27 February 2006

Chapter 9: Chile is not supposed to look like Newfoundland

Dear All-

It's been a good while. Christmas is over, the family has been
placated with quantity time, not quality time, I applied for grad
school, caught up with some people (but not all of the people), and
was confused by so much that was new: wireless earpieces for mobile
phones (why?), desperate housewives (yes-more like this), and ever so
many new flavors of Oreo (excellent). Also, Extreme Makeover: coming
home and seeing a show like this made me question if coming back was a
good idea at all. Then I thought, if we can have a vice president who
shoots his friend in the face while illegally hunting drunk, then I
can't really justify staying away because of bad reality TV. We are
reality TV.

But I digress. After surprising my parents a few weeks before
Christmas (to extreme effect, I thought mom was going to have a heart
attack), and then making a wide loop through DC and Atlanta, drinking
alot of wine, eating boat loads of cheese and Mexican food and pizza
and god knows what else, it was time to get on the road again. Our
flight to Buenos Aires went through Santiago, Chile, so my first
glimpse of this huge continent was the Andes out the left hand side
windows of the aircraft, the sun rising behind them. The sun
illuminated the snow capped peaks, tinging them orange, while to the
west the pacific ocean dawned steely grey and shiny in the hard
morning light. It was breath taking. We arrived in Buenos Aires and
it was definitely summer. I know that in my brain, I understand the
reason that the southern hemisphere has summer when we have winter,
but I don't think I ever really believed it. I mean, come on.
That's just stupid. Summer at Christmas? Shut up.

Buenos Aires is an awesome city in summer. I'm sure it kicks ass in
winter too, but the whole place revolves around these huge parks that
dot the city, full of people eating and drinking, office workers
taking their lunch breaks by sunbathing, dog walkers, and me sitting
barefoot in the grass, wondering why I never came to South America
before. Buenos Aires is a bit difficult to understand at first
really. It looks kind of like Paris, filled with Italians, speaking
Spanish. It's a good mix. We were meeting our friend Amber there
(who we had left Japan with and travelled through China, Nepal and
India). It was so great to see her, and meet her crazy Australian
friends (Nick, Kinney, and Allison- just for clarity, they are all
girls. Amber just has a problem with gender appropriate names for the
people in her life) who she had been dragging through South America.
They introduced us to the most important thing to know about Buenos
Aires: the disco nap. In a city where going out to dinner before ten
pm is just not done, bars don't get busy until two, and clubs are
wastelands until 5am, one must find time to sleep. Enter the disco
nap. An hour or two between six and eight pm. No one goes to bed in
BA; the streets are filled with families walking around eating ice
cream at 1:30 in the morning. I love it. Also, they love steak in
Argentina. And red wine. And I love steak and red wine. So I love

After a week in Argentina, we decided to go to Uruguay with Amber and
Nicole. Uruguay had always had a special place in my heart. I was
basically a complete nerd as a kid and I liked to read travel guides
as entertainment. That's right. Read them from cover to cover,
painstakingly making the choice to visit Johannesburg but NOT Cape
Town (bad accommodation, little to note of cultural interest) in an
imaginary trip in my head. I would have been around ten or eleven. I
would also have not had many friends. I had read about Uruguay when I
was little, and imagined it as some sort of Southern Valhalla. When I
was reading about the country, it was one of the wealthiest places in
South America, with a stable government and strong banking systems.
It had been dubbed the Switzerland of south America. Well, years on
and several financial meltdowns later, it still seems like
Switzerland. Or rather, it has the high prices and boring lifestyle
of Switzerland, with out the chocolate or skiing.

We took the ferry to Montevideo, and spent a desultory night in a
Brazilian owned flop house in a part of the town that real estate
agents might call 'challenged'. We had to eat McDonalds the first day
because it was the only affordable thing we could find that was open.
McDonalds. I didn't come to south America to wolf down hamburgers
under the visage of an inanely grinning clown. Things improved the
next day when we went to Colonia (Apologies to Montevideo: first
impressions are important). We found a good hostel, and that night
there was a start of Carnaval parade, with lots of drumming and
dancing and beer drinking. I was noticing something that hadn't
really hit me when we arrived. Everyone was white. And by white, I
mean German, blue eyed light skin white. A lady sitting next to me at
the parade explained that "all the indigenous people left, and there
was no slavery here, so Europeans are all that are left". She was
trying to explain why a lot of the dancers in the parade were wearing
black face- something that would have gotten them pounded to a pulp
anywhere else I am sure. I am also not so sure the indigenous people
"left". If by "left" she means shot to death, then she would be
telling the truth. But again, digression. We left the next day.
That's right people, two nights. I'm getting impatient in my old age.
We crossed back to Argentina, where we saw the Iguazu Falls up north
on the border with Brazil and Paraguay.

I´m getting bored writing this, and I can imagine you already
unconscious at your computers, drooling into the keyboard. So it's
time for a montage. Everybody needs a montage. Even Rocky had a
montage. You can show lots of things happening in a really short time
in a montage.

Iguazu Falls: rode a boat UNDER one of the largest falls in the world.
Awesome. Said good bye to Amber in Iguazu, she went back to
Australia. Not awesome, and very sad. Travelled by myself to see
Jesuit Ruins in Posasdas (on the Paraguayan border), where priests
basically set up sweat shops for Indians in the name of the Lord. The
catholic church really has a lot of explaining to do, doesn't it? Went
to Resistencia, where I drank with the revelers at the start of
Carnival party, then the next day was kidnapped by four models in a VW
Golf. They took me to the grocery store, and then on a tour of the
poor regions of their town. I'm not making this up. Really. Then,
back in Buenos Aires, Josh had his wisdom teeth taken out. Cut to
Bariloche- mountain resort where we hiked and drank alot of beer in a
mountainous setting. Wish I could say I repelled mountains or
something, but did not. Cut to big map of the Andes, with the
progress of our bus outlined in red a-la Indiana Jones and the Temple
of Doom, we crossed to Chile. Three days in Valdivia, eating sea
food, visiting Spanish ruins and watching sea lions be grumpy by the
sea. Very awesome, but mid Chile looks like Newfoundland, not South
America. Then, to Pucón, to stare idly at a volcano (very nice to
look at), but too expensive to climb. Instead, went to lay in amazing
outdoors hot springs, floating in a pool of hot water at night,
watching shooting stars race across the milky way. The next day went
on a suicide mountain biking trip to see some waterfalls. The map
failed to mention that IT WAS 34 KILOMETERS (about 22 miles) (all you
super in shape outdoorsy people who are my friends can just shut up
right now... that's right, I'm talking to you Stu and Sonia and Vicki
and Jen and Autumn and Anngela and Ben). Rode a bus all night to
Santiago where I am currently writing this montage, with a very sore
ass. Now, director cuts back to broad shot of Santiago, and zoom in
on internet cafe, and fade to black.

See? Everyone needs a montage.

Tomorrow, back to the north of Argentina and then to Bolivia (and
moving NORTH means it gets HOTTER) What the hell. Hope everyone is
well, and I'm sorry I haven't talked to some of you in a long time.
Let's blame it on me being homeless, not a shifty, untrustworthy

Saludos a mis peeps,