqueteros were planning a protest that would cut off the main highway, which is why he came to get me so early. But there was no protest on the highway. No traffic at all actually. I arrived five hours before takeoff.

Despite the mini panic attack, the irresponsibly last-minute packing, and the to-do list with half of the to-dos left unchecked, once I was in the taxi I was golden. Embarking on just about any trip, as soon as I drive away, as soon as my house is out of sight, any residual anxiety tends to fade away. Images of items that I possibly may have forgotten to pack flit through my mind, but I easily calm myself by remembering that I have credit cards. This has been the case ever since I started traveling solo. I love the hours spent in transit. It’s so easy to just relax and submit to the authority of another (don’t get carried away by your imaginations). I’m not driving the taxi, or the bus, or the plane, which means there is nothing for me to do. If anything goes wrong (and it often has, it’s certainly not my fault. And it’s far easier to simply not think about all of those 500 tasks left undone while in transit. Twenty-two hours in two planes, three airports and a commuter train? No problem. Thirty-six hour bus-ride? Yes, please! Indeed, often when I’m out walking in the streets of Buenos Aires stressing about my thesis, I see a long-distance bus drive by and I day dream about being seated in one of its plush seats, on my way to someplace else, doing nothing more that looking out the window.

Arriving five hours early to the airport, I had plenty of time to wait in transit, however sadly without the plush long-distance bus seats. I watched the sky burn from blue to orange and from orange to pink and purple before it finally settled back to blue. While my taxi driver had the foresight to leave two hours early so as to avoid the highway-blocking rush-hour protest, the crew of the Delta flight did not, which unsurprisingly meant flight delays. After a worry-failed 22-hour trip during which two Argentine adolescent girls sweet talked me into giving up my window seat, a subsequent conversation with a cute Quebecois backpacker about working in French-Canadian rock quarries, and 1.5 hour customs process at Atlanta International (ATL, you be a mess), I arrive in Miami and hopped on the train to see my abuelita divina.

More on her later...

with amor and besos

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dear Zadie Smith: please stop.

A critical take on Jade Smith’s review of Facebook, the movie.

OK, I’ve had enough. I need to make this public. Attention cultural critics and social commentators, attention please: if you were born before 1980 please stop writing scathing critiques about my generation, the supposed generation why (not?), generation z, T(echnology), Internet, or whichever new label you are throwing at us. I’ve read them in the New York Times, in the NY Review, the blogging sphere ect... and on the whole, your assessments are drab, painfully predictable, unoriginal, and fundamentally flawed by your lack of belonging.

Even writers as prolific as Zadie Smith, who couldn’t help slamming Generation Facebook over and over again as she critiqued Facebook, the movie, for The New York Review of Books, should really keep following the classic writing advice: write what you know best. Clearly Smith does not know Generation Facebook (see:

I want to spend a bit of time debunking parts of her essay.

One of the main reasons folks of older generations are so put off by Facebook and social networks, and subsequently put off by our own virtual representations, is the subject of privacy. Zadie Smith says that when Facebook changed its privacy settingings “Gay kids became un-gay, partiers took down their party photos, political firebrands put out their fires. In real life we can be all these people on our own terms, in our own way, with whom we choose. For a revealing moment Facebook forgot that.” I’m gonna go a head and deconstruct this quote because it is quite revealing. Starting with the Factual. It wasn’t Facebook’s privacy settings that made Aunt Dora able to see the queering of one’s virtual self. The issues with Facebook’s privacy settings had to do with the selling of profile information to research and marketing firms. Nobody liked the idea of Facebook selling what they considered to be their photos and interests and favorite music. This has to do with the larger question of licensing of material posted to profiles which is interesting but not relevant (at the moment). Aunt Dora can now see her niece taking a body shot off her girlfriend’s breast only if her niece doesn’t know how to properly use Facebook’s privacy settings.

Why is Aunt Dora, who is now in her 50s and part of the baby boomer generation, on facebook to begin with? Privacy itself isn’t the issue for the Facebook generation, but rather the already old fashioned definitions of privacy. The untagging of party pics and the censoring of political speech and sex talk online are actually products of the fact that people who aren’t part of the Facebook generation are now on Facebook...and immediately passing judgement based on their generations’ social standards and expectations. Zade Smith definitely belongs to one of those generations because she tries to set apart Facebook from the “real world.” In Zade Smith’s world, individuals evidently have the absolute authority to be whoever they want with whomever they want and that mythical upside down virtual reality that is Facebook “forgot” how things are supposed to be. In my opinion, Smith’s idea of how the “real world” works is as fictional as multiplayer online dungeons and dragons. But just to drive the point home, as opposed to the usual fear mongering of online predators using the privacy of the Internet to become whoever they want to be and preying on the innocent, we now need to fear social networks because they may actually represent too much of us too much of the time?

To be fair, Smith is right about young people now trying to exercise greater caution about what they “allow” to be published online. In deed, I only allowed myself to be tagged in this year’s Halloween albums after I changed my Facebook user name. We are legitimately nervous by what people might see on Facebook, but we aren’t frightened of Facebook’s lack of privacy. Rather we are frightening by what older generations’ sense of propriety. Undergraduate students at Columbia University were sent a warning by their career counseling office not to post commentaries about the newest Wikileaks documents (see: Evidently a Columbia alum emailed the school explaining that to the US State Department those documents are still considered “classified” and the State Department officials (most definitely not of the Facebook generation) would consider anyone blabbing about the leaked diplomatic cables as unlikely to respect classified documents while working for the US Government.

The debate on privacy will eventually resolve itself when middle-aged folk become old and young people become middle-aged and run things. In 20 years just about every middle manager will have been drunk on Facebook. Every banker will have been embarrassed about that messy breakup that showed up on News Feed. And any diplomat of my generation who ever was a "fan" of Sarah Palin will regret making such support public knowledge (see: My point is that my generation doesn’t have the same hang ups. We aren’t confused about the “real world” and the Internet (because that pizza I just ordered online is real, I get to eat it with my non-virtual hands). And those of us in our 20s won’t ever consider information posted on the Internet and analyzed by five major international newspapers as still being “classified.”

The binary of real world vs. Internet is ubiquitous throughout Zade’s essay and indeed throughout much of the discourse about the Internet and Facebook and other social networks (by all generations...well perhaps not the youngest who really put those disposable thumbs to work texting from the age of 9). Lamenting the new Facebook programming that will allow third parties (read Internet marketers) to track users online activity and strategically advertise based on their actions, Smith says “Or maybe the whole Internet will simply become like Facebook: falsely jolly, fake-friendly, self-promoting, slickly disingenuous.” Hmmm, falsely friendly? Disingenuous? Sounds like Smith once again is confused about which world is which. I at least find it far easier to be an anti-social bitch online and not have to deal with the social consequences than in Smith’s supposed “real world” where I evidently exercise greater strategic control over my continually constructed identity.

Smith comes off as a technophobe throughout the entire essay. At one point even paranoid when she questions “what the software does to us” (emphasis mine). Her celebrated literary voice suddenly sounds redundant and tired, scared of innovation and incapable of adapting to new social phenomena. Her paranoia is expressed in her drawing of lines between people who are 1.0 and those who are 2.0 (1.0 and 2.0 being slightly outdated methods of identifying the “static” web 1.0 and 2.0 referring to the more interactive programming and social networks). Despite throwing herself in with the Facebook Generation (a desperate attempt to validate her criticism), the real difference between 1.0 folks and 2.0 folks is the ability to view the Internet as just another social space in which people have valid (i.e. real) interactions. Folks who question the reality of the Internet, I argue, only do so because they remember a reality when the Internet didn’t exist. They are able to nostalgically compare what was with what is. That isn’t the case for my generation. I grew up online (I still remember Prodigy when user long-in IDs were a random selection of numbers and letters, and yes I still remember ours), and I tend not to stress out about how many Facebook friends I have and which one of them are “real” friends with whom I have “real” conversations.

I think that Smith’s fear is really about what she doesn’t relate to. So rather than attempting to explain away my generation disguised as your dissatisfaction with Mark Zuckerberg, here is my advise: just leave it to us–we are, after all, the inevitable future.

P.S. Zadie, you were born in 1975 and as far as generations go that firmly plants you in Generation X. This has of course been confirmed by a Google search which lead me to your wikipedia page. So stop claiming to be part of the generation you do not comprehend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Turning 25--surprise!

Saludos boludos,

Last night I was fully emotionally prepared to spend my 25th birthday sans glamor. No organized dinners. No crazy parties. Not even a fancy restaurant. After a good ol’ fashioned yankee breakfast with my two roommates, Pablo and Mariano (the equipo san luis), and a very lazy day lounging around the house reading (for pleasure!), I tried very hard to be completely satisfied with a homemade Mexican dinner and a kilo of delicious ice cream.

Birthdays are a funny thing. While a quiet and tranquilo birthday might be quite acceptable in the United States, an uncelebrated year in Argentina might be seen as a sign of depression and of generally a mal humor. I tried not to buy into any of that when I casually invited some of my closest friends over at the last minute for pizza and beer, but everyone seemed to be working, or sick or otherwise unavailable. I tried not to react as the following: oh you can’t come and toast for my birthday? Ok no problem. Doesn’t matter that in the past two years I have been to count them one, two, three, four birthday dinners or parties/outings of yours. But no worries buddy; I understand. Yes Yes you must indeed be tired from working so hard.

No no. I would not fall into that pattern. After all, I hadn’t planned anything myself, and I had told anyone who asked that I didn’t think I would do anything. So the only expectations I could reasonably have was no expectations.

At 8 pm last night Pablo arrives with Tati, one of his best friends and a good friend of mine and of the house in general. OK no worries, one more for dinner, the more the merrier. Mercedes rings the doorbell a few minutes later. Mercedes I was expecting. Great, now we are five for Mexican food. A five-person dinner shapes out quite well. Not pathetic at all. No risk of sounding depressed when acquaintances ask me what I did for my birthday and I tell them I dined on tasty Mexican food (still exotic cuisine in Argentina) with five of my closest friends.

At the grocery store, Pablo and Mercedes keep trying to argue with me that we need more food. I have to repeatedly remind them that there are only five of us for dinner. They agree but seem hesitant nonetheless. But what if someone randomly drops by to say hi? Pablo asks me. I curtly respond (without a hint of hurt in my voice, I assure you), Pablo, nobody is going to stop by just to say hello. First of all I didn’t invite anyone, and people can’t be dropping by my house whenever they want! That would be rude, and I am not friends with rude ass people. Ahh OK OK, Pablo looks at Mercedes out of the corner of his eye.

I should have known something was up at that very moment, but suddenly I get a phone call from Luis, one of my best friends. Now Luis waiting until 8:30 pm to call me on my birthday is strange indeed. To be honest I was surprised he wasn’t at my door the night before with a bottle of champagne in order to toast at midnight. Perhaps I admit that when I said hello to Luis on the phone, my voice was chilled. What was chilled quickly became icy as it became apparent that Luis hadn’t even called to wish me a happy birthday, but instead to confirm a project meeting we have planned for this Friday. I quickly hung up. He forgot my birthday??? How strange, I told Pablo, that Luis, of all people, would forget my birthday. After everything I did for his birthday this past year... I should have known then too, but I tried to push it out of my mind so as not to damper the mood.

Shortly after we got home and started cooking, the doorbell rang. Who is it? I asked. Pablo told me in a hushed voice that Mariano had invited some of his friends over for dinner after the theater. Why Mariano would invite people who aren’t my friends to my birthday dinner, if you could call it such, was beyond me, but I was determined not to be upset. Pablo also seemed agitated by Mariano’s lack of propriety, and he egged me on a bit. But it wasn’t Mariano’s friends. In walks Christoph, without explaining anything more than, Pablo invited me. I should have known then too, but Christoph is new in the city and maybe Pablo invited him to be friendly.

Doorbell. In walks Ariel and Tommy. Doorbell. Here come Jackie and Juan Manuel. Doorbell. Alcy and Sylvestre. Doorbell. Marcelo, Michael, Rodrigo, Juan Pablo, and Juanqui. Davin. Francisco and Damien. Doorbell. Doorbell. Doorbell. Doorbell.

Soon enough our house was full of no less than 30 of my closest friends, all helping to cook and pouring themselves glasses of wine, fernet, and beer. There were appetizers that seemed to have appeared from no where. Are those empanadas I see people making? In short, a total success and a new take on a surprise party. Rather than one big jolt of surprise walking into a room filled with faces, my face was painted with a big smile every time the doorbell rang and in walked a few more friends.

We ate, we drank, we talked and danced. We even played spin the bottle. In short I had a fantastic birthday, more than anything I could would have hoped for and much more than what I had expected. Thanks to Pablo and Mariano and everyone else who helped organize and everyone for caring enough to come and celebrate a quarter-century of life.

with many besos and lots of amor...

Photos credit: Tati Maurizi

Monday, June 28, 2010

Colombia deliciosa

Que más? (Saludos Boludos!)

Two weeks ago I got back from a short trip to Colombia--8 days in Bogotá (the capital) and two days of camping at a mountain lake with one of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine (don't believe me? see below).

We [US-ers or folks from the US] don't think too much about Colombia beyond the drug war and marxist guerrillas in the jungle. Colombia usually only enters the US media in Hollywood movies about drug lords and warfare. Anyone native to Bogotá will complain about the opening scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith: in supposed Bogotá, a small city surrounded by jungle, a helicopter hovers above a huge explosion and rising flames. Bogotá in reality is, first, a city of 8 million people. That is 8 million people within the city limit, not the greater metropolitan area. Second, Bogotá sits in the mountains. The jungle (the amazon) is two hours by plane. Third, it has been years and years since any militarized political faction has been able to successfully attack the civilian population in the capital.

I will blog more on Colombia when I have time (at the moment I should minimize distractions and focus on the mountains of reading I have for my thesis research), but I assure you that Colombia is not (nor has it ever been) what the US media makes it out to be. It's...deliciosa.

In the mean time I'll leave you with a couple more photos and links to more.

on flickr:
on facebook:!/album.php?aid=2332545&id=5314379&page=2

amor y besos

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reporting from Yankeelandia

Saludos Boludos!

OK so I’ve come back to the USA after one whole year for a 15 day visit. I should apologize now to those of you whom I did not see. My schedule--three days in FL, 5 days in STL, 36 hours in DC, two days in PA and a final 2 days in STL--was incredibly tight and I have been running around non-stop visiting family all over the country. I definitely did not get a chance to see everyone with whom I would have liked to visit. I hope to come back soon and see everyone who I missed this round.

Today is early Monday morning (2:25 am), and I can’t sleep. I got in from PA this afternoon, and I leave to go back to Argentina on Tuesday. Not even Grandma Ellie’s relaxation exercise in which I talk my body into complete relaxation (from relax toes, relax, to relax private parts, relax, to relax teeth, relax and so on) can help me shut my eyes and keep them that way. So I’m trying to do something productive and blog.

My first couple days back in the States were a trip. Not only did I get to spend three days with my awesome grandma on the FL beach, but I hadn’t been home in a whole year. I’m pretty used to the transition between Argentina and the US by this point, so culture shock was minimal. However there were a few Yankee-isms that got me:

  • On the first day back, we went to go a see El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes), the Argentine film that won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. I ordered a medium diet coke and was shocked when they handed a 1.5 L cup. It was $5. The next day we went to see Oceans and I ordered another diet coke. I thought it best to order a small this time around seeing as how the medium could fill my bladder three times over. The small, at $4.50, looked like a kiddie cup. And thus I was reminded of the quintessential dilemma for the US consumer: feel like a pig and go for the value buy or buy just what you need and feel royally screwed over.

  • Whole Foods really freaks me out. Some of you who know me well might remember that grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. I love roaming each and every isle (sometimes twice) thinking of all the dinner parties I could host if I bought everything on every shelf. But entering into Whole Foods was sensory overload after a year of shopping in 3-isle markets (called chinos, or Chinese, owing to the fact that Chinese immigrants have deftly taken over the majority of the small grocers market). I saw fresh exotic produce flown in from all over the world (wonder what the carbon footprint of those Chilean grapes are). I grew indignant when I saw varieties of apples grown in Argentina that I can’t even find in Argentina! I saw a cheese wheel that had to have weighed at least 25 lbs (my mouth watered uncontrollably). I longed to buy every pre-prepared frozen vegetarian meal, especially the $3.99 indian cuisines. I figured i could fit at least a dozen into my suitcases as long as I packed them with dry ice and prayed that customs didn’t stop me. There were free samples!!! And the check out lines, despite swarms of organic consumers, didn’t delay more than five minutes! It was all just TOO MUCH!

Ok I’m gonna try and have one more go at that guided relaxation exercise.

lots of amor and besos from...well...from la patria known as yankeelandia!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Photos from Brazil

I finally got around to posting photos from Brazil.

On flickr:

and facebook:!/album.php?aid=2322298&id=5314379&ref=mf

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mornings with the Equipo San Luis

Saludos Boludos

So I was scraping the burnt off my toast this morning in a cheerful mood. Despite the rain and despite the fact that I had blackened one side of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I was content because all three of us that make up el equipo San Luis were awake and breakfasting together. A rare occasion indeed, because here is the usual run down:

Mariano or I wake up first, stagger to the kitchen where we put the kettle on and fumble around in the cabinets and fridge looking for breakfast. Whoever wakes up second wakes up and staggers out of his room. Buen día, chavon, says the first-to-wake in his low morning voice. Buen día says the second-to-wake in his even lower closer-to-bed voice. We touch cheeks in the compulsory morning kiss as the second-to-wake makes his way to the bathroom; then makes his way to the table where the first-to-wake offers him mate (mah-tay see: After a couple mates all is right in the morning and we start chatting while reading the news.

We talk politics, we talk philosophy, we talk love. We talk about what we are doing that day and some times we lovingly make fun of Pablo who almost certainly is still sleeping, regardless of the fact that the alarm on his cellphone has been sounding for half an hour. I like my morning talks with Mariano. They are my favorite way to start the day. If I wake up and he has already breakfasted, I feel lonely drinking the mate by myself.
Eventually Pablo, sleeping in whichever-which way entangled in sheets, clothes and blankets, drags himself out of bed (or some more humorous mornings slides out of bed with a hard thump on the floor) and opens his bedroom door. Mariano and I are lighthearted and bright eyed already and we both say good morning, to which we may or may not get a response as Pablo makes his way to the bathroom. Prior to leaving for work Pablo will shower for half an hour, during which almost certainly Mariano or I will comment on the fact that Pablo showers for half an hour.

And off I go to the gym. Off Mariano goes to rehearsal. Off Pablo goes to work.

But not today. Today was special because we all woke up together. Those are my favorite mornings because I like it when the equipo San Luis is together, just the three of us. Today we talked mostly about Haiti and the international criticism of US military imperialist actions in the country. I often critique Argentines’ analysis of US politics and foreign relations as being boiled down and overly simplified; but I have to admit that they usually have the broad brush strokes of facts that are wholly ignored in the US media. For example the sheer magnitude of the US military presence is hardly mentioned in US coverage of the ‘aid’ operations but it rarely goes unmentioned in South America. For example the secured loans (last I saw it was around 2.1 billion US dollars) that the US has secured from international lenders is often reported in the NY Times, but in Argentine papers they also wonder about the structural readjustment package that is sure to accompany such loans. (Just about every Argentine knows what a structural readjustment package is. They have had way too much experience. See: While the NY Times and Washington Post publish editorials on why sweatshops are what Haiti needs rights now (as opposed to sustainable and localized economic development), Argentines will reference the preexisting free trade zones ( in El Salvador, Thailand and Mexico; and after a quick analysis of their effects will abandon the notion that sweatshops are really what Haiti needs (because to say that Haiti needs sweatshops is really to say that we need to buy 10-dollar disney t-shirts in Wallmart or pay 150 bucks for Nike sneakers that cost 5 dollars to produce).

Ok Ok I’ll stop. Anyways, it was a good morning.

love and besos


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sumate a Couchsurfing

This week my first Couch Surfers arrived.

About Couch Surfers: is a social networking website used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in order to connect with like-minded travelers. Usually young people (but there are folks of all ages) who like to travel without strict itineraries and on a dime create personal profiles in order to meet other travelers (many in the backpacking subculture use couchsurfing). The ultimate goal is to have a free place to stay when you travel and to offer a free place to stay to travelers (although many users are just on the site to have coffee or to organize parties and social events). It is a great way to challenge the market-oriented condition of capitalist travel, and a great way to meet locals outside of a bar/club. You can get out my profile here:

I had used couhsurfing while traveling in Brazil, and in my house there are usually people sleeping transitorily in some way, shape or form in a bed, couch or corner. But I had never had any travelers who contacted me through the website stay at my house.

Basti and Michael are our first surfers. Basti and Michael are two German students from Berlin who are taking a semester off to travel for six months in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. They have a key to our house and come and go as they please (they would need to because neither my roommates nor I know where will be at any given time of day or night). As a welcome to Buenos Aires, while they were toasting in the open air of Plaza Serrano with a few cervezas, a thief on a motorcycle sped by and grabbed their backpacked. Off he sped with their digital camera and video camera while an entire plaza of witnesses watched. Ironically hours before leaving my house they asked me if it was safe to walk around with their backpacks. I told them yes of course, nobody is gonna mess with you as long as you keep it close to your body. When they told me what happened I responded, ahhh sí, bueno a veces pasa eso. Pablo responded, y sí, les iba a pasar eventualmente. mejor ahora para que se relajen por las próximas seis meses. Hey, es lo que hay, right?

I think we are going to continue hosting couch surfers in the future, although we might more strictly enforce a Spanish speaking rule so everyone in the house can communicate and so we can invite them out without feeling as if we need to watch out for them.

Not on couchsurfing? SUMATE YA

besos and amor de Argentina

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

South Western Dinner Party

Saludos Boludos

Impromptu dinner party last night.

Vegetarian chili, homemade cornbread (no mixes in argentina!), and rice with fresh avocado and lemon dressing.

Lucas, a friend from Sao Paulo who came to Buenos Aires and stayed with me while working on a documentary about the rural landless citizen movement in Paraguay. In a nutshell: during the neoliberalization of Paraguay, the government sold a bunch of land to extremely wealthy foreigners, most of them owners of farming corporations (similar to the HUGE corporations we have in the US that have destroyed the concept of the “family farm”). Much of that land was occupied by poor farmers who had collectively farmed for generations and all of a sudden were displaced. They organized. In a throw-the-dog-a-bone type move the Paraguayan government gave them some extremely rural (basically inaccessible) land in the center of the country and surprisingly it turned out to be an example of local sustainable development (maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising). He and his partners are in post-production now and I can’t wait to see the documentary finished.
Luis, my very good friend with whom I lived for a couple of months while I was in between my old apartment and current house. He supplied the avocado, fresh from his dad’s garden in the country. Yum. Many folks kinda tilt their head in surprise when they find out we are such good friends. He doesn’t share my love for radical politics nor my interest in feminist studies (quite the opposite actually). We are indeed the odd couple, but Luis has a big heart and he is a great friend.
Mariano, my actor/opera signer roommate who is starting to give voice lessons at home. His new play premiers this friday and is a collection of Shakespeare's love sonnets. Before moving to Buenos Aires to peruse acting, Mariano was studying sport sciences in Mar del Plata (about 5 hours south of Buenos Aires along the Eastern coast), which means he also doubles as my work-out adviser.
Three friends of Mariano, Mina, Andrés, and Carolina also joined us. They are the first test subjects of Mariano’s voice lessons. Like minded folks, we all get along great. Andrés and Carolina are both psychologists who work in hospitals and are beginning to offer group dynamics consultations to private companies and corporations, ‘para sacar plata a los que tengan’ says Andrés.

Dinner conversation was varied and dynamic ranging from the social history of the menu items social history of the argentina military regime (kinda a standard at any dinner party in Buenos Aires). But this time it was a bit more interesting because Andrés was sharing a story that shed light on the generational difference between those who grew up knowing only democracy and those of older generations who grew up under Perón, lived through the military dictatorship and witness the transition to democracy. I liked the story because while Argenintes, even and sometimes especially young Argentines, are often aggressively passionate while talking about the military dictatorship (something that I obviously cannot relate too), but Andrés made a rare confession--neither can he. It left unanswered a lot of questions about what it means for young democracies when the population ages and new generations no longer have the lived experience and knowledge about what it means to live under repressive governments (yes I know I know, anarchists and libertarians, we all live under repressive governments but it’s not the place or time for that OK?).
Pablo, my other roommate had a crisis at the office and was stuck working until about 11 pm (which was about the hour that we scraped the chili pot clean, unfortunately for him). Pablo works at the Ministry of Education in the department that handles all of the government subsidies and scholarships to public schools in the country. Full of good stories he is.

Ok this was a new style of blogging with me. Not that I have ever been all that consistent. But I’ll continue to experiment and hopefully will find a groove that allows me to write entries that don’t consume hours of my time yet are still interesting to the ten of you that read this. haha!

much love and many besos

Friday, February 12, 2010

... on salvador

My never-say-no-while-traveling policy had me breaking my vegetarian vows within 30 minutes of arriving at the hostel in Pelorinho, the historic center of the northern city of Salvador (,_Bahia). The entire hostel was occupied by 40 civil engineering students from the interior of the country and two of them invited me out to grab some ´authentic´ Bahian food. I found myself eating deep fried bread stuffed with red pepper paste, hot sauce and shrimp.

Later that night while washing my face in the communal bathrooms, two more of the engineering students were practicing their english with me (yelling their english, actually, as if I would have a hard time understanding otherwise) when a third walked in in a huff. He disapproved of their english speaking; said that we were in Brazil dammit and in Brazil we speak portuguese. I should be speaking portuguese. I assured him that I wanted to speak/learn portuguese. He gave me a contemptuous look and stomped away. His friends apologized, ¨Sorry about him. He is really BLACK.¨ Really black? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I was so confused I didn´t respond. If in Brazil a black identity is synonymous with linguistic nationalism, I am both impressed and a little amused at the irony.

Spent a day with Fré, a Colombian artist who has been traveling for three years, making enough money drawing caricatures in the street for tourists and selling a large painting here and there to hotels. We went to ciudad baja to drink some beer overlooking the beautiful bay dotted with fishing boats both small and large. He invites two Brazilian girls to have drinks with us, thinking himself a genius (one for him and one for me, naturally). He of course is ignorant of his error, and I ended up timidly flirting for the next five hours so as not to ruin Fré´s chances. In the end they were both out of his league (as I knew from the beginning) and uninterested in his new-aged hippy-artist-vagabond antics (and terrible pick-up strategy if I say myself). They liked me more (they called me a respectful gentleman--haha).

Beyonce is coming to Salvador. Tickets cost anywhere from 170 to 650 reas (about 90 to 350 dollars). I ask my friend Ernest how many Bahians would be willing to pay (or could even afford) so much just for a concert. He said, ¨well the venue has about 10,000 seats...¨. I guess they love them some Beyoncé.

After three nights int he touristy Pelorihno, I left. Couldn´t stand it. I went to stay with a friend I had met off of His name is Ernest and he lives about 1.5 hours north of the city with with mother and grandmother (also his father, who owns a tourism company, and his niece and nephew on the weekends). He neglected to tell me this until I showed up at his house. No worries, I told myself, this isn´t awkward at all.

I cooked dinner the first night for Ernest and his mother. They didn´t like it. They thought the pasta was ¨raw¨ (as if, it was al dente!) and his mother called by roasted potato, onion and pepper melody ¨...diferente...¨.

Ernests´ grandmother is a riot. When she was in the house there was a constant soundtrack of her screeching criticisms and orders at everyone in sight. She was constantly yelling at her great grandchildren to stop playing, shut up, and sit on the couch to watch whichever telenovela (soap opera) that was on TV (during which she offered continuous commentary on its ridiculousness). In the mornings she yelled at me to drink juice (I made the mistake of resisting just the one time and said I was happy with water. She poured me a glass, pushed it into my hands, and watched me gulp it down). One morning she told me, ¨I yell a a lot don´t I? I don´t have patience for children. Never did. Not even my own!¨ It was the only time I ever saw her smile.

After repeatedly turning down coke during dinner at Ernest´s, his mother asked if I knew what coke was.

After three days of alternating my lounging between Ernest´s pool and the beach I left Salvador for Lencois, 6 hours by bus inland and nestled in the mountains. More on that later.

muito love and many beijos


Saturday, January 23, 2010

melhor tarde que nunca

Perhaps this entry is late in arriving, but nonetheless it is here, so I don´t want to hear any complaints.

I had talked about traveling in Brazil for well over a year. Some of you may remember that my original plan after graduating was to live in Brazil after a short stint in Argentina (we all know how I am with plans). So finally, after nearly two years of talk, on January 10th I arrived in São Paulo via Asunción (contrary to what many are lead to believe, Paraguay is not a barren wasteland but actually super green and least from the plane).

São Paulo is not a pretty city. In contrast to my querrido Buenos Aires, it does not have beautiful French architecture--not even much neoclassical. Twenty million people now inhabit what was once lush, green tropical forest, replaced with painfully modern 15-20 stories concrete structures at every turn. It is congested with traffic at seemingly all times of day and night, many of the streets smell of garbage (or urine), and I have yet to see a city with a larger homeless population. It is hot, and it rains daily.

In short, I LOVED it.

Julia lives in São Paulo. Julia is one of my old roommates from my time as an undergraduate studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Julia is divina and one of my favorite persons in the world. She is a psychologist (human rights specialist) who works as a social worker/educator with children in situations of homelessness in downtown São Paulo. Julia also has a beautiful group of friends, including Lucas, whom I also know from Buenos Aries, who is a documentary film maker. Most recently he documented one of the settlements in Paraguay of poor peasants who are struggling to regain control of agricultural land they were forced from during an era of privatization in which wealthy Brazilians bought up land that was previously cultivated and controlled communally.

I had a hard time leaving São Paulo for the northern state of Bahía. Beyond the fact that I was leaving friends and friends of friends, I felt little pressure to be a good tourist in São Paulo. I am most definitely a terrible tourist. Museums? I can only thoughtfully ponder so much. Monuments? They confuse me; I don´t see the point ( and half of the time they are celebrating terrible people in terrible circumstances). ´Authentic´cultural experiences/shows? I feel awkward, and I end up hating everyone else in the audience just to make myself feel better about my own cultural voyuerism (blog forthcoming). São Paulo, while boasting an impressive number of museums, is an anti-tourist city. I heard English once in the entire week I was there. Bliss. When my Paulista (those who are from São Paulo) friends made fun of my pathetic tourist skills, I told them it was their fault for not driving me ´there´ in their car.

That isn´t to say that I didn´t get to know the city. I was simply perfectly content wandering aimlessly through Julia's neighborhood, located in the red light district. I saw movies in the gay mall (yes, there is a gay mall in São Paulo, but the fashion is surprisingly disappointing). I walked by Bar da Loca at least once a day, where I felt as if I was surrounding by sharks on the verge of a feeding frenzy. I intuitively found the cruise park on my first day (leave it to me) and made frequent returns to people watch. One of my favorite mornings was spent in the gym, named Commando Fitness, where I watched steroid-pumped muscle men singing along to Lady Ga Ga without a hint of irony.

Yes it was hard to leave São Paulo, but in a country as large and diverse as Brazil, I had to make my way along. As I write this, I am finishing up lunch on a beach in Salvador, Bahía. My 40-something year-old waitress keeps flirting with me. My skimpy bathing suit doesn´t tip her off of the fact she hasn´t a chance in hell because all men in Brazil wear skimpy bathing suits. Ah beautiful Brazil.....

Amor and besos