Monday, February 25, 2008

February 28th

Febraury 28th is a day that holds significance for many people that read my blog. On this day, Thursday, i will be drinking wine with Shari in Costa Rica. We are going to do a canopy tour and conclude the day with dinner at a nice restaurant in Manual Antonio and drink Penfold´s wine. I think we will also have a drink at El Avion, the plane that dropped in Nicaragua in 1986 and is now a restaurant in Manual Antonio. Brian and I went there in 2004 and had a wonderful evening with the bartender and her husband, the chef. We envisioned ourselves doing something like that one day--owning a restaurant and being proud of our efforts.
If you remember and have time, please take a moment to reflect on the beauty of life and your ability to live it to the fullest. Have a glass of wine and a toast to Brian Joshua Kellen Thompson with me and Shari.
I love all of you for listening, supporting and trying to understand this journey that I am on. I know that when I am stateside, I owe many drinks/dinners for your kindness and patience...

Best of Chile....or what I could find that I liked

As you dedicated followers of my blog know, I didn´t do too much in Chile. I hung out in an awful capital city and didn´t particularly care for it. I was unmotivated to make a decision, jump on another long bus ride and so I preferred the bed bugs to the rest of Chile.
I didn´t drink wine, which is disgraceful, but I figured out why I was in a funk. February is a difficult time of year for me. In Chile, I discovered that I couldn´t outrun my grief, it lingers and attacks in different ways--bed bugs, fellow travelers stealing ipods, etc. In Denver, it is like a full frontal attack, constantly overwhelming me with memories and events that led up to what happened. In Chile or any other city it would be different. It doesn´t matter where I am, February will always be difficult for me.
I made the best of my trip here, but know that I should return to discover more outside of the beach and the capital. I suppose, for me, the best thing about Chile was that it had Starbuck´s. I loved the coffee factor. It reminded me of home and it was comforting. Each day, I would walk around and find a new one and felt accomplished when I walked by 7. Plus, there is one in the airport...I cannot wait for tomorrow.
The Lider supermarkets are amazing as well. They have peanut butter and a whole slew of American goods. I felt comfortable there and they too, are everywhere. I felt like a kid in the candy store.
The food was simple, substansial and I liked the blandness of it. Porotos grandolas are awesome and I lived on that particular item for days. It is a bean soup with pumpkin and corn. They serve it with the standard chilean salad which is diced up tomatoes, onions and parsley. On the tables when you sit down, they have bread and a rough chopped salsa as opposed to butter. They also have oil and vinegar as typical condiments. Of course, being on the coast, the fish is spectacular. I loved the mercado in Valparaiso and the fact that it was above a whole floor of fruits, vegetables, fish and cheese.
I preferred Valpo over Santiago. Granted, it is a dirty port, but the energy is fantastic. Plus, the hills kick your ass and it is colorful. I went to the Pablo Neruda house and loved the mosaics, maps and still lifes which covered the walls.
In terms of hostels...I despised the owner of Hostal Sammy. He was a prick and that is where I was inundated with bed bugs. He did have 5 computers available for use, but on the whole, the house wasn´t clean and he was a jerk. If my things had been stolen there, he wouldn´t have been nice about it. Tim, the owner at Hostel Yo Yo in Valpo, was pleasant and felt really bad that my bag had been broken into. He, too, was American and young, but had a good energy and his hostel showed it. It was comfortable there, too comfortable in some ways.
The bed and breakfast has been a nice treat. The owners are nice and I have my own room. I love it.
In terms of Chile, there are so many pregnant women here. They have lines at all of the supermarkets for expectant mothers.
Chileans do not walk fast, they stroll. They make me crazy. I hate walking slow. And, I know that you are asking yourself--she´s on vacation, why is she in a hurry? Because I enjoy walking fast. I like being in control and being stuck behind Chileans in a crowd creates bottlenecking and the perfect opportunity for some dipshit to steal a bag, a bracelet, what have you.
Chileans eat ice cream. There are so many helado shops and pastry shops here. I swear, they are constantly eating. This morning, I talked to an american couple and a canadian couple staying at the hostel. The American couple pointed out that they felt most people here were fit and the canadians and I said--WHAT? There are a lot of obese people in Chile. Then, the Americans pointed out the smoking issue, which I have seen a lot of, but the Canadians hadn´t noticed that yet.
It is interesting here and I would like to come back to have wine and check out the Lake District.
Chileans speak fast and many do not speak english. I found that I really liked Argentina. Chile is different, completely and has a cosmopolitan air about it, but it doesn´t fulfill it.
I cannot wait to meet Shari in Costa Rica tomorrow. The coffee is good and the people are pleasant. In Chile, people don´t smile or they catcall me. I am over being the object of their fascination. it wasn´t like that in Argentina. It reminds me of the summer I spent in Mexico in 98 for school. It is so machismo!!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

pg 13--language...

Today, I embarked on another meal that is typical of chilean food. The owner, kindly printed off the directions for me, but I prefer walking since I figure that if I get lost, I can fix it easier. Plus, the buses tend to overshoot the stops and I get confused. I looked at the map and walked halfway there, the other day and so like a fool, I set out on this ambitious, yet misguided, adventure.
I crossed the 1/2 way mark in my mind when this guy is walking closer and closer to me. He is making me nervous and so I slow down to figure out what he is doing. At this point, he decides to talk to me. Instead of ignoring him like I normally do, I call him out and say something like--yes that is wonderful. He goes--come over here and suck my cock. I said--are you fucking serious and he says--YES and so I said--alright, take off your pants and he looks scared and walked away. I mean, really, are you going to talk to someone like this. What reaction do you expect when you call out-you are beautiful, I love you, suck my cock. Okay, not interested, but I am tired of being a novelty due to my americanness and blonde hair. I know that is all it is. It still is unsettling to not be able to be anonymous.
After this, I continue on and now, i need to go to a bathroom. Only, it´s Sunday and so nothing is open. I keep walking, hoping to find a gas station since the mini markets are so tiny that barely one person can look around. I don´t know if they have toilets or not. I find a bathroom and ask the guy how far this restaurant is. He tells me that it is quite a bit aways. He tells me to take a bus, but I don´t have the card to get on the bus. In Santiago, you need a charge card to use the bus since they do not give change.
While the guy is explaining how far the place is, this woman, Luz Maria, interrupts and asks me where I need to go. As she is explaining it to me, she decides to offer me a ride. It was so nice and I know of other stories from Sharleen, where the kindness of Chileans is amazing.
The lunch was awesome and worth the walk. Now, my only problem was getting back. I ask the parking attendant about the bus and he tells me that I need a card to get on. When I tell him that I don´t have one, he looks for his to give me. I wouldn´t have taken it if he found it, but again--the kindness of strangers. I opted to walk back...all 145 blocks. It was fun and I found a few more Starbuck´s and Lider supermarkets. I feel well-versed on the streets of Providencia. I could definitely use a hot tub tonight.
I survived the idiots, met some kind people and enjoyed the meal that is typical of chile. Plus, I finished my postcards and tomorrow, I will find one of the many post offices that I walked by and be set.

sunday funday..

I remember being in the States, working and watching my friends and co-workers experience, sunday-funday. I wish there was someone here to try it out on. Of course, I could ask the older gentleman from DC to go out with me, but he seems a little too judgmental for me. He and his daughters were in the Lake District in Chile for their annual vacation. His girls left last night and so he is lonely.
He walked in, last night, while I was eating my supper and asked me if I would want some pizza. I had eaten about 1/2 of my mexican delight and so I wasn´t that interested. Plus, I had eaten amazing pizza in Argentina and so I haven´t been too interested in pizza in Chile.
The owners of the bed and breakfast are accomodating and they are trying to make sure that I am included in their activities. I really just want to be alone, right now. I don´t want to hurt their feelings, but I like the solitude and I need it. Last night, after the american retired to his room, the owner came in and sat down next to me and began watching Jaws. I don´t like when people watch me eat and so I got up and went to the kitchen to clear my plates. This morning, it was the same. The man, brought me juice and tea and then lingered in the doorway, watching some biblical movie and wouldn´t sit down. I decided to pick up my book and actively read to encourage him to return to the sofa to sit down. He was making me nervous and it is bothersome when people linger while others are eating. Or, maybe I am just weird.
Today, I am going to walk, forever, in search of this chilean restaurant that serves tipica comida and the owner raves about. She was kind and printed off the buses that I should take and explained it to me and gave me a map, too. We will see how it is.
Tuesday, I am off to Costa Rica with Shari. I am excited and look forward to the adventure there. I hope to find some more starbuck´s in chile. I know that the coffee is divine in Costa Rica from past experience.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bella Vista

I found more Starbuck´s and I am now extremely happy. It isn´t everyday that I am blessed with coffee or the possibility of a good latte. I feel stateside.
I walked around the hippie district and was charmed by its energy and pubs. Of course, they had a market that I liked, but they tend to scare me since you never know who is walking up behind you, trying to rifle through the bag. Plus, I need my bag since I carry water and a book and normally, a journal, as well. I know, I sound like a freaking bag lady but I definitely have needs.
Tomorrow, I will venture to this village with tipico chilean food. The owner of the Bed and Breakfast recommended it and she seems to know her stuff. I like the house, only wish that I had a shower in my room. Really, though, I appreciate the lack of bed bugs and the privacy.
There is a music festival in Vina del Mar and it is super cheesy. They have Peter Frampton, Journey and tonight, Nelly Furtado. There are latin american acts, comedy and music. I saw Journey on tv the other night and didn´t realize that there new lead singer was asian and young. He sounds like Steven Perry though and i suppose that is all that matters. All of the Chileans are excited about the concert and watch it on the tv incessantly.
Tonight, will be more R & R for me. I found a Ben Elton book in their book exchange and so I am stoked.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Return to Santiago...

I made it safely to my bed and breakfast. It is nice and in a safe neighborhood, near the Lider store--score--and pleasant. The owners speak spanish, english and french and the woman is overeager to please. She definitely wanted to make me feel at ease in her home which is great. A hot tub would be nice, but you cannot have everything, right?
I went to lunch today with Sharleen and I realized that I didn´t want to leave Valpo. It was nice to spend time with someone who I felt comfortable with. She was fun to travel with and I didn´t feel as intimidated trying to get on busses with someone else that I could talk it over with. Chileans speak extremely fast and I catch some of it, definitely, not all of it and due to this I have ended up in some random areas of town or potentially on the wrong bus.
I bought my ticket to Santiago and asked where it was, he said, afuera. Well, they had 12 different ports with busses, 100´s of people shuffling around and I had 5 minutes to get to my bus. I ask a Tur Bus driver if he is the correct bus and he says, no and points me to the left. I look and there isn´t a tur Bus down there and so I run over people trying to get outside to ask the reservationist where I need to be. This guy decides to guide me to where I need to go. Once on the bus, I fall asleep and wake up when we arrive in Santiago. Of course, there is ridiculous traffic and I consider getting off the bus at this point, but I don´t know where I am. I need to make sure that I am near the subway station and so I sit, wait, listen to my bus driver swear and honk his horn. We finally get out and I high tale it to the subway where again, i feel like an exhibit at a museum...Random blonde American. I don´t think they see many blondes in this country, or at least they don´t act like it. It is like a novelty that I don´t want.
I am off, searching for groceries and peace.

Con Con

I got over the petty theft, especially when I figured out what happened. It was the British guy that I had spent the prior day with. His stuff had been stolen In columbia, including an ipod, and he was at the house the entire day. He knew where we were going, knew how long it would take to get there and most importantly, he saw us leave without my backpack.
I watched him squirm yesterday, trying to avoid us. I decided to not make it that easy for him. Before he left, I approached him about his departure. He would barely look at me and he asked me if I had everything sorted. I said, that I was well and then I looked directly at him and said that I pretty much knew exactly how it happened. He left immediately after that. I know that it was him. It is infuriating that another traveler would do something like this, but not everyone is trustworthy, as we know. I guess since he is in the same positon as me, I believed that he wouldn´t want to rip someone off.
My bag is fixed and I went to the beach yesterday. It was beautiful and we spent a few hours trying not to freeze. The winds and the water can be a nasty combination.
We returned to make dinner last night and there were these Brazilians in the kitchen. They really overtook it and then lingered while we were trying to find some place to sit and enjoy our feast. We made a stirfry that I was proud of.
Chile is better and I have found good coffee again. I return to Santiago today to check out the boulevards.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I had a wonderful day today, enjoying the overcast sky. I went to lunch with Sharleen at the mercado and when we returned I left my bag in my locker to downsize, believing that it would be safe in my locked locker, next to my backpack, with two locks on it. I WAS WRONG...some horrible little person, broke the lock off of the locker and rifled through my bag, stole my ipod, $90 that was in a brown wallet/purse that my aunt gave me(sentimental value--has traveled all over world with me and with Brian) and then I discovered that they slashed my bag in hopes of taking my clothes--i guess.
I am furious. I know that it happened between 5-8 pm and although we called the police, since they didn´t take my passport, they can´t do anything. I can file a report with them in hopes of getting another ipod, but to do this, I must go to the police station and file it.
The hostel checked out the circumstances and they believe that a couple checked in and left with my stuff. I am not so certain. It seems too convenient to me. I mean, they only took my ipod and $90. I had a credit card in my bag, some other money--being a bartender it is habit and my driver´s license. I cannot prove anything, of course, but there were a few people that saw me return to the room with my bag and leave without it. I don´t know how they knew where my stuff was, unless they were already staying here, you know?
I am pissed that they knifed my bag. I have had that back pack since 2000 when I was planning on going to Greece. I went to Europe, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico with Brian with that bag. It has sentimental value to me and now it is different. There is a girl here who is going to sew for me since she has a machine and she works here. I figure that I might as well leave everything unlocked so that if they won´t my knickers, they can have them. For fuck sake...I am back in the States in 3 weeks. I am very irritated...another strike against Chile.
Everyone here is trying to get me to drink, but if I did, some of you might be getting a drunk dial or worse, a drunk e-mail. I figured that I would save all of you and myself from the embaressment and just know, that it could have been worse. I am safe and I can replace the ipod. It just sucks knowing that it definitely was someone that is staying here. KARMA WORKS....
I will be here until Friday, sleeping with my bag and eventually returning to the cycle of feeling safe and secure, amongst friends. 3 weeks and counting.....I know that this can happen anywhere, in small town USA or a big city like JuBurg. It still feels violating and awful.
Plus, there is this french couple that insist on giving me advice and hogging the internet. I have a feeling that they were somehow involved. They seem eager and too friendly.

Dinner for two

The other night I went to dinner with Sharleen at a local restaurant. Most Chileans have a big lunch and a light dinner and so the seafood restaurant we wanted to go to was closed.
There was another alternate restaurant suggested to us. We walked in and it was packed. On the menu was a meal for two people. I asked the server what the grill was, hoping that there would be fish involved. He said, beef, chicken, pork, and so we ordered it believing that there would be one piece to share of each protein. A salad was served and then out came this cauldron of meat. There were two pieces of steak, two pork chops, two pieces of chicken, 4 sausages and two intestinal looking things. Neither of us had any idea that dinner for two meant dinner for 6. It was surreal. Of course, I wasn´t interested in the steak or the pork and definitely not the blood sausage. We made an effort and in hindsight, it is extremely comical.
We met a few Americans at the hostel and one guy sticks out in mind. He is from Hawaii and nice, but he looks like the japanese version of Gilbert Godfrey. You know, from USA´s Up all Night? He even had some of his characteristics and mannerisms, not intentionally, I suppose, but it was telling.
The guy from Hawaii was travling with a friend from college and they are doing a quick tour of South America before the other guy returns to the States. Every person´s traveling story is unique.
I hope to go to Con Con today which in another beach further from Valpo. Sharleen and I will make a go of it today with some mistakes I am sure. When she arrived in Valpo, the bus driver pointed to the street that we are staying on. She started walking in the direction he pointed only to be further misdirected by local people. Always, we are laughing about our mistakes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I went to the beach today with a canadian, two americans and a brit. The computer at the hostel was done and so I couldn´t check my e-mail or anything.
The beach was beautiful, only we couldn´t swim there. It was interesting and they have a surfing competition there this weekend, only it doesn´t look like you can surf there ever. The waves crash quick and it wasn´t user friendly.
We took the bus, both ways and on the way back, we stood up for the majority of the return. The Lonely Planet says the bus to Renaca is 10 minutes. WEll, try more like 45 since you stop multiple times and go through Vina del Mar which is congested with several busses, people and chaos. We had several people get on our bus trying to sell us ice cream, pens and my favorite--a man put a stocking over his head. At first, I thought he was robbing the bus, but then he held up a puppet of an old woman, and he began to speak as her. I have no idea what he was saying, but he captivated us for 5 minutes and collected money on his way out. It was surreal and comical.
Now, we are doing an international buffet at the hostel. I didn´t know what to make since I am not drinking, can´t cook and so I bought a cake. We will see how it works out. My friend, Sharleen, made pbj sandwiches. Awesome!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


My Canadian friend and I took the subway to the bus station and got in a line for tickers, or so we thought. I asked this woman, boletas para Valporaiso, twice and she said yes. We waited, people bumping into us and not really paying too much attention. When we finally get closer to the window, I realize that we are in line for the western union. Seriously.
We finally get rerouted and I arrive in Valporaiso. There was a bus that goes to the hostel, they said, but i waited for 30 minutes, no bus and weird, random people around. I opted to take a taxi and go to the hostel. It is nice. The people are friendly. They have a Lider Store and a Starbuck´s. I am in heaven. I don´t want to have to make any more decisions and so I might stay here the entire time. Who knows?
I booked in for 4 nights. It is cheap and I like the vibe.
At the other hostel, in Santiago, the owner told one of the girls that was working in exchange for board, that she wasn´t working out, people didn´t like her and that she should look for other arrangements. The guy was a complete jack ass in my opinion. I mean, from him implying that I lied about the bites to his conversation with this girl...come on, learn courtesy. Plus, as much as he worked, all I saw him do was gripe and harass people.
I look forward to checking out Valporaiso and relaxing.

bugs, rooms and the relocation to the beach

I was successful with my herbal remedy of garlic, papaya salve and rubbing alcohol on Friday night. Last night, I was semi attacked, not a full on frontal, but definitely, I woke up a few times scratching and annoyed. They said they were going to spray yesterday, but they didn't inform anyone. The bed bug spray is normally highly toxic and so you would think that they would evacuate the place. I don't know about this owner. He is from the States and sort of a pompous you know what. Maybe I am just still upset that he insinuated that I was lying about my bed bug bites so that they would, i mean, i would do my laundry for free. I know that $3 is a huge amount to give someone for the trouble of being bit all night.
I walked up to my bed and breakfast and it is in a beautiful area. I am about 4 metro stations from downtown, there is a park, statues and restaurants. I found an Italian one yesterday and the owner was from New York. He was nice, but a little extreme. He was overcautious about my being in the downtown area.
Afterwards, I walked up to Saint Lucia and saw a nice view of the city and smog. I met a canadian and we are going to take the bus together to the beach. She is kind and recently began traveling alone. She is from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and she has been with friends until a week ago. I figure if we both get lost, at least we will be together.
I hope the beach offers tranquility and a bed bug free zone. I want peace.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

one more thing

I normally announce little reminders, celebrations, anniversaries and birthdays...well, today is Robert Richards birthday. Congratulations Robert, enjoy your day and I look forward to meeting the new addition to the family when it makes an entrance.
Today is a beautiful day and I am looking forward to walking all over Santiago. It should be real fun!!!

not a garlic head

Apparently, bed bugs are a wide spread problem because of the Peruvians, Bolivians, etc., you know, the people that aren't clean and don't care. Or, at least that is the verse that I am hearing.
Regardless of who is bringing them in, they are disgusting, dirty and a reflection of your establishment. I think that since the owner cannot visually see mine, he believes that I am overreacting. Seriously, I have at least 60 bites spread from my neck to my toes with most of the concentrated area around my internal organs which is normal. I went to the market to purchase garlic and lotion from the chemist, but only got garlic. I ate two cloves and you can imagine what our room is like now and put on my papau salve from Australia and they both seemed to detract them for a night. I also rubbed alcohol on my body as a further obstacle to them. On a website for natural remedies, it said that bed bugs do not like certain creams or lotions since it detracts them. I don't know. I don't care. I just know that last night, I slept through the night and it feels fantastic!
My friend, Jaime, sent me information about a B&B in Santiago and I am going to stay there the last 3-4 nights of my time in Chile. It is worth the cost and they take credit cards unlike every other establishment here.
I am off to enjoy the morning. I hope that you have a bugfree day, with sunshine and fun. Don't I sound like an advertisement?

Friday, February 15, 2008

i was wrong and am moving to a new room

There was an aussie girl that I had met yesterday and I was complaining about my bites and she said that she had picked up a few but didn't think much of it outside of that they were new and not from Australia.
Well, this morning, I ran into her and she was checking out. She said that she had bed bug bites and looked at mine and said, yep, those are similar. I had 5 that were huge welts in my back and stomach and so I mentioned it to the manager on duty. He said that he would make a note of it and I said that I would want to clean my clothes.
I returned to the hostel, met the owner and he said, yes, she is the one. But, we have cleaned that room, those beds, we don't understand what else to do. I said, well, monitor people bringing in their own linens and sleeping bags since that is how they are brought in for the most part. Initially, he said, she's the one that says she has bites and I said, I do and here, LOOK at my back. You tell me that that isn't uncomfortable.
It is being taken care of. I think that I would shut down, do a thorough cleaning and reopen. Bed bugs spread like wild fire and are a hassle that no one wants to deal with.
We will see how it works out. At least I won't be eating a garlic head tonight to fend off the mosquitoes.

The never ending cycle

Each day, I wake up, grab my alcohol bottle to treat old mosquito bites, tooth paste and contact solution. I use the tooth paste to treat the gargantuan bites that I am now receiving. I am so uncomfortable and I think the OFF is immune to the mosquitoes in Chile. I woke up at 3 and tossed and turned until now. Basically, I alternated between scratching my feet, my lower back and thighs. I didn't get any neck bites last night, thankfully, and I know that I have kept most of the people in my room up due to my sensitivity to the mosquitoes. At 3:30, I decided to go on-line for additional recommendations. They suggest that dark clothing, cooler body temperatures, releasing lactic acid (while exercising) attract mosquitoes. I met this guy the other day and he told me that I needed to get more of a tan and that would keep them away. I thought that was comical.
In regards to natural repellents, it suggests peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, lemon eucalyptus, citronella, clove and garlic. Actually, there was more but I think I will go out and eat a garlic head each night before I go to bed. That way, if I am sweating, I am releasing foul fumes which might deter these little buggers. It is insane and I don't know what else to do. I know the OFf is nonexistent as a weapon against them.
In more positive Chile, their idea of coffee is instant nescafe. In our hostel, there is a laminated copy of where two Starbucks are. I know, I know, it is the capitalistic devil, but it was heavenly when I was able to order a real coffee. I am so going back there today after I take a 5 hour nap to catch up on sleep deprivation.
Any other suggestions on how to protect myself from the onslaught of mosquitoes? I actually considered they were bed bugs since a few of them welted up and this girl from Israel in the hostel said that when she first arrived, 13 days ago, she slept in a room with bed bugs. I don't think they shut down the hostel, just the room where they were problematic. Doesn't sound too sanitary to me, but I know that mine are mosquitoes and I am on a completely different floor, area of the house from that issue--i hope.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

lider supermercado.....happy valentines day for you who follow it

It is like super target/super walmart. I was completely overwhelmed since I haven't been in a supermarket that big since I left the States. It was insane and I was in awe of it. I did a complete lap without focusing on the goal at hand...finding peanut butter. I was hoping they had skippy, but they didn't and it is fine. I now have peanut butter for dinner or for breakfast. I like the breakfast here since they have juice, yogurt, fruit and toast. Yesterday, I decided to eat yogurt with a banana and special K cereal. Today, I wanted a banana and they were gone. I know this is mundane and pretty uninteresting but when you are traveling, food can be fantastic. I mean, you eat the breakfast since it is included in the price of the room. I am tired of croissants and jam and so yogurt and fruit are a wonderful change. Nevertheless, this morning, I had toast with margarine, which I really do not like. Peanut butter will suffice and I haven't had good peanut butter since Australia. Black Cat didn't cut it in South Africa.
I am going to the mountains this weekend for an overnight trek. They also offer horse back riding and a down home bbq. I need to exchange some money since they do not have many credit card machines available. I suppose it is inconvenient for them.
Again, it has been chill. I had a traditional lunch at some dive restaurant and went with chicken. I had pork issues when i left Honduras and don't want a repeat of that situation. The more I am here, the more I realize that it is a slow city. They do have a marathon here in April that they are advertising for. Most people that I have seen do not fit my image of what Chile is. I have heard that it is expensive and upper class for South America. I believe that Buenos Aires is more cosmopolitan. The people were more suave and had more flair.
I need to check out the Allende museum before I leave and the plaza de armas and a few other historically important places. Off to find an itinerary.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

first impressions...

I survived the day, but got lost. I swear I knew where I was going and then I looked at the map and couldn't find my location. I was so far off of map, it wasn't funny. But, I definitely know more about Santiago now.
I found a casa de cambio and exchanged some money for the chilean peso. I had lunch at this cute, family owned restaurant that served bread with salsa, soup or salad and then beef or pork. In my case, I had soup and a mix of veggies--avocado--I loved this. I haven't had avocado since October. It was heavenly.
Afterwards, I tried to find the Lider supermercado, but it is very far away. Instead, I went to the local place and they didn't have peanut butter, which made me sad.
Santiago is a sleepy city. It is quiet with out the intensity of Buenos Aires. The sidewalks aren't crumbling and they have beautiful tree lined avenues. It isn't a destination, though, in my opinion. I will have more time to explore, but until later...

the night attacks continue...

When I was in Fiji, I was the advertisement for calomine lotion. Again, I am the poster child.
I woke up, endlessly, to have to scratch a new bite and I got this up morning and had at least 30 bites all over my body. They weren't concentrated, this time, but that doesn't mean they aren't as annoying. My god...when will this end. Maybe I should just bathe in Off and be done with it.
Santiago appears to be nice. Almost everyone at this hostel is american or english speakers. They are calm, a little older and traveling in a more professional manner. Everyone entered the room, politely, and the light was on only briefly. It was heaven compared to argentina except for the mosquitoes. I will live.
I had a fantastic meal, for free, at the hostel, last night. It was a chilean specialty and bland as hell, but a change from the rich pasta I was trying in Argentina. I watched Lords of War--i think, and had a basic chill night. I am trying to decide how best to rest the next few weeks. I was overindulgent in Argentina and I am not motivated to bus it or stress about my spanish. I want to just relax, read and enjoy the remainder of my trip. No distractions or head aches is what I am hoping for. Plus, I am now 3 hours ahead of Denver and so it feels like home.
Until later....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Best of argentina....

First, I must begin with my impressions of CHile. I arrive in the airport and pay to enther the country. However, if I were Canadian, I would have had to pay one dollar more. Then, they unleash drug dogs and the dog won't leave my bag alone. People are staring and then they ask if I had any fruit in my bags. I said no, but that while I was in Argentina my bag was wet after my last bus ride. The guy lets me leave and the dog follows.
I get on a shuttle, spend more money on stupid crap and then arrive to find that they are snaking the toiets here. I have had my share of bathroom problems from the house on 5th ave and so I do not enjoy the memory or the smell.
This hostel is run by an american and everything is in english. I am surrounded by english speakers and tomorrow I will try to decide what to do while in Chile. I want to sleep and not be ripped off. We will see.
Pizzeria Guerrin on COrrientos Avenue was fantastic. I wish I would have found it sooner.
Bistro Eva, a more gourmet option with fantastic wine and food that I would definitely enjoy in the States. It was a nice reminder of what food can be.
I ate way too much pasta, but I am not a fan of red meat. It is everywhere in Argentina and cheap, too. I mean, when you dine out, typically they serve bread, entree and wine for $6 which is ridiculously cheap. I could have stayed in argentina for a year and not went broke.
I had a nice meal in Bariloche with Lorenzo at the vegetarian restaurant. It was more gourment and remniscient of the states, but I enjoyed the veggies. They started the meal with a puree of garlic, carrots and parsley with bread. Interesting, different and good.
The parilla on esmeralda where I met the guy from Miami was also quite nice. I would recommend it, definitely.
In terms of hostels--the most helpful was hostel lao in Mendoza. Mike, the owner, had many suggestions for tours, wineries and food. I like that. THe hostel was hot and they only had two bathrooms. I felt that they needed more to accomodate the number of people staying there and they were booked out most nights. They served a fantastic breakfast from 7-noon which is long. They had mate, coffee, tea, juices, cheese pastries, danish, bread, and a bunch of fruit. Plus, they catered to it and the people.
Mendoza estacion was quiet and had many bathrooms. For me, the fact was no one spoke english was cumbersome, but they were nice and helpful. I wish I could have stayed there longer for the fact that it was quiet and clean.
06 Hostel in buenos aires was good and bad. I loved Sebastian and Francisco. They were helpful and nice. THe rooms had large ceilings and fans. The bad was regarding the cleanliness factor and the cleaning people. They were unfriendly. THe floors in the showers were always soaking wet and dirty. The toilets were like all of the hostels, basically, disgusting. They should take the trash out every 2 hours to make it appear clean. I hate the practice of placing used tissues in the trash and not in the toilet.
The hostel in bariloche was helpful and had amazing computers. They were fast and flat screen. I liked the en suite bathroom as well, just the dorm mates sucked both nights.
THe worst of argentina...
obviously the waiter from yesterday, the massage--also a disaster, the toilets--like I complained about, the party attitude of argentinians and lack of courtesy for other travelers, the breakfast and the ham and cheese everywhere.
THe wine tours in Mendoza was questionable. The best way to see Mendoza and its bodegas is to rent a car and do it on your own. Make the reservations at the wineries and try to the wines. Do not expect many samples, like in the rest of the world or do the bike and ride. Do not take an organized tour because they are horrible!!! I wish that I loved the wine there, but I didn't see it. I suppose having another traveler with me who enjoyed wine would have made a huge difference for me and my experience in Mendoza.
I think it is a beautiful country and I had a wonderful time there. I liked meeting new people, but the guide books lie. MOst of the people do not speak english. They speak spanish, only, and they prefer that you know it too.
The food was fantastic and the wines that I tried were hit or miss. The dollar can go far and I understand why a lot of americans are traveling there now.
The history is plentiful and the museums and architecture, divine. Overall, it was memorable and a comedy of events for me, overcoming the language barrier and trying tonot step in dog shit. The homeowners wake up each day, and wash their tiled sidewalk. They respect their property, just not the streets with trash and feces.
I look forward to discover more of Chile and make it out of here, safely.

what happened???

I looked online and know that KU lost to Texas....i am very sad. I haven´t seen one game. I made a mistake though. I e-mailed my friend, Alan Black (GQ on my photo spread)about the upcoming match. He and his brothers are avid UT fans and normally if i were in the States, he would call and laugh about the outcome of the game. I shouldn´t have e-mailed him...dammit!
I will do the best of later since I can tell that people are hovering in the computer. I really despise people that hover and ask--when will you be done? I don´t know.
Plus, I need food and coffee. I am tired of the croissants they serve at this hostel. I need some yogurt with fruit or something spicy with tomatoes. Basically, I either need a health food restaurant or a Mexican establishment. Where are all the mexican restaurants???

male therapists and other issues....

I was intent on getting a massage yesterday and so when I went to the first place and they said that the lady´s kid was sick, I was upset. I asked them to recommend another place, near there location and they suggested a place around the corner.
I arrive, find out that I can get a massage in an hour and I am stoked. I go to a coffee shop, finish my post cards and return. Of course, I have to wait for the therapist for about 30 minutes and when he arrives, it is a man. I have had many male therapists and didn´t have a problem with it. I am comfortable getting a massage since normally, men are just as protective of your bodies as women.
I should have asked for a female. I think their massages differ quite greatly in south america. Add in the language barrier and you have an interesting situation. I definitely felt exposed.
AFterwards, I decided to celebrate my last day in Buenos Aires by having a nice lunch. My waiter was a jerk, refused to understand my spanish. I was frustrated and quit trying. When I asked for the bill, he brought me the wrong one and believed that I wouldn´t notice. I was not amused.
I found a great bistro called Bistro Eva, after this, on Avenida de mayo. They just opened and it was great. I had a few glasses of wine there and chatted up the owners in my mix of spanish/english. I was trying again and decided to not be frustrated by the day anymore. I mean, in my room, I am staying with the french woman and the aussie girl, who has been in Columbia for 5 months in school. Of course, her spanish is fluent. They, too, were rude to me and so when I returned last night from dinner and drinking wine, I told the french lady that i didn´t understand her spanish since apparently, I only spoke english since i was american. I ignored her.
Now, I am a little hung over. You should never, never, never drink wine after a massage....well, not in excess, at least.
Onward to Chile

Monday, February 11, 2008

fellow travelers....

I was up most of the night and so I had ample time to think about the people that i have met along the way. Granted, these are generalizations, but in some cases, applicable to certain groups of people.
For instance, since I have been in Argentina, I have encountered many argentinians traveling. In Bariloche, for two nights, I was awoken so that they could get ready to go out and woke up, again, when they would return. They have no concept of other people.
Last night, these two girls showed up at midnight to descend on our room. I was with a french woman who was sleeping. I was trying to sleep but having some difficulty. My mind was wandering. Anyways, they came in, loud, turned the lights on, rustled about and created an explosion of clothes in the room. They left to return 50 minutes later, turned the light back on and acted as if it were nothing. I heard that French lady stir and try to figure out what was going on and so I asked them if they could turn the lights out. They said, no, we have to get ready and I said, there are lights from the street, no, it doesn´t work, we can´t see and it will only be a few minutes. RIGHT. 20 minutes later and they finally leave. I understand if it is early in the night--9-10:30, but I respect my sleep and the sleep of other people. I try to have my toiletries arranged so that I create as little noise as possible when I get up at 6 to use the computer or go out early to enjoy the day.
Thankfully, when they returned at 5:30 am, they didn´t turn the light on, but they still were loud and to me, woke all of us up as a result of their lack of courtesy. And, when they get ready, they spray themselves 3-5 times in the room with horrible perfumes and it is ongoing. They don´t leave the room to do this. They force all of us to smell their spray. I thought about getting up to put more OFF on, but figured that it would be the same as them and I would annoy the french woman.
When i met her, I saw her spanish language book and so I asked her where she was from--France, and I don´t speak english, at all, is what she told me. Okay, we can communicate in spanish if need be. She is very french in her attitude.
I have met several Brazilians at the hostel and they all speak english to me. They do not speak spanish since their words in portuguese are different and it cuts to the chase. I understand it and appreciate it, somewhat. It doesn´t help me with spanish, though. They all love Brazil and ask when and if I have been there. And, they have space issues with the computer like I realized, last night.
The Germans are a mixed bunch. I have met travelers from other countries who realy don´t like them. For me, it has varied...i mean, the girl in Australia annoyed me to no end. She could do no wrong, argumentative and hovered about. But, I enjoyed Petra and Marcus and the couple from the other night.
I have met numerous Canadians and enjoyed them and how they talk. Of course, nobody likes to be called canadian unless traveling, and I know that they do not enjoy being accused of being american.
We all vary and there are americans that I have met that annoy me. Why don´t they teach common traveling courtesy at school, at church, at home? I would definitely appreciate it! It is interesting and another facet of this life, I suppose. I am too anal about things.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

beware of cops....

today was a lazy day. I slept, like I mentioned and enjoyed the fact that the room was vacated by those idiots.
Now, I am overwhelmed by the Herbal life morons that do skype for 45 minutes and try to rush me off. They do not type fast, and generally i am irritated by so many rude people.
I went to this famous pizzeria for dinner tonight since i have read a bunch about it and it was close to the hostel. I felt somewhat weird before I left. I couldn´t place the feeling, shook it off and went anyways. The pizza was fantastic and definitely worth the trip. I was impressed and enjoyed a veggie and a plain cheese. I read the Joy Luck Club and started my walk back to the hostel. I was on Avenida Corrientos when I noticed this car next to me. I thought it was a cabbie, looking for a fare. It continued with me and I looked over and realized that it was a cop. I didn´t know what to do since they were hovering and the whole language factore plus, how do you get rid of the police? They are supposed to be protecting you. As I pondered this, he looks at me and suggestively says--HOLA and i ignore him and look for a distraction. Of course, there are no english speakers anywhere and so I walked into a ticket office and described my situation. They told me that i could wait and that i would be fine. One of the guys went outside to see if the police car had stopped and I waited a few minutes and left. The man was recounting the story to a few guys and laughing--of course. When I returned to the hostel, they said, that´s argentine police. Do you feel safe?
I am fine and just found it amusing, really. The uniform myth continues for me....the more these women come into the computer and hover, the longer I am determined to stay on here. They actually asked me if I would be on long since they were waiting, too. Really, 15 minutes is one thing....45 a complete other.

another thought....

Last night, they served us 3 sausages and a beef and onion empanada with lettuce. I decided to try the sausage, but was so grossed out by the blood sausage on the plate, that I could barely look at my food. The other couple that joined us was smart in explaining that the girl didn´t eat red meat. They brought her a plate of lettuce as a starter--quite funny, but at least she could eat it. I wasn´t the only one freaking out about that suasage, either.
They offered wine and I was the only red wine drinker. Initially, they kept to their respective ottles and then all of a sudden, my wine is gone since they just want to ¨try a bit.¨ Not a big deal, but I didn´t like the white, at all.
There is an herbal life convention in Buenos Aires and so there are hundreds of people milling around with their neon green shirts and badges. They wake up early to eat breakfast, trash the kitchen and go their meeting. I am surrounded by vitamin packing people who love carne.
I went out this morning since it was ideal for a run. It´s overcast and mostly, the city is shut down on Sundays. I see trash everywhere and dog shit. I don´t mind the trash, but the poop is another issue. There are piles of it, everywhere and it is difficult to manueuver between random people, the faulty sidewalks and the shit. I suppose it is payback for walking people´s dogs and not being conscientious to that fact. i won´t mention names...
I hope to make it San Telmo for the market today and possibly check out a book store, too. I need a new book. This hostel is lacking in that department since there are too many Braziliians here. This man yesterday told me that the food in Brazil sucked. I said, really and he said, it was so horrible that I ate at McDonald´s. I thought that was quite funny.
Originally, I really liked this hostel, but the last few days haven´t been fantastic. I mean, they need to take the trash out of the bathrooms. The basket is overflowing with used pieces of toilet with feces on it. YOu know how it is in Mexico and the pipes. I returned from the outing this morning to eat breakfast and there were two croissants and a few crostinis, no milk and the lady that is supposed to attend to this, is watching tv in the lounge. She always laughs at my spanish and so I opted to eat my orange from Mendoza. of course, it wasn´t fresh tasting, but I figure fruit is always a great choice instead of sugar all of the time.
Here I thought I had one thing to say, but I guess I am lucid in my thoughts right now. Until later...

successful show....

I went to the show with a group of 12 other people. Initially, we arrived in La Boca and I realized that the theatre is located next to Bombanera, the huge, massive, soccer stadium. I was tempted to go check that out, but they kept us on a pretty tight schedule. We were able to walk around the outdoor theatre and they had us arranged by countries that either speak english natively or not. I found myself seated with an older german couple. They spoke limited english and the woman was unpleasant at first. The airlines had lost their baggage and she was extremely thorough in relaying that entire story. She didn´t speak spanish at all, and was rude to the waitress. We ordered our dinner, drank some wine and mid way through our dinner, another couple was added to our cramped table. The man was german and the lady was finnish. At this point, the older woman became more engaging and funny. The older man kept pouring my wine and attending to my needs, too. He was funny. He is turning 80 in October and he and his wife have been married for 43 years. He said that he met her when she was 16, but let her get away. They both married others and then he met her again when she was 22 and eventually, they married. I liked the romance of it and they were dancing at the show and obviously had affection for each other.
THe show itself was quite nice. I think the Tango is one of the sexiest dances and quite provocative. They had an accordion player, cellist, violinist and piano player which were also spotlighted during the show. A man and a woman, sang together and individually too. The man made me think of Miss America with his grandiose voice and performance. Honestly, I think I would have enjoyed more dancing, less signing, but it was well executed and I enjoyed myself.
i returned to the hostel and spent the night waking up to other people coming in at 2:30, 3:30, 4 am to shake the beds and rustle through their crap. I was extremely annoyed and do not understand the lack of courtesy. I mean, obviously, it is a dorm room and their will never be complete quiet, but people should respect other people sleeping if they choose to stay out all night. I arrange my toiletries in the morning so that i can get up and go without rustling my bag. Oh well.
Today, is overcast again, but magnificent. I had a wonderful lunch at the grill, yesterday. The owner made sure that my pasta was spicy--very--and I met an interesing girl from Poland. She speaks polish and german fluently, english and spanish not as much, but still much better than mine. We spoke of traveling and our desire to do more. It was a great day and I definitely could have gotten stuck there with the group of people I met.
Today might be a catch up day since the sleep factor needs to be addressed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

tango tonight....

I finally arranged to go to a Tango show. They will pick me up at the hostel and I will have dinner and the show. I am extremely excited and wished that i had more appropriate attire. My travel clothes are not that great.
I have met several women that have 4 pairs of shoes--trainers, sandals and 2 clubbing type shoes--I do not understand it and i cannot support it. Plus, they have multiple dresses, skirts, lots of things to carry in my opinion. I mean, I even sent some stuff back to the States so how could I support having more clothes to lug around? I think when I get to Phoenix, I might purchase somet new clothes or take some from Jan´s house. My friend has a lot of clothes.
I cannot believe that my trip is winding down. I think about how the countries all varied, yet were essentially the same. Each country has had McDonald´s, KFC, Blockbuster, Electronics Stores, Tire manufacturing and car dealerships from the US. We are everywhere in terms of the services that we provide. I have been on an asian reading fest the last 3 books and they all seem annoyed with the consumerism of the current world. It is interesting to see it in action while I travel.
I am off to the grill, the market and perhaps a siesta. Tonight, should be a late one...

Friday, February 8, 2008

surrounded by Braziliians and full of pizza....

i am so happy that the Italians emigrated to Buenos Aires. I have been blessed by their pizza--seriously.
I found a massage parlor for Monday, which I deserve after the bus that went nowhere. I found this awesome little hole in the wall parilla for tomorrow´s lunch. The owner lived in Miami for 11 years, speaks great english and has chimichurri sauce. i forgot that they offered it here since i haven´t seen it until today. i had 2 glasses of wine for 4 pesos---$1.30--i know, expensive. I had dinner at the best pizza place on Corrientos Avenue and finished with digestion tea at a restaurant near the hostel. I figured that I have had way too much coffee this past month to last me a life time.
I missed jaime and Dain, but understand the timing and desire to go to the Bariloche and really, it is fantastic. I loved my time there.
There was some random spanish speaker at the parilla and he wouldn´t leave me alone. He kept offering to buy me wine and i kept saying--esta bien--and the owner would say, he needs to talk to someone, but I wasn´t about to offer up my spanish services. He looked like a younger version of Dean and Dale, not quite as heavy, but working on it. He was insistent on getting my attention which I have seen them do as well....
Tomorrow, I will go to the Parilla for another conversation with the owner and I hope to check out San Telmo or La Boca. Buenos Aires is magnificent with all of its neighborhoods and people. Otherwise, I will just sleep, catch up on it and enjoy the R & R. Until later. I suppose i could say more, but i don´t have anything to say outside of--I love the free internet, the pizza and the people...

It´s all about the service....

I arrived at the bus station, early, hoping to not be worried about missing my departure. I still was. I asked a guy which bus he was taking and within a few minutes the Flecha Bus came, we jumped into the bus and off we went.
Initially, they put in a DVD and I thought--great, a movie. Instead, it was music videos without house sound and they were from the early 80´s which made it all the better to not have to listen to it. For about an hour and a half, I watched random acts, singing intently into the video screen. We all thought it was pretty funny.
Later, we stopped and they passed out the food which was beef, rice, jello, diced potatoes and bread. i didn´t understand it, but it was more than the granola bars that i still had. Nevertheless, they served pepsi or 7 up and I realized how good my first us service actually was. I mean, they served wine. On this bus, I had crappy food and a horrible video. They played The Brave One, with Jodie Foster and i don´t know about you, but I don´t want to watch someone being bludgeoned to death while i am eating. It seemed graphic and inappropriate for most of the passengers. Again, i was spared the sound, thank god, but still the visual lingered. I found my ipod, plugged it in and slept.
The busses all suck in terms of leg space. The guy in front of me had his bed propped back the entire time and in the morning, they woke me up to see if I wanted to eat. Again, the service lacked, and then I was completely awake. The passenger in front of me, picked his nose or his teeth for about 3 hours. I wanted to kick him since i was so grossed out. Remember his chair reclined back and so I had a up close view of it.
Our bus arrived 3 hours late. My backpack was soaked from the rain and my cabbie was a jerk at first. Then he was better.
I need to quit complaining since i am back in Buenos Aires. i am safe and I can go get some fantastic pizza from the pizzeria around the corner. I thought it was comical how all of the bus services varied for essentially the same price. I hope to go to a Tango Show tomorrow and get a massage too. My legs hurt from the darn bus.
Take care

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The bus back to normalcy

I woke up, checked my e-mail, packed my things and spoke with a couple from Scotland about Chile. They said that it was muy bonita and that the food was more wholesome, meaning not as much sugar or pan de dulce. I must say that I am excited for blander food or perhaps, just not beef or pasta.
Afterwards, I went to coffee with a girl from Holland who knew everything. I went with her since we had agreed to go last night and I hadn´t figured a way out of it. It is frustrating to be around someone that has done everything, knows everything and disagrees constantly with you. She is traveling, solo, and had a wonderful trip with 9 of her sorority can imagine how fantastic this girl is. Plus, apparently in the States, we do not have any outdoor cafes on pedestrian walkways since she has been there and she knows. We met briefly and I walked to the Park here and enjoyed the overcast day. I am awaiting my bus and have decided to stick with the original plan of leaving for Chile next Tuesday. They have peanut butter there and that is what sold me. It isn´t some crazy generic brand either, like Black Cat, from South Africa. Instead, they have Skippy and mexican products in the stores. It is like a return to normalcy.
I stocked up on some fruit for my bus ride in case there is no food service. I am hoping that we will at least have a movie or something to keep me occupied for part of the bus trip.
Take care and tomorrow I am meeting up with Jaime and Dain from Denver for drinks or coffee. It will be great to see a friendly face.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

3rd charm isn´t the charm....

The wine tour today was extremely disappointing. They were 50 minutes late and once I arrived we made one more stop, making the number 17 people. I couldn´t focus and was frustrated.
Our first winery, we went on the tour and drank wine, eventually, in their caves which was cool, but the wine was subpar.
Next, we went to a boutique winery where we did another tour-YUK--and drank 2 samples of wine. I hung out with a couple from Canada that were super fun and friendly. On our trip, there were 11 english speakers and 6 spanish natives. By the 3rd winery, I was ready to slit my wrists on the whole tour bullshit and yet, we did another wine tour with a guide. I was so annoyed, but the girl spoke incredibly fast and then we tried 2 wines in their cellar. I couldn´t believe that I had spent money to listen to 3 wine guides with no wine.
We went to lunch and that made all of the difference. The spread was huge and fun. I drank ample wine and ate cheese, deli meat, vegggies, bread and they brought out tomato empanadas, beef empanadas, sausage and then spaghetti. It was a feast and leisurely. I returned with the intent to take the Dane to have a beer, but took a nap, overslept, and found him enthralled with the British chick. I am absolved from owing him shit!!!
WEll, tomorrow, I return to Buenos Aires and i will not entertain myself with another tour. I cannot. Mendoza isn´t ready for the wine snobs. It is super-hyped and wine isn´t par with what is expected. Overall, I was sorely disappointed and thankful that it was cheap!!!

possible delay....

I am considering delaying my departure to Chile. I really like Argentina and I could change my ticket for a minimal price or skip it completely and surface travel to Chile. It is all being sorted.
I am waiting to be picked up for the big wine tour today. I hope that it is not a disappòintment. I guess that I had high expectations of this region since I was so happy with the quality of South African wines. Granted, I have been on two cheap tours with people that aren´t really interested in wine. I mean, yesterday, the girl from the UK preferred this malbec that was substandard. The American from San Francisco put ice in his wine, a huge no-no in my book and the Aussie just drank to drink as much as she possibly could. It was definitely an experience, but today should be more structured and with quality bodegas, I hope.
I am looking into extending my stay because I can and why not? Plus, Chile is more spendy and I am enjoying the free internet, breakfast and bed for $12 a night--on the high end. We will see.
I went running this morning and it is so freaky since it is so dark until about 8 am. I feel that it is about 5 am when it is 7:30. I figure as long as people are around, I will be fine and there are always people drinking coffee, smoking or bull shitting here.
I wouldn´t mind looking into a spanish class if I stay too. I know that one of the Hostels offer it in Buenos Aires, plus a tango show. It is intriguing.
Yesterday, I had to speak spanish since the Danish guy wouldn´t. It was great to get around outside of ordering food, asking for a bed or bathroom, you know? I now owe him a beer since we were dropped off farther than I had projected, but a beer is a beer. He is going on a climbing adventure and seems to be traveling purely for the sport of it. From his biking skills yesterday I was surprised. However, he was interested in the UK girl which would explain his lack of motivation to peddle faster.
I will update my travel plans when I, myself, know more. If I remain in Argentina, I can go to Uruguay as well. I sort of got caught up in the whole idea of Mendoza and didn´t focus on Uruguay until I ran out of time.
Until later....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bike and Ride or trying to find your way amongst others...

I relocated to a new hostel and the people are nice, mostly english speaking and I decided to go on a wine tour with 5 people. It was unorganized and chaotic from the start.
We got on the #10 Bus which wasn´t the right one, my fault, apparently, there is more than one #10 bus. Then we arrive in Maipu and head to the bike and wine which has plywood leading up to the entrace. It costs 20 pesos for 4 hours and you get a free water. They hand you a map and you are off. The map is inaccurate and confusing. I was with 3 guys--one American, one drunk--I mean, Irish, a Danish guy, a girl from the UK, and an Aussie. I fixed my seat so that I could extend my legs and we were off. It was basically, the blind leading the blind. We got lost, regrouped and then went to a wine museum with wine. We were never approached and so we drank what they had out. Afterwards, I took off with the Aussie since I was tired of waiting around for the pack of them. Mostly, the 3 guys hovered over the girl from the UK and weren´t peddling fast. It was super annoying and I couldn´t believe that I had allowed myself to get stuck like that again.
Eventually, we had lunch which was nice and then we headed 5 km to the last winery. I took off with two of the guys, again, since I didn´t like peddling so slow, but the Aussie is older and not fast on the bike as well as the girl from the UK. They both struggled.
The last winery was lovely and at this point, we ran into a fellow traveler with a car. He could take 4 people with him and so me and Dane got the shaft. We rode the bus back, I practiced my spanish and now I am finally on the internet. I suppose it was a lesson in patience and human nature. I just don´t like riding that slowly. I mean, I could walk faster than they were riding. Plus, it was a safety hazard as we were clogging up the road while cars were trying to pass us. Never again!!!
Tomorrow, I am doing one more organized tour and then I will leave for Buenos Aires on Thursday night. Jaime and Dane from Denver should arrive soon and I will meet up with them in Buenos Aires for a drink or two.
Cheers...enjoy the wine and the weather. Learn spanish and feel comfortable with a map!!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

lame wine tour...

The cheap wine tour was just I was picked up with 17 other people including 3 children and a pregnant lady. I didn´t quite understand that, but it works, I suppose.
We went to the first bodega (winery) and it was a boutique winery. We went on a tour and then tried 2 wines--a malbec and cabernet--that was it. I talked them into letting me try the shiraz, but it was a tough sell. They sell their wines for 18 pesos a bottle, but export them to Kentucky and Kentucky sells them for $60 a bottle. It is the same, exact wine but completely a different price in the States. AFterwards, we went to an olive oil factory and tried some olive oil. I admit it was decent and cheap. Next, we went to a big production winery, did another tour and tried 2 wines again--a chardonnay and a malbec. Again, I felt ripped off and was disappointed. Plus there were so many people and I lost interest at the first winery. I just couldn´t focus on what they were saying in spanish or english. They had a few guides to speak english to us and they rushed through their spiel and then said, that was okay? Of course, it was fine but really, must we go through the wine tour process twice?
We ended at a chocolate factory and it was okay. I decided to either do a wine/bike tour or just drink wine in Argentina. I do not think that I can sit through another wine tour since I have been to quite a few on this trip. It was interesting to hear what they had to say in spanish, though.
Tomorrow, I change hostels and hopefully will go on a wine tour with a company through the preferred hostel. They do groups of 6 which include 3 wineries and lunch. I hope that we try more than 4 small samples of just isn´t worth it otherwise.
Jayhawks play later tonight and I am excited. I think I might be able to watch it. I would love to be able to see my boys play!

The bus and other trivialities....

I forgot that on the Tramat Bus we drove around in circles for 3 hours...not kidding. There was another bus going to Mendoza from Bariloche and they were stopping in a town for an hour and half break. We wondered where we would stop until we arrived in this town with the endless roundabout. Our bus was also a courier service and so seriously, for 3 hours, we remained in the same 5 mile radius. I kept thinking, why don´t they let us out and stretch and they can take care of their business without a busload of people. It doesn´t work that way here.
I went to bed last night and I realized that I really like this hostel. It is quiet, the people are older and they have a bath tub. Each person that came to bed after me, figured out how to get to bed without blinding me with the main light.
This morning, I was quiet as I got up to go running. It doesn´t get light here until about 8 am, though, which is bizarre. Not to mention, that at 7:30 am, about 8 people arrived from partying the night before. They are really up at all hours.
The breakfast is lacking, but the coffee is strong and really, for $10 a night, I cannot complain. I remember paying $29-30 in Australia and thinking what a waste. If you want to travel on a budget, go to Argentina or South Africa. At least you can extend your trip that way.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

lunch for 19 pesos...

I showered and felt like a million dollars. I decided to check out the town and stopped at an Italian joint for lunch. I ordered vermicelli with tomato sauce and a glass of wine. I swear.
After 10 minutes the waitres brought me a bottle of wine and I didn´t stop her since i didn´t know how to say it spanish. Instead, I let her open the bottle and figured that I would deal with the consequences later. She brought me bread and my spaghetti. I slowly ate it with my book from the Americans from Minnesota. When I asked for my check, I had no idea what the amount would be. It was 19 pesos or $6. Can you believe it?
I went to the Tourist office and got two tourist maps of mendoza. I figure that I might bike around the area instead of just taking tours. I watched a family eat pizza at a local restaurant and was fascinated by them since their daughter had Down´s syndrome and she was innocent, so happy and playful. She kept saying--esto es miyo---this is mine. I gave her my menu to add to her collection.
The couple from Minnesota were at the Tourist office and we had another great conversation about life and traveling. I hope to meet up with them before I return to Buenos Aires.
Traveling has been fantastic and I have really been fortunate to meet some interesting people. I can´t believe that my trip is almost over.
Watch out for strangers...

Rated PG 13

I arrived in Mendoza and had not planned for a hostel. I figured that since it was a Sunday, I shouldn´t have much difficulty finding a bed...i was wrong. I walked to the Hosteling International place and the chick told me to come back at 1 to see if they had any beds available--translation--no help here for you.
Keep in mind, I had just gotten off a bus that I had been on since 1 pm the day before. Plus, this bus service wasn´t like the other. True, the seats reclined, but the leg issue hadn´t changed. There was no tv, no music and only a small snack when we started. I didn´t know that they did not provide full service since I assumed that all first class busses were the same. As a result, my ride was not as smooth, but i had granola bars and water. My first bus served too much food and so I didn´t eat lunch knowing that they would serve lunch on the bus early in the service.
I arrived in Mendoza, cramped and tired. My knees were cramped,not my ankles this time. It doesn´t make much difference, though, I was uncomfortable.
After I left the bad hostel in search of LAO hostel, which was highly recommended, a car stopped next to me and said something, but I didn´t hear it. I stepped closer and said--Que--and looked at him and realized that he had said--te gusta--(do you like?) and that he was naked from the waist down. I was revulted and shocked and said no! and walked away. Of course, I thought of a stream of obscenities that I could yell once I collected my senses. It was another typical, this could only happen to me moment. I mean, thank god he didn´t try to do more and I fear for the children-teenagers-adults that this man shows his pecker to. No one wants to see it. I feel so violated....
I found a hostel and arranged a wine tour for tomorrow morning. I will relocate to my hostel on choice--Lao--on Tuesday. They are booked solid until then.
Mendoza started off scary, but it is partially my fault. I figure it is natural to stop when someone talks to you unless they say te gusta, te amo or some other stupid phrase in english or spanish. I feel fortunate that I was never exposed to that sort of behavior as a child. I mean, this was a bald older man in a crappy car intent on showing me his hoo ha...YUK!!!
I am off to find food and sleep. I need it. The showers here are insane. I couldn´t get any cold water, only hot. I met some great people on the bus last night from Minnesota. They are traveling for 5 months in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador. I envy their trip.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

lagos de sur

The tour to El Tornador Mountain was fantastic. At first, I was a little put off since the tour was completely in Spanish, but then I figured this is amazing practice for me. I understand most of the words, but I cannot respond. I understood most of what Jacqueline spoke of and she was very considerate of the fact that I only spoke english. We did 3 mini hikes which I would have preferred more hiking, less photos, but in the end, the black glacier was awe-inspring. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Plus, we drank mate´ and I had a nice time meeting people from Puerto Rico, Holland, Spain, Italy and Argentina. There was one other guy who wasn´t a native speaker and I ended up having conversations in english with all of them. The couple from Holland is traveling for 60 days on a route that I just completed and then we compared things to do. This guy love Fiji and I pointed out that parts of the Rio Mandoso looked like kava due to the color of the river. The pictures will explain everything.
Afterwards, I went to dinner with Lorenzo, the Italian, to a vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant opened at 8, we arrived at 8:30 and no one else entered until 9:30 pm. It is different to eat so late, but it is their culture.
Today, I leave for Mendoza and I am glad that I came in and decided to take the tour. I forgot to mention that I gave them my ipod for music so that we could listen to Mana´. The driver liked my selection and we ended up driving to the other hikes listening to DUran Duran and Elton John. It was odd and yet nostalgic at the same time. At the end of the tour we listened to some random 80´s CD that he actually had. Most everyone around the world knows American music, even if it is shitty music at points.
My bus ride will be long and awful, but I should wake up in Mendoza.
On a side note...Happy Birthday Jennifer Ogden. I hope you are skiing again this year and if you aren´t, I hope that you are happy. I enjoyed showing you parts of Denver last year for the big one!!! I would like it if you came back to see more of Denver....

Friday, February 1, 2008

the day of the trek

It never got dark here last night until about 10 and this morning, as a result of that, my sense of morning was completely off. I am not a huge fan of running in the dark either and so I slept in and enjoyed the cold. There were 3 girls in my room that didn´t have much sense of courtesy or respect when it came to other people sleeping. They showed up at 10 and it took them an hour and a half to get ready and when they left, they left the lights on. I was awoken at 3 am to them returning and I was hugely annoyed, but figured that it would only be one night and so I could survive.
Bariloche is beautiful and very similar to the vibe of Vail. There are many retired traveling along with the display of Americans, too. The prices are more expensive here, but they do have a plethora of chocolate shops. Gretchen recommended Mamushka and I found it yesterday and it was pretty great. I still have a piece of chocolate for the conclusion of my trek.
I went to the other hostel in town that is owned by the same company since they only have book exchange at that one. I went in, confident that I would be able to find something and was disappointed. Not only did they not have much of a selection, they wanted me to give them 2 books in exchange for one of theirs. I wasn´t about to depart with 2 of my bargaining chips and so I found a used book store with about 50 english language fiction books and purchased a book for 5 pesos...almost $3. I felt I could handle that exchange and might even return today for another go.
Well, enjoy the snow and I will be thinking of you when I am trekking in the sun.