Friday, February 27, 2009

24hr bus trip: accomplished

I checked in tonight in my hostel outside of downtown Brasilia using full Spanish. I'm SO proud of myself. The hostel staff here speaks no english at all because hardly any foreigners come to this city on their travels. In fact, back in Salvador, everytime I told somebody I was headed to Brasilia, they asked me "why?" because it's an unusual destination.

Of course I came here for 2 reasons:
1. hang out with Daniella, a cool girl I met in Barc over NYE
2. the flight from Brasilia to Manaus is only $150 and Salvador to Manaus was $450. A big difference.

So it works out well. I hope hanging out with a Brazilian person turns out to be all I hope it to be. I am going to ask her a bunch of questions about Portuguese pronunciation. I'm still unable to make simple conversation in Portuguese. It's strange.

Mmmm spam

I'm 18 hours into my lovely bus ride. Someone near me smells like uncooked spam, what does that mean?

Bus speed

Dad, the average mph I think is like 45 for this bus. We stop every 3 hours for a 10-15 minute break.

Next city please

I am excited to leave Salvador. I didn't feel safe there, and so that deprived me of enjoyment. I just don't feel relaxed if I have to keep a watch out 24hrs a day for people stealing my stuff from my pockets.

I wasn't able to take my camera or my phone out much so I hardly have any pictures from the week. People told me not to go in certain areas of the city near the hostel, so generally I felt unsafe walking around alone in the evenings.

I was pickpocketed once for the $10 and almost picked another time by a kid about 9 years old trying to rip money out of my hand while I was counting my change in front of the vendor.

The childish crap going on in my hostel was annoying me (explained in my last post).

Nobody had a map that I could take with me, so if I went outside there was a good chance I would get lost, but this wasn't a good town for a foreigner to get lost in. I was told to leave my phone indoors because someone might steal it at gunpoint. One of the hostel staff told me he got his arm broken a couple years ago by people who were trying to just take his money.

Other travelers have told me that other Brazilian cities are safer, so I'm hoping that really is the case.

The difficulty with Portuguese, the interruption of Spanish, the hostel BS, and this safety concern was really bothering me. I thought about leaving Brazil right away after Carnaval but decided I came here to see the Amazon and I need to at least do that, so I'm still in the country to see if things get better.

Killer clouds

The sky and landscape is amazing here. I thought this stuff was only in Africa. Check out these surreal Simpsons like clouds.

Not travelers

It might have been because it was Salvador, or maybe because I'm in Brazil, but I think it was probably because it was Carnaval. The people in my hostel this past week were different than those I had come across earlier in my travels.

I think the lure of the greatest party on earth combined with beach and sun invites a different kind of person than those who are genuinely traveling to experiece something different. I felt like some of the people whom I met this week were there to temporarily party like animals and then get out.

Because of that difference in traveling philosophy, I didn't get along that well with many of the people who were here this week. It's the difference between people who are out to "vacation" and those that are "traveling." I felt that the problem stemmed from the people who were out here on the mindset of "spring break."

Because Salvador is a beach city and Brazil is known for it's lack of clothing, the people who show up, especially the girls, are higher than average on the physical attractiveness scale. After all, if you don't look good in a bikini, it's tough to survive a whole week of lack of clothing as a westerner. Locals have no problem sharing their non perfect bodies off.

There were a couple girls that knew that they were "pretty" and were complete attention whores with extremely low self esteem, demanding attention from every male they could come into contact with (let's call them poison) without the intention of actually liking any of them. On top of that, a lot of the guys in the hostel were immature enough to fall for their ploy, aka the "spring-breakers" and so we had a group of people who were constantly unable to make real decisions because they were too busy trying to get attention from the opposite sex or trying to inebriate as much as possible as often as possible.

This affected me because we were all told by multiple sources that Carnaval is not the best time for a foreigner to walk around alone in dark city streets and other less wholesome places, so were trying to roam around together as a group, at least to start. That didn't last long for me. Once I realized the problem with the people I started splitting off with a person or two at a time doing our own thing. That made it more enjoyable for me.

Back in the hostel though, it was difficult to avoid the poison and it's victims. I would walk into a room sometimes and just roll my eyes repeatedly while staring at a wall trying not to listen to the immature conversations going on. The poison acted like snobby princesses, as I heard later that they were also unwilling to accept other opinions and also rude to the other women who presented competition.

Some people would take forever to get ready or decide to postpone going out, other people would follow, and it would delay the whole group. In the beginning I waited, after we saw the pattern we just left with whoever was ready, even if it was just 2 people.

I guess I'm just too hyper-aware of social situations now that I've been watching them closely for so long (in an attempt to improve myself). I could see what was going on immediately. I tried to convert people to the dark side but the hostel was so small that it was tough to get a private conversation in without everyone hearing about it. I gave up after a while and decided to just enjoy myself whle completing ingoring the poison. I think the poison got the point because they stopped trying to get attention from me. This was a very welcome change for me.

Even the sheep that followed the poison annoyed me because they were so unaware of the uselessness of their efforts to attention from the poison. Near the very end, when the sheep had finally figured some things out and the poison began losing its power, the poison started getting very frustrated because they knew their reign of terror was coming to an end. Unhappiness could be smelled off them which brought me a slim amount of contentment just to watch it.

When I spent NYE in Barcelona we had a random group of about 15 people from different countries that were in Barc specifically to celebrate NYE, but I thought the situation was better. I felt like everyone got along and was responsible in their behavior and their conversations. I think that positive experience helped me to understand the situation this week and to expect more from travelers than chasing skin around.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Did you know that Brazil used to have slavery? I didn't. Maybe I was supposed to? That's how this area I'm in (called Bahia) has so many Afro-Brazilians.

When the slaves were training to revolt, the masters wouldn't let them practice fighting (for obvious reasons) and so they turned it into a dance form called Capoeira.

Today the afro Brazilian guys perform this very martial arts like dance on the street for tourists and passerbys. I think in most cases they expect some donations too.

It's pretty cool to watch the precision as they time their kicks at eachother together to stay in line so they don't actually hit eachother. I wish I could have taken a video but I wasn't able to take my camera outside much in Salvador because of crime.

What I saw reminded me a bit of tae kwon do, because tkd is like a dance martial art too. There's a lot of kicking jumping and spinning. I think today Capoeira is considered the only official Brazilian dance form.

Bus to Brasilia

I just got on my bus to Brasilia. It's a 24 hour ride, which means it will be my longest ever. I was a little nervous today about it because of all the things that could go wrong:

What if I get a stomach virus?
What if I get vein thrombosis?
What if I'm stuck next to some guy that smells like the floor of a commercial trash bin?
What if the bus doesn't stop enough for me to go to the bathroom?
What if I die of overheating?

Well so far, everything seems good. The bus is cooled inside. In fact, this may be the most comfortable 24 hours I spend so far in Brazil.

The man next to me is quiet and doesn't smell. He's an older gentleman, around 60. My stomach feels fine. There's almost as much leg room in here as my bclass seat on planes. It's impressive. It's better than Spain for a lower price.

I've heard the bus stops every 2 hours so I think bathroom won't be an issue. I still have my tissues from China and I also ripped a big piece of toilet paper from the rolls in the hostel.

Let's do it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


It's the morning after Fat Tuesday and the sun is out. Carnival is over. I'm so glad. I'm so tired of partying.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Did you know that tango was started in Buenos Aires? I decided to give in to tradition and take a short class hosted by my hostel. I was hesitant at first but it turned out good in the end like these things usually do.

I was surprised to find it somewhat easier than salsa because you move on constant evenly spaced beats and you just step on the beat. There's no need to think about any hop, skip, or self foot rhythm at all. Also, you dance so close to your partner that your bodies are touching, and because of that I find it much easier to lead the girl on this dance than using hand movements in salsa.

I can't say I'm good by any means but if I ever take a dance form seriously it may be tango.

Bclass from Buenos Aires to Sao Paolo

Wow. LAN airlines is nice. Their business class cabin is awesome.

My seat had a 10" entertainment screen. The seats went completely flat. There was so much room for my legs I didn't know what to do with it. The remote looked like it was supposed to control something 20 years more advanced. The seats had good styling compared to other bclass seats. The service was excellent and the food tasted great.

How not to learn Spanish

Walk up to a Portuguese person and ask them if they speak Spanish because you don't speak Portuguese. They say, "a little" and so then the 2 of you explore the world of trying to communicate to eachother in a language you both don't really know and it takes 5 minutes to order a sandwich off the menu. You end up learning more and more bad grammar and a little more vocabulary.

It's beautiful. Just kidding. It works, but it's crappy. I don't recommend trying it unless you're desperate.


The district that I'm staying in in Salvador is called Pelourinho. It's the central historical district that is based on the top and side of a large hill overlooking the water on the west side (facing the mainland). Salvador itself is a peninsula that is hanging down off the Brazilian coast like a pendulum.

Pelourinho happens to be one of those old areas with narrow streets wide enough for about 2 cars to pass eachother and dirty broken cobblestone on the ground. The streets have some grade because it's on a hill. The buildings and the squares are pretty and well decorated. The area looks like it's fit for tourists to walk around in but not too done up.

Taking a few taxi rides out of the area I've seen hills and hills of homes that look like rooms stacked on top of eachother. They don't necessarily look slummy but they don't seem rich either. They look like what you'd imagine in a post-apocalyptic era of humanity from the movies that we see (think mad max). If they were in LA we'd call them slums, but put them in Thailand and we'd call them nice villas. Hehe

There are a lot of poor people here. There are also a lot of Brasilians that have money that are either visiting or live here too. It's not easy to tell the difference when the party is on the street though. I don't think I've ever seen people of all economic backgrounds party so well together. The streets are free and the busses are pretty handy, so you get people from all places here to live it up and share some beers.

Salvador used to be the original Brazilian capitol. Then it was Rio, and now it's Brasilia. The population in this state (called Bahia) is mostly Afro-Brazilian, and so the crowd is a majority of black people.


I had a great time traveling with Ronald in Patagonia. He's a good person. He was funny and enjoyed making jokes, even if they were a bit cheesy or corny. Which is basically like me.

I enjoyed speaking German to him even at his expense. One time I spoke Deutsch to him he was like, "you know, you're not making any friends by speaking German to a Dutch person". I laughed. It's true but I know he understands even if he doesn't want to and I *love* practicing my German. It's also nice ti have another language to converse with just to mix things up or to keep something a secret when other people (*cough* argentinian touters *cough*) are around.

I enjoyed making him climb up to the top of the hike in El Chalten. He wanted to turn around a couple of times along the way because the weather was really tough and the view was terrible, so there wasn't much for a nature-like award for continuing the hike.

I've gone on quite a few physical challenges that I've beaten in the past though, and I know how it feels to beat them. It just take determination and a willingness to challenge yourself to see what you can do. I helped him keep going, using positive motivation and the "only a little bit more" method. Hehe

So when we got up to the top and back down Ronald was really happy with himself. He later told me he was proud of what he did that day through the cold wind and rain. I congratulated him over a beer and really good steak that night. Inside I felt super happy for him for his accomplishment. I was happy to help him make it possible and it made me feel good inside.

He's a good cook too. We made some superbly tasting hamburgers with sandwich bread, tomato, cheese, lemon spiced mayo, eggs, and frozen patties. The patties sold in the freezers in Argentina tasted so good and they only cost us $10 to make 2 burgers each. He made those egg omelettes that one morning and I made my pasta one night as well. We ate like kings on a jester's budget.

There was one thing I really admired about Ronald. It was that he didn't feel self conscious about his lack of Spanish skills. He just used whatever words he could to get communicating with everyone around us. He would be using his broken spanish to ask questions while I was thinking about how to properly ask the question. He certainly got a lot more practice in than I did even though I laughed at his terrible but unabashed grammar multiple times a day.

He got his point across. That's what was important. If I had to speak everytime it would have resulted in linguistic analysis paralysis a couple of times. We made a good Spanish traveling team. He would say whatever to start, I would help him out with some vocab and some grammar that I had picked up.

Just an easygoing guy. I could have easily done a month with him. He didn't even make fun of me when I wanted ice cream 5 times a day. Hehe


I don't what it is about the language, but I'm having a tough time getting it. I mean verbally. When I see things written down I see the similarities with Spanish but when I hear the locals say things to me I'm almost completely lost unless they only use single word answers. I can't seem to figure out when one word ends and another one starts.

I know I've only been here 7 days but still. I was in Porto for 5 days last month too. I think I need a quick verbal lesson from somebody who speaks it so that I can get it. I think it could possibly only take an hour for me to hear some sounds with what's written on paper to get what's going on.

But overall, Spanish came naturally. Portuguese seems like it's really giving me a challenge.

Monday, February 23, 2009

10 bucks

On the first night when I was walking the parade path alone, I had about $10 in my back pocket and $30 in my left sock under my foot. I wore shoes out because I was worried about getting stepped on.

On the way home I said I had gotten stuck inside the crowd around a moving bloco. I basically couldn't really move or anything because everyone was shoulder to shoulder. After getting pushed through for about 15 minutes I had the realization about the $10 I left in my back pocket. I had a feeling it would be gone and it was. I don't even know who or when it was taken because so many people were running into me and getting pushed into me.

That was the first time I had been knowingly pickpocketed. It was good to find out how that felt. I chuckled to myself.

How blocos work

So in Salvador, there are 3 primary locations on the parade route.

Each bloco is a local band of some sort that has a big decorated vehicle, then followed by another big vehicle that serves drinks and has bathrooms for the crowd of people that have paid to be in the bloco. There's a 5cm thick rope that 100s of security people (regular people being paid) carry around and move in unison with the trucks. The rope goes around everyone who has paid into the bloco.

You can tell who has paid into a bloco by the tshirt that the person is wearing, so these tshirts are very valuable. My tshirt was $110 for 3 nights of parade with that bloco. Some blocos are more or less expensive based on the popularity of the specific band. 1 tshirt is good for walking with 1 bloco for 3 different days. Carnaval is 6 nights long, so each bloco does 3 nights every other night.

Each of the 3 nights a bloco performs, they start at 1 of the 3 spots on the route. It's differnet everytime. So if you want to be with your bloco every time, you need to look at the schedule of where it starts and ends and go there to meet your bloco people.

So basically the trucks, the band, the people who have the tshirts, they become the parade. As you walk with your bloco, people see you and the music and cheer. Buying into a bloco is like being in the parade.


The first 2 nights I was in Salvador were amazing. The first night I was supposed to go out into the crowd to watch these big trucks of music go by (called Blocos) but there was a mixup in the hostel kitchen when preparing my dinner (they gave it to someone else accidentally so they had to make another one) and the gang left the hostel when I didn't notice.

It's apparently not safe for tourists in Salvador so I've been trying to go out with other people in general at all times. That night though, I decided to go and look for the others or just go it alone anyway, so I walked out and tried to blend into the crowd and follow my common sense.

I ended up walking about 3 or 4 kms down the parade path and watched the crowd on the way there. I was just an observer until I got to the end at a park with 2 grandstands on either side of the road loaded with people and people all over the street dancing to the blocos that go by. The whole way there, there were people all over the streets dancing, drinking, people watching, laughing, eating questionable shish kebabs of meat on a stick, and selling food/drinks.

The music of Salvador is called Axe. It sounds cool and a bit different. Sometimes I feel like it sounds like the horn led music you hear at Disneyland parades.

As I was dancing with the crowd, people around me noticed that I wasn't a local, so they were smiling at me and encouraging me to dance and have a good time. Some people spoke Portuguese to me but I didn't understand anything.

I danced like that for like 2 hours before I headed back to my hostel through the still crowded and dirty city streets. They don't feel that safe, but they don't feel that dangerous either.

On the 2nd night, about 20 people from our hostel had decided to buy tshirts for a bloco so we put on our tshirts before and walked outside to the blocos' starting point where everyone gathers.

The blocos are the part of the parade that are groups of people dancing to a band. It's like a moving group of people. You have to pay to be in a bloco. The reason you pay is because there are 100s of security people holding a rope around the bloco that keep other people out. You're paying for the security and the 2nd car that is inside the bloco that has a bathroom and a drink bar. If you don't have the security people, you're pretty much on your own (like I was the 1st night) and it can be dangeous for some people who can't do crowds.

When the blocos go by, being outside (called popcorn) is pretty dangerous because the bloco people push out the popcorn to the sides of the street and space becomes hard to find. Even so, people are still trying to move around the bloco and so things come to a standstill and then when you think there's no way to move, people behind and in front are pushing and mashing you into the neighbors (crowd mentality). If you are weak or claustrophobic this situation can get deadly.

So yeah, the 2nd night our bloco's name was Olodum dogons and it was a band and drum core. We followed them on the parade route in the safety of the bloco, but even that was pretty crowded, loud, and rambunctious.

In the blocos bathroom in the vehicle I found a couple of guys snorting coke too. First time I've seen that.

What I loved about the bloco was the drum line. These guys had great uniforms and just seemed so into their music. They sounded good, very very good. They seemed so dedicated to their tradition and were very serious about their jobs. I really enjoyed watching people that were so passionate about what they were doing. When they started up and the local crowd started cheering I teared up because I was impressed by their pride.

I had a moment on both nights where I was so happy to be at Carnaval. It was just an amazing feeling. I couldn't believe I was able to witness what I did. I felt so lucky.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

There was some wind, you could say

Just to show you guys how much fun we had hiking up to Laguna de los Tres, I´ll show you my before and after poncho pictures.

Here´s one at one of the small bridges that we crossed, about 1.5 hours into the hike:

This is at the top, where we could see all 3 lagoons from one spot, about 3.25 hours into the hike:

This picture doesn´t even include the 20 pieces of red poncho that ripped off and flew away to some unknown direction while I was walking. It was actually amazing to notice how these small pieces of poncho kept ripping off piece by piece by just wind power.

Pink birds!

Guess what I saw in Lago Argentino? FLAMINGOS!

Ronald joined me for a walk around the lake 2 days ago just to see what's around the town of El Calafate while the weather was good out. It was quite a sunny afternoon with a drop falling here and there once in a while.

They were far away from us inside the protected bird habitat so I couldn't get any good pictures, but Ronald has a spiffy 18x zoom camera so I think he got some. I will produce the pictures for you when he puts them up somewhere for me.

There were a couple of other birds there that were neat and closer to me though. Here's one:

I never expected to see Flamingos in Patagonia. It was rad.

Here´s another fun picture for you guys. We found this in an Argentinian pizza restaurant in El Calafate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Power outlets

I thought this was strange the whole time I was in Argentina, but even with all the obsession with the US, the outlets in Argentina are all Australian-NZ style, bent at 45 degree angles. I still don't know why. I never searched for the history behind that.

1st thing I noticed in Brazil

Most of the women have nicely toned bodies and they love to share it with everyone else. It's like a country full of Britney Spears music videos, and I'm just in Sao Paolo at the airport waiting for my next flight.

If you're looking for body fitting clothes for women I have a feeling Brazil is a good place to look for them.

I sorta lied, the first thing I *really* noticed was that my bb was working, so I guess it was really the 2nd thing I noticed.

I would make the best secret somebody ever

Today on my international flight I got up to ask the flight attendants who were resting if I could have some sparkling water. One of them smiled and got up to pour the water for me. The other was on the phone. She hung up the phone and goes to the pilot's door. The pilot opens the door and walks to the lavatory next to me. The flight attendant goes into the open pilot's door and closes it. I'm assuming he had to use the bathroom and she was sitting in for him in the pilot's seat.

I could have easily bum rushed the pilot's cabin. Of course I wouldn't but they knew I wouldn't either, somehow. I guess I just look like a nice person. Or they think I'm too dumb looking to be a bad guy. Haha It's a gift and a curse. Usually a gift when I travel though.

Out of all the flights I've completed, (it's probably near 300 now) I've never been stopped at security and pulled to the side on one of their "random" searches. I've never been given a hard time at immigration except the one time I was trying to enter the US from Vancouver without a passport after 9/11, but even then I think I was creating my own drama in my head.

But yeah, the other main point is that Argentinians don't do the whole "3 attendants blocking the path to the cockpit with a service cart" thing that american airline companies do when they open the cockpit door. When I first saw that, I laughed just because it looked funny.

I was surprised

Oh by the way, I was allowed to take a 1.5L water bottle in with me to the airplane. Apparently LAN Argentina is not as worried about liquid terrorist threats.

Entering Brazil

I'm going to have to adapt to Portuguese for a month again. Sigh

I am flying into Sao Paolo a day early because I think I've figured out most of traveler's Buenos Aires. I booked a flight tonight on Gol airlines from Sao Paolo to Salvador.

I will be spending 8 nights in Salvador for Carnival. I don't necessarily need to party that long, but hostels in the area only allow a minimum booking of 7 nights. I am going to try not to drink too much and not get robbed, but I guess we'll see what happens. I don't know how many pictures I'm going to end up with, because so far 2 Brazilian friends have told me not to carry a camera or a phone when I go out.

After that I'm not sure what I'll do next. I know there's diving up the coast. I'd like to eventually see Rio and Sao Paolo. I'd like to trek the Amazon (have to take Malaria pills again). I'd also like to see Iguazu falls. I'll decide in a few days after talking to people and let you know.

It's hot

I'm the only person wearing shorts in the airport lounge in BA. Hahaha

Why are people so uptight? It's 22 degrees and humid outside today and it's only 8:39am.

Or maybe they all need to wear pants to make a living and I'm the snobby bastard that walks around in shorts on a workday.

That could be it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perito Moreno Glacier

Patagonia is known for it´s large glaciers. I visited the one nearby El Calafate a couple days ago. Perito Moreno was a man who is regarded as the protector of Patagonia. I´m not sure what he did exactly though.
This glacier was a day trip, almost 2 hours on bus each way. When I got there I took a boat ride on the lake in front of the ice. The boat didn´t get that close though because the ice is breaking constantly and so it´s a little bit dangerous for the boat.
This glacier was much bigger (wider) than Franz Joseph in NZ. Also the one in NZ doesn´t open into a lake, it just opens into a dried up riverbed. I loved the sound of the ice cracking a huge chunk of ice falling into the lake. It was very cool to see. It happened once every 20 minutes or so. I tried to get one in a picture but it just happened so fast I couldn´t quite get the camera in the right place at the right time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Morning OJ

The OJ that they give you in hostels is not really OJ at all. It's Tang! It's probably not called Tang here but that's what most of the foreigners know it as. It tastes good, but I'm not sure if it's what Argentinians drink in the morning or if it's just because real OJ is too expensive.

Oh and when I say real OJ, that's not real real either. It's real like Sunny Delight real.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taxi drivers = I´m in love

While Katja and I were in Dali, China, we though maybe we would do some sightseeing around the lake. There is a medium sized one there. I´m going to guess about 120km in circumference, but I´m probably a little bit off with that number.

So when we arrived in Xiaguan by bus from Kunming, we had to get off and take a taxi to old town, which is really where Dali is. We were approached by the usual lovely taxi drivers trying to rip off foreigners at the bus station, so we avoided them and walked out to the street. Katja grabbed a random cab and he started to drive us the 25km to Dali. This taxi driver seemed like a really nice guy, so we felt a little better.

On the way there, he told us that he would be willing to take us around the lake the next day for about $14. Of course this whole conversation is in Mandarin and Katja is the one conversing. I was just trying to figure out what the conversation was about based on body language and some translations from Katja. He said it would be all day and we would get to see the good spots. Since we already liked the guy but wanted to shop around, we asked him for his business card and told him we´d call him if we needed him. If I didn´t like him I wouldn´t have even responded.

So we get out of the taxi, we crash for the night. We decide to try to be adventurous the next day and travel around the lake or over the lake (by boat) on our own. We woke up in the morning and walked out to the edge of the lake. To our surprise the boat across the lake costs $14 a person. That would be $28 for the 2 of us to cross a lake! Obviously tourist prices and they were looking for suckers who just had way too much money to spend. To put it in perspective, for locals to go on the same boat it would probably cost $1. hehe

So we decided not to go that option, and decided to call the taxi driver from the night before to ask him if we can still do the ride around the lake for $14 total. Katja called, and with only a teeny bit of difficulty told him where we were. He came to pick us up. He was smiling and so were we. We were glad he found us.

So he started driving us to the first spot where he wanted us to see something. It was the house of the founder of Pu-Er tea. I found this place pretty interesting. We paid $8 each to get in there but we got a nice verbal english tour guide who explained things to us.

After that he drove us to the next spot. We didn´t feel like it was worth it to go in, so we asked him to take us to the next location, where again, we didn´t feel like paying the admission price. So we asked him to take us to a place halfway around the lake, because at this point it was already 2pm and we weren´t going to have time to see everything.

Suddenly, he tells us he can´t take us there because there´s a "roadblock" at the top of the lake and no cars can pass. We were puzzled. What roadblock? And why did he say he could take us around the day before?

So after some further questioning by Katja, the taxi driver basically clarified for us that what he meant was not that HE would take us around the lake, but we *could* go around the lake by using the boat to get across the lake, and not by his vehicle. We were like, WHAT?

We were annoyed at this stupid wordplay. So I asked Katja to ask him to show us the roadblock because we would love to see a Yunnan province Chinese roadblock. (we obviously believed he was lying and that there was no roadblock) He suddenly got pretty pissed that we were calling his bluff. That´s when I knew for sure he was a liar. After a bunch of arguing and pissing and moaning on his part, we just agreed to have him take us to the water to see the lake, then to the Kung Fu temple near Dali and then take us back home.

The reason we agreed to that is because it was only $14 to us, and I just didn´t want to have to beat the shit out of a Chinese guy for $14. I just wasn´t up for violence for a couple of dollars. So he did what we had agreed upon and then I paid him the $14 when we exited the cab back in town. I´m sure he wanted tip but I made sure I gave him 0 tip. He certainly wasn´t deserving of it. I probably shouldn´t have even have given him the $14 but again, I just didn´t want to have to beat the shit out of somebody that evening, or get the shit kicked out of me for $14. I´m sure you understand what I mean.

But yeah, I fell in love with that taxi driver after that. I wish I could ask him to marry me but I don´t have his number anymore!

Accidental sightseeing

This is a very cool concept to me, because it means no stress and no thinking required, only pleasant surprises.

The day I first had my passport rejected from the Brazilian embassy, I wrote that I had ended up having to walk to the American Embassy with a 2 guys I had met that morning who were in a similar predicament as I was.

We decided to walk to the US embassy, not realizing that it was quite far away but I was totally ok with it because it was my first full day in BA and I hadn´t seen any of the city yet, so it was a good opportunity for me to explore things on a random basis.

On the way there, we found the Recoleta cemetary, which is famous for it´s cool looking mausoleums that are divided by little roads that look like streets. Evita´s grave is in there. I don´t really know who Evita is except that there´s a movie about the person. I think that makes me stupid but I will figure it out someday. The gravesite was non-interesting. I didn´t even take a picture of it at the time, but in hindsight maybe I should have. What if a gigantic earthquake destroys BA and I never get to the see the original Evita gravesite ever again? You never know, it could happen.

We saw a lot of green grass parks, which felt really nice on the warm humid day. It reminded me of LA, because that´s what half of LA is, green parks everywhere in a very suburbian metro area. The type of green parks that my family used to visit frequently and my dad and I used to kick the soccerball around in all the time.

Half of the city streets reminded me of a cross between LA and Barcelona too. Some were wide and open, some were small, but there were some cars, grass in the dividers with trees, and medium tall buildings (maybe 10 floors or so) all over the place. There´s a lot of Spanish in LA city as well, so it really felt familiar to me as I walked around.

That´s dog crap

In Spain it was really really hard to find dog feces on the ground, unless I went near a dog park. Remember that post I made in Salamanca?

In Buenos Aires there´s dog poop on every block. You can almost count on it, and it´s really annoying to me as a pedestrian because the ground is not clean and they poop is camouflaged! The ground is pretty hot in the summer though, and so it´s usually already dried up by the time I´m about to step on it.

I actually saw bundles of dog poop together in little patches, as if somebody had gone across the sidewalk and broomed it all together into one little spot on the sidewalk or the street, but then forgotten to scoop it up and throw it away. I don´t know why they just leave it all there on the street to dry up and rot. I guess that´s just the Argentinian way.

I don´t remember that! (or do i)

I´ve come to realize that I have selective memory. I should have known that I did, but I never labeled myself with that term.

I know for a fact that in the past, I´ve usually forgotten stuff that I didn´t feel like remembering consciously, but never thought, "hey that´s what selective memory is!"

Now the real questions are:
1. Is this something that all people do, or is it just me?
2. Is it bad to have selective memory, or is it just efficient (and therefore not bad)?

For #1, I think everyone does it a little bit, though maybe not as much as I do. So that means question #2 is more important.

I don´t know the answer to question #2 yet. If I have an epiphany I will let you know *and* alert the authorities.

The Egyptian Museum

This museum looked pretty nice from the outside but when I got inside it was painfully obvious there was no real order nor organization internally. The rooms and halls partially went in order of time from oldest to most recent but not exactly.

It looked like somebody had opened up a huge area in their basement, grabbed a whole bunch of stone relics that might be important to somebody, and placed them inside wherever it seemed like there was room.

It looks like what happened is that they built the museum, then found a bunch of stuff in the tombs and moved it into the museum, but forgot to notice that there´s not enough space for everything to be organized properly. Then they planned to expand the museum, but it´s just taking a really long time and they´re not done yet, so for now, everything is mashed together.

I think almost every tomb unearthed in Egypt had it´s belongings either stolen or moved into this museum. This museum has a *lot* of stuff in it. The only problem is, as a visitor, you can´t tell what anything really is or where it´s from because it´s not labeled, and if it *is* labeled, it´s probably not in English.

After my experience thought Egypt, I think the best way to do it is to see Egypt and the tombs and the pyramids *first*, then come back to Cairo on the way out and see the contents inside the museum. Because the tombs are completely empty and all the treasures (including the headdress of Tutenkhamen) are in the museum, once you see the stuff inside the museum, the tombs looked extremely bare and empty, and you have to wonder what was inside each of them originally.

King Tut´s golden headdress was the highlight of the museum for me, as it was probably for a lot of visitors. It´s very shiny and definitely attracts attention in a darkened room.

My Egypt Lonelyplanet book had some descriptions of what to expect in each of the rooms inside the museum. If I didn´t have that with me I think I would have been completely lost, knowledge wise.

Free money

Hmm... I must have spent quite the amount of money on my cash back Capitalone credit card because I just got my partial "cash back" refund for 2008 and it was $253. What a nice gift!

If you don´t remember, I only signed up for these CapitalOne cards because they don´t charge any fees when used internationally. I am also using a CapitalOne debit ATM account as my main source of cash because it also does not charge any international fees when withdrawing money worldwide :)

I knew I carried this thing around for a reason

Ronald and I were shopping at the market this morning looking for food to cook, when a couple of old ladies tapped on my arm and asked me what it was that she was holding, in English. She had an avocado in her hand, so I said "avocado."

She looked at me as if I was from another planet. I quickly figured out by watching what they were doing that they were trying to figure out what the name of the avocado was in Spanish so that they could check the price with the tags that were on the fruit shelf.

I chuckled to myself and said, "ohhhh........ hold on a minute I will check my book." I pulled out my latin spanish phrasebook from my coat pocket and looked it up. Avocado is Palta in Spanish. I found the right sticker for them and told them it was 13.5 Argentinian pesos per kilogram for the avocado. They thanked me for the help.

I was happy I was able to help them out, even if I had to use my book to do it. :)

Final verdict on Macau

It was very Chinese (Cantonese) and very little Portuguese. The buildings in some locations look European but there´s not that much of it. The people mostly speak Cantonese, and some of them speak some Mandarin and some Portuguese. If you see people of European descent (aka white or non chinese) that look like locals, they usually speak some Portuguese.

The city is basically the Las Vegas of east Asia. There are a *lot* of casinos there. There are a *ton* of prostitutes there too. All over the place. Around every other corner. It´s pretty disgusting.


I noticed here in Argentina that they use Directv as one of their major television network providers. I never knew that Directv served anyone but the continental United States! I thought there was some limitation as to the satellite location and so everyone had to point their antennas to the southwest and therefore I never thought South America was possible? Guess I was wrong there...

Oh me lucky charms!

2 nights ago I was walking around the town of El Chalten at 12:30am looking for Ronald (long story) and I found myself in front of the park ranger office.

The moon was out bright that night and it looked pretty behind the clouds so I took a picture over the river. The reflection on the water was beautiful.

I saw something in the distance in the opposite direction of the moon and couldn't figure out what it was at first. But after my eyes focused in I could see that it was a rainbow! In the middle of the night. It was a moonlight rainbow. I'd never known such a thing existed!

I tried taking about 20 pictures to see if I could capture it but couldn't because my phone isn't sophisticated enough. I ended up just staring at it for 20 minutes until it disappeared. I know for sure it was a rainbow because the people working in the office came out and told me what it was.


Yeah it's cold outside but I love ice cream and the Argentinian stuff is so good. So are their frozen hamburger patties by the way. Maybe they put crack in the stuff. We had burgers again today for our 4pm lunch.


The small store where we bought our salami sandwiches the morning of the hike was owned by a nice man with a mustache named Oscar.

We didn't know at first of course, but after 5 minutes of morning conversation he gave each of us one of his books. He was also a writer and had published his own book! In Spanish!

I guess we made a good impression that morning when we came into his store. I went in first with my smile (like always) even with the terrible weather outside and Ronald used his outgoing charm to talk to the man in his broken Spanish.

We told him we were headed up the mountain and we were here from Holland and from the US. I think he's got a special something for travelers from faraway places.

We spoke to him several more times after our hike and before we left El Chalten and that's when he told us that he his daughter had gone a year abroad and come back a different girl. She now owned several businesses in the town including the restaurant that was across the street.

He was just a super nice guy. He gave us free candy and a free empanada too. Ronald brought him some candy he brought from Holland called "drops" or something close to that as a thank you gift. We watched some German football with him in his little store for a while too.

We told him it would take a long time for us to read his work to give him comments. He gave us 1 year. Hehe

Speaking of good stuff

My 3 pairs of convertible pants from North Face have just been awesome. I don't really take care of my clothes normally so you know I've been kicking the crap out of these and they've been holding up great.

They have lots of pockets, have never ripped even through the Thai jungle, NZ mountains, Patagonia hiking, about 50 washes, and still look good.

One pair has some dark stains in the back but I consider that my doing, not the pants' fault. The belt clip on 2 of the pants have been giving me issues but they have straps on the sides for my belt so I've been using a belt with no issues.

The backpack I bought from North Face in Korea has been doing great too. Not a single problem with it that I can think of. It even has a rescue whistle on it that I didn't know about until Katja mentioned it to me. I have a feeling this backpack will last me a long time, even after this whole trip is over.

Overall, North Face products are definitely worth the money.

My outer windblocker rainjacket is from Arcteryx. It's nice and it's worked great, but for the price I paid for it ($250) I think it could hold against water a little better. It's good when there's a little bit of water but if there's a lot, then it leaks. I guess I shouldn't expect it to hold up in a shower but I thought it would when I bought it.

Keen sandals

My 1-pair-for-the-year shoes have pretty much given up on me. I think they're Merrells so I'm going write them a nice email telling them that their shoes have failed after ~200 days of walking.

I would take them back to REI to return them (they would take them back too) but I don't feel like holding onto them for 3.5 more months.

They have holes in the sole and also the leather outside has ripped in a couple of places next to the rubber sole. I was wondering for a while now why my goretex shoes were leaking water so bad whenever it rained. I actually took a closer look on thursday while preparing for my hike. I tried duct taping around the whole shoe but that proved fruitless because the leather was already slightly wet and the tape didn't stick for long once I started walking in them.

So on the morning of our hike up to Laguna de los Tres, I made a commanding decision to use my keen sandals instead. I was worried my toes would get wet and cold but it was better than walking in soaking shoes all day. I didn't want to buy new shoes in El Chalten either, because it's a remote location so I was worried the selection and price would be unfavorable.

My feet stayed remarkably dry for the first few hours of the hike, even though it was raining pretty good. Then even once they got wet, they were warm for the duration of the hike. I don't know how they did it considering they have holes everywhere (but close toed), but I didn't complain either.

The back heel is half open but I didn't have any problems with getting hurt there. A couple of small loose pebbles came into my shoe but I just shook those out and kept going.

I'm very impressed with these keens. Definitely good quality stuff.

Dutchy omelette? Who knows

This is what Ronald is making for breakfast. It's like a 3 layered omelette.

El Chalten

El Chalten was a town about 3.5 hours away by bus around the 2 big lakes of the El Calafate. I went there because Susan told me it was good, someone in BA told me it was a good place to stop by while I was in the area, and there was a dutch guy I met in my hostel in Calafate that was headed there anyway. His name is Ronald.

Ronald told me he was planning to go hiking up to the base camp of Mt. Fitz Roy, so when I heard that, I thought to myself, "why not?". I decided it would be fun to hike up with somebody else.

Ronald also helped me out with figuring out how to visit Perito Moreno glacier here in Calafate, so he was a nice person.

So 3 days ago we headed off in a bus. The round trip cost me $40. When we got there was weather was really bad. It was windy, rainy, and cold. The ladies at the ranger center told us that the weather might get better the next morning so we hoped that they were right. It´s weird how going up to the mountains there gets so bad all of a sudden. We hoped the weather would get better by the next morning but it didn´t, but we were determined to hike anyway, so we bought ourselves a sandwich from the local small market and headed off on the trail.

It was a tough hike but we made it ok. It was called Laguna de los Tres. At the top you can see 3 lagoons or small lakes from 1 spot. That´s probably where the name stems from. When we got to that point it was past the treeline and super windy. We literally went up there, took a couple pictures and came back down as quickly as possible so that we wouldn´t lose any fingers.

I don´t think Ronald actually wanted to go all the way up, but I think the fact that I kept going gave him the motivation to continue to the end. He was proud of himself at the end, which made me feel good about the morning.

After that hike, we heard the weather was going to get worse, so we decided to book our bus out of there. So yesterday we woke up to even worse crappy weather, got on the bus in the afternoon and now I´m back in Calafate until my flight to BA on the 17th. I chose the flight on the 17th because it was $100 cheaper than other flight this week for some reason.

There was a lady that had checked into my dorm room in Chalten after we got back from our hike. She was planning on hiking herself. I felt bad but I had to tell her the weather is supposed to be crappy all week. Hopefully she will get some good weather in.

The problem with staying in El Chalten when the weather is bad is that there´s really nothing to do and nothing to see either because it´s so bad it´s tough to go outside, and also there´s no real tv, no movies, and no internet. I guess you could read books but in our hostel there wasn´t any real comfortable location to read anything in.

I think if the weather is nice the view in El Chalten is amazing and there´s a lot of hiking to be done. Just like in Calafate, the sky, the mountains, and the rivers just look amazing. I wish it was nicer, I would have stayed there longer.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Egyptian breakfast

Do you know what an Egyptian breakfast is? I never knew.

It's basically french bread with butter and jam, a weak cheese like provolone or light cheddar, croissants, and some coffee or tea. Egyptian tea is red or maroon in color. I don't know what exactly is in it though.

It's not exactly a full breakfast but that's what I've noticed whenever I ordered an "egyptian breakfast".

Dashur, saqqara, and giza pyramids

I'm traveling backwards in time to finish up some old posts I never completed.

It was very cool to see the pyramids in Egypt. As a kid growing up in America, that's one of the primary things you learn about in school. You learn that they are one of the ancient wonders of the world and also that they were built by a civilization of people that are the ancestors of who we are today as a race.

That being said, I expected to be blown away when I saw the pyramids, but it turned out to be more of a pleasant sigh. It's not that they're not impressive, they are just well... smaller than I expected them to be. They didn't shrink, no. They're still 140 to 150 meters tall, but I guess I never thought about the height, I just had a picture in my mind of what should look like.

I guess in my mind I had the expectation of what Will Smith sees when he eyes the spaceship on the movie Independence day. I was expecting something so large that it would knock me aback and make me gasp loudly at the sight of such a marvel. This was what was built up inside me after years of studying them in my younger schooling career.

Nevertheless it was still cool to be there. I paid a driver that was sponsored by the hostel I was at to drive me around the 3 sites for the day $30 and a $10 tip at the end. He was a nice guy trying to make a living. He told me to go inside Daishur because that one was free and not to pay for entry at the other pyramids because they are the same thing but cost admission to go inside.

The three large pyramids at Giza were lined up on my camera for a picture when my guide took me on my camel around giza for about 2 hours. In that time I got to run up to the pyramid and touch the rock, and also to see the Sphinx, which also felt a bit small. Nothing like how they show them in the movies. What I did learn that was impressive was that the Sphinx is made of 1 piece of stone. That's a large stone.

The camel ride cost me $50 and a $10 tip for the kid that spoke very good english and took me around. They told me that giza was huge and that a camel was necessary. They were sort of bullshitting. I guess normal people would like the camel but if I could do it again I would just walk it. It's not that far. And also once you see one pyramid there's no need to see the other 2 up close.

My favorite picture I took that day was of me jumping over one of the pyramids. Not literally of course but my guide had the idea to put the camera near ther ground to make the angle look that way.

If any American told me they were going to Egypt to see the pyramids, I would definitely not deter them. I would say though to keep the expectations in check so they don't feel disappointed.

Throughout the day the driver took me to some vendors because he has to. They were oil, papyrus, and carpet. I will tell you guys about that later.

Just in case you don't know, pyramids are just really the largest land monuments that the Egyptians built to honor dead kings. There are 97 total in Egypt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I´m in El Chalten

Cell phones don´t work here and the internet connection at the internet cafe is total crap. I barely got this page loaded so I could write this post. You guys will probably not hear from me again until I get back to El Calafate.

If the weather is nice tomorrow I´m going to do some hiking, otherwise I´m just gonna hang out near the hostel and just chill.

The day afterwards, I will probably head back to El Calafate to hang out there until my flight.

I booked a flight from El Calafate to Buenos Aires on the 17th. I´m going to try to change my flight from BA to Sao Paolo to the 18th instead of the 19th so that I get to Brazil 1 day early.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It pays to be stupid

On the last day of BA, Gijs and I took a public bus ride to the La Boca area to take a quick look around. La Boca has a tourist area, a popular futbol stadium, and an area deemed "unsafe for tourists" by lonelyplanet. How could we resist?

The tourist area has like 2 streets of colorful buildings that are full of shops and restaurants. The restaurants have stages where dancers perform for tips while you eat. I have no idea why the buildings are colorful or why that area of the city has the tango dancers. Tango was started in the San Telmo part of the city, which is where my hostel was.

Since the book had warned us about the "unsafe" area, we decided to leave everything in our pockets at our hostel and just bring some pesos with us just in case. I decided to bring about $16 and Gijs brought $6. It was going to be plenty because we're both not shoppers and we weren't planning on eating anything big. I didn't even bring my camera with me.

After checking out the stadium, we decided it was much too early to go back so we'd share a beer in the trendy spot and watch some tango. Once we sat down, I was a bit hungry so I decided to order food too. I looked down the list of $7 dishes and decided to get a breaded and friend chicken thigh stuffed with ham and cheese. It was really good. The beer was only $4 so we decided to do another one before we decided to go.

In the meantime, a Canadian couple had been sitting next to us that was really talkative and wanted to have a full out 2 vs 2 conversation. The lady really enjoyed chatting about politics. The man was also dutch so he and Gijs spoke for a while about their origins.

So the bill would be 7 + 4 + 4 right? We would have enough money to pay for it all and go. The tango dancers came by for donations so Gijs gave them $1. I hesitated and then decided to be cheap because I hadn't calculated exactly how much we owed vs how much we had on us.

So we asked for the bill, partly because we didn't want to be asked for more tip by the dancers, and partly because we were about to run out of money, and partly because we just couldn't talk to the lady anymore. She was talking about her daughters and how she hated Bush and whether I like Obama and stuff like that.

When the bill came I was surprised. It came out to $25. We only had $22 and the 25 didn't include tip (which is 10% in Argentina). We checked the bill. My dish had actually cost $13. I just hadn't checked carefully. Also they had charged us $1 each for table space. This is something you see in Argentina. I was so stupid for not reading the menu carefully.

We didn't know what we were going to do to cough up the other $3 and jip them on the tip. The thought of washing dishes crossed my mind. Gijs and I looked at eachother like "oh shit!" I considered leaving them one of my shoes and telling them I will come back later with the $3. They'd probably trust me to come back because my Keen sandals look like they're worth some money. I was also considering flirting with a group of girls nearby to see if I could get some pity money off of them.

The Canadian couple heard us talking about it and gave us $6 pity money to pay off the bill and also give some tip as well. That also gave us bus money so I was very thankful. I didn't quite feel like walking the 7km back to the hostel, hehe.

I've given a little bit of money here and there to other travelers in the past though, so maybe that was karma? I still felt guilty taking money from people I could never pay back, nor would they want me to for $6. We thanked them profusely.

We walked out of there with nothing but our clothes and 30 cents each for the bus ride home. We never felt so safe before. :)

So in return I promised myself I wouldn't make fun of Canadians anymore..... during the month of February. Hehe

Deleting pictures

Ready for a high school drama story?

While I was at my hostel in Buenos Aires, I met this girl that erased one of my pictures on my camera.

I had been hanging out with 3 girls that were a fun group. They were together on the day 2 of them were leaving and since I had my camera I asked them to take a picture together. I thought it would be a 2 second process. Drama ensued instead. I was surprised this happened because I had mutiple pictures of her in my camera and she never had a problem before. She also seemed like she was easygoing before. Maybe it was only because we were drinking?

I took a couple pictures. They wanted to see the pics, so I handed the camera over. The girl flipped through them and deleted one that I hadn't even seen yet. She also said something like, "oh my god, haha. That one isn't good. Don't put that one on facebook... I deleted that one just to make sure."

If you know me, I have serious attachments to my pictures and videos. (Wasn't it obvious? I'm asian!) I don't like anyone messing with my memories, because they can never be remade again the same way. This is why I have an online gallery and I've been uploading pictures as I travel, because I don't want to lose everything if I get robbed. It's not a painless process given the quality of internet cafes and internet connections I've come across but it's been worth it for me for security. I wasn't happy with the fact that she just erased a picture off my camera, but I kept going with the girls' cameras to get them their pictures and then went inside to go on about with my business.

She reminded me a little bit of someone I know in the Seattle area who has body image issues and is in denial.

While I didn't feel anger toward her, I wasn't going to let her look through my pictures anymore. I didn't want her to delete anything else where she felt she was under par and delete moments off my camera. The next day, she asked me to see the camera. I said no because I felt uncomfortable giving it to her. She got quite miffed about that, asking me if I don't trust her. I said "no", though I meant I don't trust her with my camera & pictures. She said she wouldn't delete any but I didn't believe her because I felt the feeling of instability in the air.

I found her question ironic, considering she had first erased a picture off my camera because she didn't trust me. Most normal people ask me if I mind erasing the picture. I almost always do if they *really* want me to. I can't remember a time I refused but I don't want to say "always" just in case I'm forgetting.

I felt bad though for hurting her feelings, so I went to the computer downstairs and backed up most of my newest pictures onto a USB drive before I went back to her and offered her my camera. I still didn't trust her with it. I wanted to make her feel better though. She declined, predictably. I decided to let it drop after that. We didn't really speak again :)

Not getting along with everyone I meet used to bother me in the past, but after traveling for so long and with my previous experiences in Seattle with the certain person I know and don't love, I know it's not me. I'm also not unreasonable for being protective of my pictures. Lots of other people feel the same way.

Buenos Aires

I was only in town for 7 days because I was waiting for my Brazil Visa. If that wasn't an issue I would have left earlier because the city is a bit bland. A part of it felt like downtown LA and other parts of it felt like what you'd see in a small suburb town in the LA area.

As someone traveling through, there wasn't as much to see there that I felt was super "Argentinian" as compared to cities like Madrid and Barc. This might be because the BA is closer to LA culture. There were moments when I walking through the city when I forgot that I was in South America.

There's also so much Spanish in LA that I found that weirdly familiar when I walked down the streets full of Spanish signs, as if I had been there before.

The food was better than Spain, but as a foreigner that wasn't willing to spend a lot of money, I didn't find anything remarkable enough to write home about (I'd be talking about it now, hehe).

I liked some of the cheap sandwich milanesas and empanadas carne that I chowed down for a couple bucks. I didn't find any spicy food again. I'm starting to realize that Mexicans are the only spanish people that eat spicy food :) (jalapenos and spicy salsa)

I found out the word salsa means sauce. It doesn't mean it's necessarily spicy. As an example, salsa tomate is what you'd put over pasta.

I saw a couple of pretty buildings and some imprsessive intersections. I took pics of those to keep.

I'd never seen a city of people with more statues and monuments of one man before. General San Martin is everywhere. I saw at least 3 or 4 impressive statues of him on his horse, weilding a sword in a very dominant pose. There's a street named after him. There's a subway stop named after him. There's a plaza named after him. There's a park named after him too. Some of his statues have flower wreaths from different countries placed in front of them.

I never found out for sure but I think he's famous for defeating the Spanish and bringing Argentina to independence. There was a date in the mid 1800s in each of his statues that was probably the day they won their freedom. I guess you could consider him the Argentinian equivalent of George Washington.

In general I thought the locals were friendly. I couldn't speak Spanish so I don't know for sure. From their facial expressions and body language I felt like they enjoyed having me around, which was nice.

Dream jobs

I just saw the glacier (which was really cool and I will have pictures later) and now I'm hanging out in the cafeteria until my bus departs because it's raining outside today.

This morning I responded to a whole bunch of comments on my blog dating back to the end of November and while I was doing that I read one where Ben asked me to find a job where I can travel as a living and it got me thinking, wouldn't that be so freakin' cool?

As long as I don't have to travel *all* the time. I would need "holidays" and some "weekends" where I can stay home and do nothing or be with people on a semi regular basis too. I don't think I'd actually enjoy being on travel 365 days a year every year.

Another job that came to mind while talking to Mario in Egypt was that I would also make a really good entertainment host. I'm thinking like somebody who works for a casino or another establishment that has rich and/or powerful clients and when they come to my town, I get to show them the time of their lives.

Since I already have high patience, a personality that can get along with anyone for a temporary amount of time, and a willingness to please everyone, I think I'd be perfect for this job, especially with a high budget :) I'm a good party host when I throw a bash. I'm always thinking about my guests already, why not take it to the next level?

The last one I'm going to mention, I've wanted to try for at least 5-10 years but was always too chicken to attempt. In fact I only told 2 people about it because I felt like I didn't want to be pressured into trying it. I am chicken because I've wanted to do it so much I couldn't stand the thought of trying it and then finding out I really suck at it. This one would be acting.

I don't know what's changed but I feel more comfortable writing about it on my blog now. Maybe it's because I can't be pressured into it because I'll still be traveling for 3.5 months anyway, or maybe I no longer feel that finding out that I'm a crappy actor will really bother me because I've seen that there's so much other stuff to do out there. Or maybe it's a just a result of a general boost of self confidence.

Growth hormones?

Here's a topic Leo will enjoy.

The guys at the hostel in BA and I at one point discussed the fact that the Argentinian women in general have big boobs (yes that is the technical term). We all had guesses as to why but nobody had a solid answer. Here are the options that were brought up:

1. They are just naturally well endowed genetically
2. The growth hormones in the meat make them grow bigger
3. Argentinians make the most miraculous pick up bras on the planet

Most people thought #1 or #2 were the best answers. #1 seems more likely than #2 because not only were they large, but they were not exactly drooping either, if you know what I mean. I don't know myself because I never looked but the other guys told me.... of course.

A dutch guy named Gijs suggested that to prove it we have to find some vegetarians and see if they indeed have smaller boobs. We were never able to complete this experiment (partly because Argentinian vegetarians were hard to find) and so the answer is still unknown to us.

Someday a hardened explorer will hopefully complete the task and give us all the answer we're looking for.

Cheap tshirts

I finally found some cheap tshirts in BA on the last full day I was there. A couple of the girls that were in the hostel that had done some shopping told me there's a store called C&A that seemed like it had non-brand name stuff in it.

I was able to swing by one finally and noticed that it didn't seem very Argentinian but they indeed had decent fitting tshirts that cost between 5 and 10 dollars. I bought 4 shirts there and a pair of very south american looking swim trunks that fit me perfectly for $5.50. They have the front ties coming out of the same hole so that I can tie it up as tight as I need. Hopefully these won't fall off when I jump in the water like my last pair :)

I found out later on that the store is dutch. I don't know how an import store has such cheap stuff but I'm not going to complain. I will laugh when my clothes fall apart after the first wash.


I've noticed that on my 2 flights within Argentina (Iberia and LAN), the passengers cheer and applaud after the plane lands safely. It must be an Argentinian thing or a South American thing, because they didn't do it in Spain.

It felt super cheesy at first and I rolled my eyes. It reminded me of the first few flights I took right after 9/11 when people did the same thing in the states. But then when it happened again yesterday I thought about the pilots and I guess if I was a pilot I would appreciate hearing people clapping in the cabin behind me. So I guess it's ok :)

I'm excited

I just got on a bus and we are headed to Perito Moreno glacier about an hour and a half away from El Calafate. I am super excited. I wasn't sure what I was going to do before I got here because I had already seen Franz Joseph glacier in NZ and wasn't sure if I wanted to pay a premium just to see another glacier.

But last night I met a couple from NZ that was cooking in my hostel kitchen at the same time as me and told me the glacier here is much cooler than the one in NZ and that it's worth seeing. So today I headed out with the advice of a Dutch guy I also met last night. I forgot his name, but I'll get him on facebook later. He's really cool. (I seriously have to have been dutch in a previous life, no doubt).

I expect greatness because I found an opinion that came from the someone who has the same level of experience as me. I'm really excited. Did I say that already? Woops.

Need to find a learning spanish book

I´ve been learning a lot of Spanish traveler vocabulary lately and I´ve been doing ok at surviving using broken Spanish, but I think I need to find a grammar book somewhere so that I can put some sentences together. I need to do this soon so that I don´t regress into making up my own rules for so long that I can´t fix my mistakes anymore.

Anyone know a good small (seriously) book that teaches Spanish? I already have and have been using the Lonelyplanet latin american phrasebook because Yan let me borrow hers. I'm looking for something that will teach me spanish in a more fluid, gradual manner.

Hi my name is Jim, and I´m a food nazi

At my hostel in BA, there was a bbq every night that cost $13. I think I mentioned that it sucked a few posts ago about the hostel. Well here´s the whole story, including some background:

When I checked into the hostel, the staff told me the bbq is the best and can´t be beat. I was a little surprised to hear that a hostel has the best bbq in town, but I´ve become less and less trusting of people´s opinions as I´ve been traveling longer, and so I didn´t really believe them. I kept it in mind though.

The next day, while at the Brazilian embassy, I met a guy from another hostel that told me that there´s a bbq in a restaurant nearby our hostels that costs the same price and also has all you can eat meat and salad, including a drink. So basically we had a restaurant and a hostel providing the same deal. $13 spent on dinner in BA is equivalent to about a $40 dinner in the states, so we´re talking about spending a good amount of money here.

The guy told me the restaurant was amazing meat and he really enjoyed it. I tended to believe him over the hostel people, considering the hostel people work at the place where the food is served.

I wanted to go to the bbq at the restaurant but never did, but there was one night where certain friends were going to be leaving the next morning so I decided to try the bbq at the hostel with them just to see what it´s like. I thought perhaps it would be decent. Everyone who had had the bbq at the hostel (somewhere around 10) had told me the bbq was awesome. So I thought, hey why not?

That night the bbq was crap. It was really chewy, tough, tasteless, slightly gamey, and sometimes too salty. If I was at a restaurant where I could converse with the manager, I would have complained. I thought maybe it was just a fluke that night but the other backpackers thought the food was decent. I was shocked. The only guy who told me he didn´t like it was a 60 year old man (who was super cool by the way) that had tasted good meat before.

Other people looked at me like I´m a food nazi. I guess I am. I didn´t think I was, but maybe I am. I´m usually pretty fair about meats too. I know I´m really picky about sushi, but usually not with beef. It was really just not very good. A fair price would have been $5, but not $13.

If I pay for a $40 steak dinner in the states, I expect a certain quality. I didn´t get it from the hostel. It disappointed me. I talked about it, because people asked me how I liked it. I even told the cook. He was sorry, was all that he could say. I laughed in disgust, but I couldn´t expect more from a hostel chef.

This is an example of why i don´t trust other traveler´s opinions anymore. They just don´t know what they´re talking about most of the time. Not that I trusted people´s opinions back when I was in the states either (aka if someone from the midwest told me the sushi was good, I got worried), but I think I felt safer trusting somebody if they told me that so-and-so restaurant tasted great if we were both living in seattle or equivalent.

That might have been because our experiences were closer when we were both city people than it is today. The people I meet today have not been traveling anywhere near as long as I have, and also have not been to the variety of countries & places that I have, so they just don´t really know what they´re talking about. I´m sure other travelers think the same thing about me sometimes as well. I´m sure that when I get home it´s only going to be compounded 100% because most Americans have never really traveled anywhere outside the US and someone is more than likely going to tell me that the paella at a Spanish restaurant is good and I´m going to be wary of that comment.

When travelers tell me how they feel about something, I just assume they are only 50% right, and I think that gets me pretty far in the right direction. This is not malicious, but it´s just to protect me so that I can better baseline my expectations.


There´s a guy I met in Egypt named Dave from the US. He´s currently traveling through Colombia on his trip around the world and has a blog. From reading his blog, he has a really high impression of that country.

I also met this guy named Clay from California while I was in Buenos Aires. He´s doing a trip around South America and he says that Medellin in Colombia is his favorite city so far. He said that not many travelers know about it yet. He really raved about it big time. It got me excited.

There´s now an 80% chance that I´m going to cut Chile shorter and insert a round trip flight from Lima to Medellin in the middle of Peru to go check out Colombia. There´s no visa required so it will be easy. I just need to buy the flight and move my RTW flights around a bit so I have more time set off for Peru.

If I have more time I am going to see Bogota too, but Medellin is the higher priority.

A picture of me on a camel

By request from Ben. I´m not wearing the headdress because I didn´t want to buy it for $5. But here´s a picture of me in the headdress, though it´s a bit blurry because the guy didn´t know how to take pictures.

Lago Argentino

The view from my hostel front door. Check out the color of the glacial lake water.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I'm in Patagonia today. Landed in El Calafate. Many many people came off the plane with backpacks here.

It's really cold. The wind is blowing super hard. What a crazy weather change. But the sky is beautiful. Reminds me of that day I got on Lucky Airlines in Dali, China.

America Del Sur

That is the name of the hostel I stayed at in Buenos Aires. There was something that didn't feel quite right at this place but a combination of not wanting to move and meeting cool people made me stay all 7 days I was in Buenos Aires.

The cons:
1. The air conditioner didn't work in my room. The staff had been told about it. They claim they had someone look at it, but it was never working again
2. The staff don't talk to eachother. Once their shift is over they're out of there. I'd you tell someone on the morning shift that you'd like something, they tell you they'll get back to you later and then if they're not working when "later" hits, your request is lost. It's like dealing with 3 hostel staff rotations while sleeping in only 1 bed.
3. The showers in each of the rooms didn't have enough angle on the floor, and so the water would lightly overflow to the room floor from underneath the door.
4. The hostel sponsored certain excursions, like a trip to Argentinian carnaval and a local football game. They also have a bbq every night for $13, which is not a cheap price in Buenos Aires. It sucked. I chose to do the football one. That ended being a complete ripoff. I paid $50 for a bus ride that took forever to get there and back and an admission ticket that actually costs $15. Basically, the hostel likes to rip off it's customers for commission and it was obvious. Today as I was leaving for El Calafate, they told me that I could call them in case I need to book anything. I almost laughed out loud.
5. The internet was not slow, but it would disconnect for 3 minutes every 10 minutes. People complained. They said they would fix it. Nothing changed during the time I was there.

1. The free breakfast wasn't bad.
2. It was mostly clean. The maids were there every day to clean up.
3. There were air conditioners in the rooms. On the last night I moved to a new room because I couldn't take the heat anymore.
4. The hostel had a common area that promoted socialization among guests
5. The tv, dvd, and sound system were nice.
6. The dual elevators were very convenient.
7. Shower and bathroom in every room.
8. Good security at the front door and lockers in every room.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The futbol game

The game was good. Super exciting. I went to another one today too, but this one was much bigger. The section with the hardcore fans was bustling big time. I found out today that it's one side of the stadium that is dedicated to the hardcore home fans. It's usually the cheap area too. At the game on Friday, we happened to be sitting in that section. I just didn't realize it.

The singing sounded like a 50,000 person effort even though there were only 10,000 people max at the game and probably 5,000 in the hardcore fan area.

To show hardcore Argentinian football fans are, here's the security that was in place at the small game on Friday:

1. There's a 30ft fence with barbed wire on it between the fans and the soccer field.
2. I was frisked by police officers 4 times on the way into the stadium. At one point I was frisked twice in 20 seconds.
3. There were ~100 policemen just around the area where the hardcore fans were. They wore bright orange vests to stand out.
4. The home and visiting fans are completely separated from eachother on opposite sides of the stadium
5. The visiting fans exit the stadium and go home right when the game ends. The home fans have to sit and wait for 20 min until the doors are opened.
6. There is double layer steel fencing on the ground area between the hardcore area and the regular stands. It basically looks like what you'd expect for security in front of a safe at the bank.
7. The visiting players walk inside an inflated tunnel to get off the field and go underground using steps to get to their locker room area. This is to prevent fans from throwing and hitting the players using random objects.
8. There are 2 policemen with riot shields on field that run out to escort the red carded visiting team's player off the field so he doesn't get stuff thrown at him.
9. There's no alcohol served at any public sporting event in Argentina. This is probably a very good thing. If they did, we'd probably see a riot every game.

Today's big game was a team called River from Buenos Aires.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dehumanizing moment

This morning I woke up with a painful charlie horse (cramp) on my left calf. Just like years ago in the day when I played water polo and I´d end up cramping in my sleep and wake up in pain, except this time it was due to drinking too much beer last night and then stretching too hard this morning when I woke up without drinking enough water.

There´s a guy who speaks only Spanish in my dorm room right now. He was in the room when it happened, sorting stuff in his bags. I was in so much pain I was hollering loudly and saying "Ah! Shit! Crap! Damn it! Ah! Ah! Oh! Oh!" but he never turned around to look or anything. Not even a glance or a smile or whatever. I know he doesn´t speak any english but isn´t there like an international SOS signal that you´re in pain or something like that?

He would make a terrible doctor! I don´t know if this is true but it makes me feel better to say it. haha

I felt weird afterwards, like he had purposely rejected me at my moment of need.

I want my mommy.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I'm at a Argentinian league football game tonight watching the awesomest fans I've ever seen in my life with my own eyes. Even crazier than the Michigan Ohio State football game I saw with Leo.

The crowd is maybe 2000 to 3000 people but it is *loud* and they are singing for about 80% of the game. They never sit down except at halftime.

The fans are so relentless and into it, there are some surprising security measures in place to protect people from hurting eachother. I'll talk about those later.

I got a video of the maddness that I'll show you guys later.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Crossing the street

It´s amazing (or stupid) how I notice this stuff as I jump from country to country.

So if you remember, crossing the street in China was like performing a stunt and in Egypt it was like playing chicken with the cars. When I got to Spain it felt weird to cross unless the green man came up and said you could cross. I felt like an escaped convict if I crossed in the middle of the street by myself.

Well in BA, it´s like a mix of the 2. You can run across the street wherever if you want, but you´ll stand out. If you wait at the crosswalk for the green man to show up, you´ll feel like a oversecure loser. The way to go with the flow here is to get to the crosswalk, then start crossing when you feel the street is safe, no matter what the light says to do. So if it´s a one way and you don´t see cars coming from the one direction or they´re far enough away that they won´t hit you, then just cross the street.

Supermercado is not so super

It seems that any grocery store in the Spanish world, whether big or small, is called a Supermercado, which translates directly to mean supermarket.

I don´t know if that comes from the english or if it´s vice versa. But in english, a big store is called a supermarket, and small store is called a market. It´s not that case here. You could find a store that was 5 sq. meters that sold a couple groceries and it would be called supermercado, which makes the name a misnomer in a way.

If you ask for a mercado, you will get directions to a flea market most of the time, so you have to ask for a supermercado. I don´t get it, which is why I thought it was worth mentioning.

No hay monedas

Here in downtown BA, change isn´t worth very much because prices are pretty high for small goods. I mean it´s worth a significant amount, but not enough to break anybody, and so a lot of little stores have signs up that say "No hay monedas", which means that they don´t give out change in coins. They do give out change in banknotes, which goes down to 1 peso, and that is about 28 cents in US dollars.

What´s the reasoning? I assume they don´t give out change because they want to save time, or they don´t have the space in the cash register for lots of little coins that they don´t want to count. Or maybe they use this method to rip off rich people. I´m not really sure, but I´ve seen these signs all over the city.

If you go to a bank they´ll give you exact change of course, and other large stores will as well. It´s mostly just the small shops, like convenience stores and small supermarkets.

Danke.... I mean Gracias

For some reason, when my mind sees or hears language that is similar to the english alphabet but not english, it thinks German. It´s done this by default because German´s been the only other non-korean language I´ve ever studied for the last 13 years. (oh my god it´s been 13 years since I graduated high school) It´s just the way my mind has learned to categorize things.

So yesterday when I thanked somebody, I said Danke without thinking twice, and then caught myself and said Gracias when they looked at me puzzled. I felt quite dumb. This happens very often in my head though. I have to catch myself at least once a day to prevent myself from speaking German in a Spanish country.


Walking down the street at any time of the day, I feel drops of water fall on my head. They feel like raindrops, but it´s not raining. What do you think it could be?

No, nobody is peeing out the window. (I hope)

In Hong Kong, it was water falling off laundry drying outside the windows of people´s homes.

In BA, it´s water condensation falling from air conditioners that are mounted outside people´s homes. Yeah I know, that´s pretty gross huh?

I think it´s clean water though, right? right? This is what I´m going to assume and move forward.

El Subte

Yesterday I stepped on the Subte (subway) in BA for the first time. It was quite an experience.

The station is a bit dirty, and the train is a bit dirty, and I´ve never seen so many tanned people on a subway car before in my life. The train was shaky but still comfortable enough to stand. It didn´t seem unsafe at all, just very low key and laid back, if subways can be described that way.

At one point, one man´s phone started ringing in his pocket. It was the distinctly loud ringtone of Super Mario Brothers. That was a hilarious moment for me. I was in the middle of looking around at the people in the car with me and wondering what they were all up to when I suddenly heard a video game theme. I loved it.

You know how I love looking down the train the long way and watch the cars next to mine bounce around as if on springs? Well the subway in BA is a bit scary when you try that. The other cars relatively bounce around a lot. It actually worried me a little after a while.

The subway in BA only costs 30 cents a ride. That´s really cheap as far as subways go. I don´t remember another one being so cheap before. Maybe in Beijing? I forgot what I paid there. The subway isn´t air conditioned nor is it super clean but 30 cents for an underground was (I thought) a pretty good price.

Brazil Visa drama (did you think there would be none?)

Yesterday I went to the Brazilian Embassy here in Buenos Aires to start my Visa application so that I can enter properly on the 19th of this month. When I got there, it looked like a half empty building. I asked the guard about getting a visa and he said to cross to the other side of the street, and gave me a handout that had the address of the building I was supposed to go on it.

I crossed the street and realized the building he wanted me to enter was the Colombian embassy. When I entered that building, I realized the 5th floor was the Brazilian consulate general´s office for people who needs Visas. I guess they decided to compress their visa processes to the same building for efficiency.

I asked the information office about what to do and the lady told me to fill out the application form on the computer screens first, then go to window 5. I finished the computer part in about 10 minutes, and stepped to the window. After about 10 minutes of waiting the lady asked for my passport and flipped through it. She then told me that I had no more room in my passport. I definitely had 4 pages on the back, so I pointed them out to her, and she replied with ¨no, those pages are not for visa. no good.¨ I looked at those pages carefully as they read ¨for additions or explanations¨. gah how annoying. Like anyone would ever know that the visa was placed on an "explanations" page once it was on there. But nope, the lady running the visa office refused to take it.

Right in front of me, an American guy I had been chatting with in line had already gotten rejected because they said his passport was "unreadable". His passport was *not* unreadable. It did have some water stain type stuff around the edges and the covers were a bit wrinkled looking, but that was it. Every word was completely legible.

Nevertheless, we both had to go to the US embassy to get our passports sorted, so we headed off together. The American guy, Luke, had a German friend with him, Andreas, so the 3 of us walked across the city together.

The walk was long and in the heat and humidity of the day, I felt like I was going to get dehydrated. We stopped once for a drink of water at a cafe and we swallowed our respective 20ml bottles quickly.

We got to the US embassy, and after an hour I had filled out the application to get a pages added and my passport was about twice as fat as a result. All they did was carefully remove the binding and then add a couple pages to the middle and then rebind it. It seemed like a pretty easy task but I was still amazed when they told me it cost me nothing, because well, it´s government work, and you know how much bureaucracy costs these days in the states. Well, I know at least :)

The guards at the US embassy were obviously Argentinian, though they were extremely strict about our stuff in our pockets and the security machine. I wonder how that business works with foreign security at your embassy, especially during times of crisis.

I went back to the Brazilian embassy today and gave her the fatter passport. She seemed in a better mood today. At least she was smiling. She printed out my application from the computer, asked me to provide an address and a phone number of the place in Brazil where I´d be staying. I made something up by searching the web for a hostel in Sao Paolo.

She gave me a piece of paper that had the name of a bank on it and told me I had to pay it by 3pm today at that bank. The total was $150!! Yeah I pretty much got shafted to get into Brazil. She told me to return on Monday between 12pm and 1pm (seriously, they give me a 1 hour window, good thing I don´t have anything else to do) to pick up my passport after paying today. I rushed myself to the bank they specified (using google maps mini) just in case another hiccup might occur on the way and quickly paid off the bill. I had literally JUST enough in my savings account for the ATM card I had in my wallet to pay it off. I only had about $10 left over in my pocket by the time that was over.

The subway had some kind of fire problem and all lines were shut down, so I quickly took a cab back to the hostel and picked up my other ATM card to pull out some more money. The cab ride was $3. So now I wait until Monday to see if any more drama occurs, or if they give me my passport back with a Visa peacefully.


I couldn't sleep very well 2 nights ago. There's an air conditioner in the room but rumor has it it was broken by an english guy who had it set on 18 degrees with the window open for 2 weeks, and so it overworked itself to death. It's pretty humid here so it's warm at night, so I was sweating a little bit all night even with no blankets on me until about 6am, at which point it got cold enough that I needed my sheets.

It's not just me either. My roommate, this Australian girl named Hannah, was complaining about the exact same problem.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


So Fes was a lot less tourist trappy than Marrakech was. It was quite a bit smaller too. The market in the medina wasn´t quite as large and so it was easier to traverse through it when we were there. There was a dried up river in that city as well though.

Because we were only there for half a day I don´t have any real knowledge about the city itself, except that it felt more Moroccan to me. If I had to go back to one of the 2 cities for a month, I would choose to spend my time in Fes.

The prices were cheaper in Fes as well. While we were there, we had our first Tajine dish. It´s like a vegetable (potato, carrot, peas, squash) and meat steamed within a ceramic bowl and conical chimney top that has openings around it so that it doesn´t blow open. The texture of the food comes out to something equivalent to several hours in a crock pot. It was pretty good, though I remember the veal not necessarily tasting like veal. I think we both thought that was a little strange.