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Sunday, May 29, 2011

As time winds down....

 Last Sunday I  found out the hard way that in this pretty religious country most everything is closed on Sunday. I went to get something to eat at 8pm (not THAT late right?) and EVERYTHING was closed! The only thing I could eat was at that horrid global corporation we like to call McDonald's the only good thing about this is that Maccas has a standard of crappiness no matter where in the world you are haha. It is frustrating when that is your only choice though! I have noticed that Colombia actually has very high food standards. When they are cooking your food they are required to wear masks as to not get you sick. They have great food here and I have had some great meals for less than 3 dollars.

I also managed to see an amazing underground salt mine that they actively mine salt out of but for some reason they decided to build an entire church under the ground! It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen you should check out my pictures on facebook. In addition to this I got to go to a place above Bogotá via cable car called Monserrate and it was a (rare) beautiful day and I had an amazing overview of the entire city (again check my pictures on facebook)

Bogotá actually has a really modern really great city bus system called Transmelinio they are large double busses like two busses connected together that can seat 45 people sitting and 150 standing (according to the card on the door) but there is always like 487 people in there haha. That I would change, and I would also change the fact that everyone enters and exits from the same points so there is a lot of crowding. But it is 75 cents USD for a ticket to anywhere and the busses have their own lanes so no traffic! It's great :)  Taxis are also a great cheap option. The most expensive fare I paid was 11 USD and that was for an hour in a taxi! You can get anywhere cheaply and quickly and the drivers were for the most part very nice to me and honest I know I never got ripped off because their meter has a number that they read from a card to see how much to charge you and they have to show you the card. i.e. 148 is 8000 pesos (4 USD).  I also got to practice my spanish with them.

I really wanted to see a soccer game in Colombia but unfortunately for me it was the finals so tickets were sold out and the scalpers were charging me triple the price so I said no. I have come to find out there is a few "levels" of police here in Colombia. There is the private security guards who just have a baton and nothing else and basically stand around. Then, there is the policia who actually have guns and look fairly intimidating they are all very nice but I am sure you don't want to mess with them. The next level up is police who walk around with very big scary dogs that I am quite sure will rip your face off.

Luckily every one of these dogs I saw had a muzzle on. The final level is the "Policia Nationale" and the general army. These guys have automatic assault rifles and I got the impression they shoot first and ask questions later. These guys were dead serious.
The Policia Nationale were the ones at the soccer game, they were all armed to the teeth. So I got the feeling that those games get pretty routy. There was people (and police everywhere) maybe it was better I didn't go haha. But, I survived without a scratch and got the Transmelinio back home.

Many people in South America and Asia have very common birth defects that would be fixed at birth in westernized countries or even detected prenatally. But, in those countries they just don't know about it or they can't do anything about it so people live with these common problems and struggle through life and have to beg because these countries also don't have any social security programs so it is every man for himself. It is quite sad actually because there is nothing I can really do for these people as a traveler besides give them the change I have in my pocket. Some of the beggars are really creative though I have mentioned many street performers/beggars I saw in Australia/New Zealand but in Colombia I saw a full on total cheerleading perforance in the middle of traffic! Two guys and a girl were doing flips and stuff in the middle of the intersection! One of the craziest things I have ever seen!

I had an amazing three course dinner with some great great helado (icecream) a bottle of wine and the whole romantic deal for me and my date for 60 bucks USD. It was quite the deal and I knocked her socks off for cheap. We had a live band there and then a movie for 6 dollars for dos boletos (2 tickets). Que Paso Ayer Parte Dos (The hangover 2) was super funny! I loved my time in Colombia it was one of my favourite countries so far and I had an amazing time! Thanks so much to both my hosts and all the people I met and too all the people who helped me out! :)

Until next time,Tyler

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

I know there is culture shock when you go to a new culture (I have even experienced it myself) what I didn't realise until recently is that there is reverse culture shock when you go home! In a short time I will be going home for the first time since 2009. I figured I would write this now while I have a good Internet connection. I wanted to try and explain myself via my blog so please bear with me. I want to be clear right from the very start that I have amazing friends and family who I love very much and who love me. I could have never done this without their support and none of that has ever changed for me nor will it ever.

That being said, I want to talk about what I am feeling. I am slightly scared to come home. Nervous that things won't be the same, people won't be the same (I am not the same person as when I left because I have grown, learning from so many experiences I have had in 2 years) or on the flip side of the coin maybe I am scared everyone at home hasn't changed much and I have.

I am scared I won't be able to relate to people at home, we won't be on the same "level", conversation will be hard because I have been all over the world on this adventure and they haven't. I really have fallen in love with this life style. My life is on my back and I am not tied to anything. When I don't like somewhere or something I get up and go. Sure I have worked and had jobs (and worked hard) but my life has been anything but "routine" for the past two years.

I have fallen in love with the feeling that this world is a big place to explore and that I can do it. I have been to many countries in this time away and I have seen and done many many amazing things and I have been so so lucky to do so. These travels have forever changed my perspective on life and I am so grateful I made the choice to do this because my life is better for it.

When I do get home you might notice some differences, My core personality is the same. My accent is the same but things like my vocabulary and spelling have changed. I am still "American" and certainly a Texan but you are going to have to bear with me. If I say something you don't understand ask me to translate haha. I just worry that being home is going to make me so restless I will start going crazy! I worry that I won't be able to go back to my "old" life and be happy.

For those of you who have seen the movie The Hurt Locker and remember the scene near the end of the movie where the soldier gets home and he is grocery shopping and just walking up and down the aisles staring at nothing. He can't adjust to "normal" life. Life as a soldier is all he knows. Of course I haven't been to war but I feel that I can parallel this feeling.

It is strange to even be writing this. I never expected not to be 1000% ready to come home and be totally happy. I am as surprised as you that I have so fallen in love with my current life style but at this moment in time I can honestly say that I am 100% happy right here right now sitting here in Bogotá Colombia. Basically what I am saying is I need you to bear with me while I adjust back to life of a normal person. I need you to realise that I may have the overwhelming desire to leave again and I need you to realise that I DO care about each and every person in my life back home and abroad this is just a new experience for me. I am trying to deal with this.

If you ask me "What is the best thing you did in your trip" that is going to be very hard for me to answer because I have been lucky enough to see and do MULTIPLE amazing things. If you ask me "how was your trip" you need to be prepared for a long answer! It was two years of my life remember! I don't want to feel like a stranger in my own home and country but right now I do so I am asking for your help to help me adjust.

One last thing, I don't write this to be all "high and mighty" and tell you how amazing my life is and what I have seen and done. I have had shitty days too, normal days, gone to work 9-5. I am still a normal person I just travel. I know your lives haven't been on hold waiting for me to come home. I am quite sure your lives have been great too I just need to get these emotions out the best way I know how. My one year adventure in Australia has turned into a two year multi country adventure so my life is different than I ever expected but I don't regret a thing and I hope you don't either.

This blog may sound very negative to you. It may sound like me whining about coming home but I felt that I needed to write this. I really am looking forward to eating a meal hand cooked by my mother and seeing my family and sharing a Shiner Bock with all my awesome friends back home. I am just not looking forward to everything else that goes along with "normal"" life. I hope yall can understand where I am coming from and I hope I expressed myself correctly. I do feel bad that I don't feel "ready" to come home and I wish I could continue traveling even now but, it is how I feel.

Thanks for listening and I hope you understand. -Tyler

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Random Colombia Observations

I thought while I had the time I would mention a few random observations I have made about South America in general. South American drivers in general are VERY VERY impatient. I mean seriously impatient! They will honk at you even BEFORE the light turns green! If you are getting out of a taxi and trying to pay the driver they will honk. They honk at anything! Back home if someone honks it is a warning and you usually pay attention. They honk so much here for everything you just tend to tune it all out. That is why you have to be really careful crossing the street haha.

South America and Asia,third world countries in general would just be hell for a person in a wheel chair or a person with disabilities. To be fair to these countries they are just too poor to afford proper infrastructure so it isn't totally theit faults but the sidewalks are all cracked and uneven (if there is any sidewalk) the roads rarely have proper crosswalks the doorways and entryways are small and there is rarely elevator/escalators. I am really thankful that I can walk properly and don't have any major disabilities and I sure hope it stays that way and I really feel sorry for people who live in these countries who do have them.

These countries are too poor to afford proper social service programs (social security etc) so the poor are left to fend for themselves. I usually will give whatever change I have to a poor person because they need it more than me. It doesn't cost me much and it makes me feel good. There is a few kinds of poor people though. The ones who just sit there with a sign or in silence and expect you to just give them money. Then there is the ones that pull at your clothes and beg you and ask you for money (its annoying). Then there are others who are offering some kind of talent for your money and that is sometimes interesting and entertaining. There are still others who are generally hard up and need your help or people who pretend to be and aren't really but they are just lazy and want your money. It happens all over the world I have found in every country I have been too. 

Another thing I noticed is the massive quantity of late night street food. It is usually pretty good and if you make sure they heat/cook everything properly you are generally ok. I have had some really amazing street food and some really bad street food but only once have I got sick. In Asia/South America after a night out at the bar or the club they don't have a Walmart or gas station you can run into and grab something cheap so they have cheap street food. For less than a dollar you can usually get semi full and they cater to alcohol induced people lol. They are open all hours of the night and I have eaten some really strange but good things. Nothing has killed me so far and I love eating local food and cheap food and trying new things and not eating touristy expensive crap I can get at home.

The last thing I wanted to mention was third world showers and toilets and general bathroom facilities. You probably don't think about this at home ( I know I didn't when I was home) but I certainly do now. I have had many many showers with no hot water, many showers with trickling water,many showers with water that stops flowing RIGHT as the shampoo is in my eyes lol. I have used toilets with no running water and only a bucket or no bucket at all and only a hole in the ground. I have used toilets with no toilet paper or you can only throw the toilet paper in a trashcan or there is a hose to squirt yourself with instead of any toilet paper. I have used many toilets with no toilet seat and you just have to squat. Many many gross bathrooms (even when you have to pay for them they are gross lol)

Basically what I am saying is don't take the little conveniences of life you have at home for granted. Think about people in third world countries who don't even have the option. Oh ya! I almost forgot! I had the most amazing lunch today for just over 4 USD and it was huge! I had basically what was ground beef,with a fried egg,rice,fried banana,another form of some kinda of meat product lol, Then I had some sausage and some more brisket kind of thing PLUS baked beans/ranch style bean soup. The soup was by far my favourite and it tastes JUST like something my dear mother makes :) I am so full right now I couldn't eat another bite lol. Next week I will visit all the places I have been meaning to visit so far and pick up my laundry haha.

Tyler over and out from Bogotá.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Colombia Adventures Continue

I know its been a while since I have written so I thought I would give yall an update. Colombia is still super awesome for me and by far my favourite country in South America (even if it is the rainy season right now :(   ) it rains all the time! An umbrella is a must! I have been here in the capital city of Bogotá and made some great friends thru CS (couch surfing). Everyone has been SUPER nice! Colombia has a really bad reputation on an international level and there isn't that many tourists here and that is really sad. People judge this country before they come here for themselves and see it! I know that the people who live here know that so they try extra hard to disprove the notion that every person in Colombia is a criminal.

I have had nothing but good experiences here thus far, it doesn't mean that I still don't act smart and stay on my toes I just know that not everyone is out to get me. I can walk at night in (most) parts of the city and feel totally fine. I know the parts to avoid so I do. They use pesos here and there is 2000 pesos in 1 USD. So obviously when you buy certain things the amounts can get pretty large. Not only that but the numbers are obviously in Spanish and not English so I tend to struggle with the larger numbers even though I am fine with knowing how much money to give for smaller amounts.

The other day I went to pay for something I thought was roughly 30 USD so I gave the guy that much money in pesos. I didn't see a problem with it because I thought that was the price but, the price was actually around 13 USD. So this guy could have totally robbed me and taken more money than was required but he pointed out my mistake to me and gave me my correct change. I am sure most people would do this around the world but I just wanted to make it clear that in Colombia they do the same.

I have been taking day trips in and out of Bogotá and around (I usually don't go further than 4-5 hours away with friends and then come back) and so far I have seen some amazing places and beautiful landscapes. Much of Colombia is still very Catholic and religious and has a lot of Spanish Colonial influence. There is many plazas and old buildings and church's and almost every street is cobblestone and not concrete. Here in Bogotá though there is a big military/police presence and they are all armed to the teeth. It makes me feel safer for sure but on the flip side of the coin I have a feeling that I would NOT want to mess with any of these guys/girls because they all have automatic rifles. Thus far I have had zero problems with the military/police. As a tourist they just leave me be and they are even really helpful if you need directions or something.

Most of these soldiers look quite young but I am sure they are competent and trained well. There is a bigger presence of armed guards etc near the president's house obviously but it is quite a large neat building I am hoping to tour it in the near future! Also, I want to go to a look out point that overlooks all of Bogotá and a church made totally out of salt! Another thing I have noticed is that there is a ton of motorbikes here and every rider is required to wear a helmet and hi-vis vest. In addition to this they must have their license plate number painted onto their helmets. I am assuming its so if they get knocked off their bike for some reason the police can identify them or so they can see it easier at night. Either way I think its a smart idea. I wish America would implement a helmet law. Its proven to save lives and it makes me mad that people are stupid enough not to wear them then they get hurt and my tax dollars have to help pay for an unnecessary hospital visit.

I got bit by a dog recently. First time in 2 years traveling I have ever been bit by a dog. This dog was growling as I was walking (it was someone's pet tied up) but I have walked by probably 1000 dogs in multiple countries in these 2 years who have growled at me and done nothing so I didn't think anything of it. I was with my friend and she was walking out of reach of the dog. But, this dog was just not happy. Before I knew it he bit my leg!

Luckily I was wearing jeans and he didn't get thru them much. I checked and there was a tooth mark but it wasn't deep at all. Much as if you bumped your leg against the table and scraped it or something. Just to be on the safe side I washed it out with alcohol/soap and water and then went to get checked out to see if I needed the Rabies shots. ( I was NOT looking forward to that as they are expensive and painful I have heard) but Rabies can kill you untreated so it was worth it to go get checked out.
I went with my friend so she could translate and the doctor's said I didn't need the shots. They said even if the dog had rabies (which I doubt) the cut was so small and not deep enough to infect me so I should be fine. But if I start foaming at the mouth I will let you know :P

I have tried a lot of amazing food and drinks here. I have had meat/potatoes/other stuff wrapped up in a huge banana leaf that was so yummy! I have had traditional Colombian soup that had avocados and other stuff in it. it was called Ajiaco. I have had Colombia's version of a hot dog (that is interesting hehe) amazing Chocolate milk-ish kinda stuff,some great coffee and I have had some great national beers plus a fermented corn alcohol drink. It was called Chicha Everything is cheap here and I can eat a full meal for less than 3 USD!

I recently moved hosts and she is a really cool girl :) I like her a lot. Her English isn't 100% but nor is my Spanish. We communicate in 50% Spanish and 50% English. It is working so far. Actually I prefer it, staying at her place I am forced to speak more Spanish and improve my Spanish and she is here to correct me. I also help her with her English. I have always heard the best way to learn a language is to get a boyfriend/girlfriend who speaks that language and live with them. I can totally believe that because my Spanish has much improved since staying here! There is many museums in this historic district where she lives. I have been to the Fernado Botero  Museum. It was free which was great. There was security guards in every room! They were nice and helpful though.

He is a really famous Colombian painter but he has the weird obsession of painting everything fat. I mean huge. He mostly paints fruit and people but he ALWAYS makes them very large like overly obese people. It is strange but fascinating at the same time. His other quirky thing is that when he paints a woman nude he paints her always with armpit hair. But, he also has painted some serious stuff too. Ten years ago the violence was much worse here in Colombia (Now it is isolated to other parts of the country most bordering Venezuela in the jungles) anyway he painted a picture of a car bombing but he painted in such a way that the whole thing looks like a cartoon. I am sure it was based on real events but I think he wanted to "soften" the image. He is an interesting fellow. I also saw my first real Picasso picture up close and personal in real life. He was also an interesting fellow.

One last thing, a few cities here in South America don't have any street names only numbers. Bogotá is one of them.  At first it was confusing to me but now it is easy and I wish every city was like this. You don't need a map ever you just need to understand how the number system works. There is one set of numbers called Carrea and a second set of numbers called Calle. So say I need to be at Carrea 11 and Calle 2. All I have to do is find my way to there (the numbers go up numerically and Carreas are from North to South and Calle's from East to West) and then there is a 3rd number of the actual person's house/business whatever. Its easy peasy.

Also today I managed to eat lunch and buy a shirt and 2 pairs of socks all for 8 USD :) I tried one of the weirdest things I have ever eaten as well. It was a waffle ish kinda thing called oblea (it was harder than a waffle and almost like a communion cracker. In the middle it had arequipe and chocolate sauce and cream and cheese (not cream cheese and cherry sauce) it was weird and wonderful. I also had an enormous portion of helado (ice cream) that was basically like a bowl of ice cream but instead of a bowl it was a huge waffle cone. It was amazing and so so good! It cost me less than 5000 pesos, that is just over 2 USD!  I love the ice cream here and the fresh fruit juice. I have never been so healthy in my life haha. Almost everyday I have jugos naturales or some fresh fruit and it is so so cheap and good! I will really miss it when I have to leave South America.

Well that's all I got for now. As soon as I can get my hands on some sort of a camera I will take some pictures of this beautiful country for yall :) Until next time,Tyler

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How I survived Colombia with 2 dollars

I have heard great things about Colombia from multiple people while traveling and I was really excited to come here but I must admit once I got here I let all the negative stuff get to me. I was VERY anxious (more than I have have been in any country) and the first day I didn't barely leave my couch surfing hosts house at all. It is true that Colombia in the past has been one of the most dangerous countries in the world and due to the Cocaine industry here and other things there was lots of drugs wars and kidnappings/killings. But, in the past ten years a lot of things have improved! The second day I realised that I could stay shut in and live in fear of Colombia the whole time and not enjoy anything here (Thanks CNN) or I could go outside and enjoy myself and stay positive and realise that not everyone in Colombia is wanting to kill me and/or rob me.

So on my second day I ventured out. You know what? I didn't get robbed or murdered! This isn't to say that you shouldn't be careful because you should but just know that you shouldn't always believe everything you hear on the news. Thus far in Colombia I have had nothing but good experiences! Everyone has been so so nice to me. This is one of the friendliest countries I have ever visited. My couch surfing host has been awesome to me and totally taken care of me and I have had multiple couch surfers show me around the city!

Everything was going swimmingly until I realised NONE of my bank cards/credit cards are working here in Colombia! Not my credit card or my Aussie/American ATM cards. I called my bank and they can't figure it out all they can do is send me a new card that will take more than a week. Well obviously I have money in my accounts but I cant access any of it! At this point I had left Bogotá with some couch surfing friends I met so I wasn't even in Bogotá (the capital city of Colombia) when I found out my cards didn't work! They covered my expenses for the first day but after that they didn't have anymore money to do so. I don't blame them and really thank them for doing that I know its hard when you don't have a lot of money. 

They gave me enough money to get bus fare back to Bogotá but after I paid the bus fare I was left with 4000 pesos (2 USD!) so by the time I got to the terminal I was alone and only had 2 dollars. Thank God I speak at least basic Spanish. My Spanish is not great by any means but it was good enough for me to let a guy understand that none of my bank cards worked and I only had 2 dollars. This guy was the shop keeper at a phone/internet store.

You know what he did? He gave me a free drink and took my bags and told me to come sit down. Then he let me use his phone and internet all for free. Ask yourself how many people you know who would do all that for a stranger?! Well he did and I am forever grateful. I used the time to call my couch surfer here in Bogotá and he was with his family hanging out but he came with his mother and her husband in rush hour traffic to come get me and take me back to his place to stay, again out of the pure kindness of his heart! There is good people all over the world and my bad experiences I can count on one hand even after two years traveling but I would need 1000 hands to count all my good ones! So it could have ended up really really badly for me but hopefully soon I will get money via Western Union from home and all will be well. I have been in a few hairy situations over the past two years but this has by far been the worst. Luckily it should all be ok and if I can survive this I can survive anything!

I wanted to mention something else important. Sometimes in life you meet people who pass thru your life that you really connect with but due to whatever circumstances you just don't get the time with that person you would like to get to know them. As a traveler this tends to happen a lot more than if you were just at home doing your thing. It has happened to me before and I am sure it will happen again. I just wanted to tell you about my most recent experience. I met a girl at the airport in Brazil and she was from NJ. She spoke English and so did haha so we had that connection right away.

I talked to her in the terminal and we had a really good time. But, sadly she didn't get to sit next to me for our six hour flight. I saw her as we exited the plane and we started up again right where we left off. I planned to see her once I cleared customs etc. But, I got held up as usual lol. By the time I got out she was gone. She was just in Bogotá for three days on business. I was honestly really quite sad that I didn't get to see her again to say bye/exchange contact details. I really felt that we had a good time together and I was sad it had to end like that.

But there is a semi happy ending to this story. Through some seriously impressive detective work she managed to find me on facebook! (I had jokingly showed her my messed up passport lol) and she remembered my name! So we connected again online and got to talk more. She has left Bogotá now and is back home, its a shame I didn't get to see her again but I have a good feeling our paths will cross again one day in the future!

So always treasure the experiences you have with people in life and don't take any for granted and realise that just because someone passes thru your life doesn't mean that it is a meaningless thing or it doesn't mean you wont see them ever again!

Tyler over and out from Bogotá, Colombia.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buenos Aires Post Robbery/Bogota

So post robbery I had basically no money because the thief got away with my ATM card. LUCKILY I had my "main wallet" at home so basically all he got was a little cash, my drivers license and that ATM card. I called and canceled the card but that still left me stranded with basically no money until I could transfer my funds to my other bank account. I thought that would go fairly smoothly but there was a mess up so I am STILL without much cash at all but, on the bright side I called today and finally got it all sorted and soon I will be good as gold again as long as I don't get robbed again.

I should also mention a special shout out to my semi saviour in human form. Sean-Ryan Mccray. One of the coolest dude's I have met! I met him randomly at a couch surfing event in Buenos Aires and we hit it off pretty well so we started hanging out. He is from California and moved to B.A. to work for a year. Once he found out I got robbed he took me into his house and let me crash there for free and not only that but he shouted me everything and paid for all my stuff, food,drinks,everything (just a loan because I paid him back) but regardless I think that is totally awesome and not many people would do that but he did it without blinking an eye after knowing me less than a week! I really owe him big time and there still is really good people in this world.

Not only that but once I got robbed I pleaded my case to the taxi driver to take me to the airport and he took me there for half off the normal fare. I have had many many random acts of kindness in South America and around the world and I appreciate every one of them. I have had random tour guides and people just genuinely being nice. It really restores your faith in humanity.

SR and I and his cool roommate Justin went to see a live drum performance (South American/African) style and it was amazing! There was a huge crowd and everyone was going wild and it was so much fun, one of the coolest things I have seen in South America so far! Well that pretty much closed out my time in Buenos Aires on a good note.

After flying from Buenos Aires to Brazil (but I couldn't leave the airport) I really really needed to use the Internet to sort my bank stuff and such but I didn't have money to pay for it. But, I randomly started chatting up two guys, one from Iraq and the other from Ghana and they let me use their computers and Internet time all for free. Again just out of the kindness of their hearts. They were good dudes and I wish them the best. I didn't even get their names. After that, I met a girl on the plane who is American and here for work in Bogotá and we really hit it  off so I am sure I will see her again before she leaves. Soon some of my friends from Buenos Aires arrive here too! Now I am safe and sound at my new host's house and all is well as can be. He is a doctor so I am hoping he can sort me out for meds and help me kick this cold!

Bogotá seems like a beautiful friendly place and thus far I have no reason to believe otherwise. Tomorrow I am meeting a whole group of new couch surfers who just offered to show me around the city for free! So don't believe everything you see on CNN.

That's all I got for now. Til next time,Tyler

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Robbed in B.A.

Had a good night last night almost all night. I went out with some friends I met here in Buenos Aires and we had fun at the club. It was all fun until we were walking home and some dude bumped into me.

I had my wallet lifted out of my front right pants pocket and stolen from me in less than 5 seconds. Luckily he only got 100 bucks USD,my drivers license and my eftpos/atm/bank card. Everything else is safe in my other wallet at home. I canceled the card and I am transferring whats left of my money to another bank account anyway. The police didn't do anything for me but its ok. There isn't much they could do anyway.

I do respect that guy's talent though. I had no idea he reached into my pocket until he was long gone. If there was a pickpocket Olympics I bet he would win. This is the first time I have ever been stolen from like this but I am alive and he really didn't do that much damage to me.

Shit happens huh? such is life but I am glad I am with friends here who will help me out and the next crap wallet I buy will have a chain on it! I am actually surprised with the amount I travel and the places I have been it has taken me this long to get robbed like this. My luck just ran out but you live and learn and move on. -Ty

Friday, May 06, 2011

La Plata

I think when I last left you Ben and I were settling into B.A. City life since then we have had a lot happen! Somehow I let Ben convince me to take Tango lessons haha. I am a horrible dancer and to be honest he really had to pull my leg to get me to go. I showed up without a partner and everyone was all coupled up and no one really looked like they spoke English (the instructors certainly didn't) and we had to pay to get in. All of that just really had me in a defeatist mood and I wanted to leave right away.

But, I stayed. Boy am I glad I stayed! I couldn't understand a word of what the instructor guy was saying (he spoke really fast) but I watched his feet. After a bit I learned the basic moves. (Left,Forward,Forward,Stop,Forward once more then Right) Pretty simple huh? I managed to get myself a really pretty girl as a partner and I was off to the races. About half way thru the lesson I was really honestly enjoying myself and not doing to horrible at this tango!

The girl tried to talk basic conversation with me and usually I can handle basic stuff pretty well in Spanish but something happened to me and all of my Spanish failed me! I felt like I had honey in my mouth and I could not put two words together for the life of me. I felt so stupid and it was frustrating.... You really should never take basic simple communication for granted because when you can't do it, it is super hard and frustrating. I think it had something to do with how pretty she was :P

Long story short, I am really glad Ben forced me to go and glad I stayed because while I hated it at first by the end of the night I really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new in the Tango Capital of the World :)

Earlier in that day I went into a pharmacy to buy some contact solution and I had no idea where to find it or how to ask for it in Spanish. No one there seemed to speak English and I just could not find it at all! But then I heard someone speak English (when you are in a country where they don't speak your language it is amazing how quickly you can pick it up when someone speaks English) So this lady was there from New Jersey with her family and she helped me find contact solution. She was very nice and helpful and I really appreciated it and not only that but, we randomly saw her again as we were getting off the subway a whole 24 hours later. In a city of 8 million people that is pretty amazing!

Speaking of the Subway, the Subway system in B.A. Is quite good and really cheap but man is it ever crowded! There is always tons and tons of people on there and there is constantly people trying to beg for money and/or sell you something that gets a little annoying. On the “Line B” of the subway (Subte is Subway in Argentina) there is one train car that we rode on that is so so old! The oldest one I have ever seen. The doors are not automatic you have to open and close them yourself and it is semi open air and made out of wood! Pretty wild huh? But it gets you where you need to go.

We have been involved in Couch Surfing here in Buenos Aires and last night Ben and I wanted a proper Argentian steak dinner (supposed to be some of the best in the world) for our last night together in B.A. We went to a restaurant recommended to us by a friend with some other couch surfers and for 25 USD I got one of the best steaks I have ever had in my life plus a side dish and some beer and I was a happy man. There is no way you could have had that meal back in the US for the price we paid and we really had a great time with great friends. Everyone in Argentina has been nothing but nice to us! I have met a really cool guy from America and a really cool girl from California here and we have also had some great CS hosts here in Argentina.

Today Ben and I split up. I wont see him again now until he comes to Texas in July. We have had a good run together, always good times him and I. He really is one of my best friends. He left for some amazing waterfalls on the border of Argentina/Brazil and I am now in La Plata couch surfing here about an hour outside of Bs As (Buenos Aires city centre. My bus was late leaving for La Plata but I had a really nice lady help me out who didn't speak a lick of English but we managed to work it out together (the bus left from a different terminal than they originally assigned) Then once I actually got to La Plata I had a few issues finding my new hosts house but I had another really nice girl help me out on the street and even though we don’t really speak the same language she actually escorted me all the way to the doorstep of where I needed to go. I love the random acts of kindness you find around the world in every culture.

In less than a week I fly to Bogotá Colombia and I am excited to continue my adventure there. I had talked to multiple people here personally who say it is one of the most beautiful friendly countries in the world and people go out of their way to be nice to you there and show you a good time to prove that the media reports don't have to be right. I will be couch surfing there as well. To jump back to B.A. For a bit I have a few last things to add. Just as in the rest of South America they have amazing Helado here (icecream) most of you know how much of an ice cream fan I am and I love trying it around the world. Buenos Aires has a chain here called Freddo and they have great ice cream! Some of the best I have ever had. Buenos Aires is also the first city I have ever been too in the world that has sponsored street signs. It will say (insert street name and number here) and then above all the street information it will say Nokia or Claro or some other company that paid for the sign and every sign has it! Weird huh?

In every country we have visited so far there has been political unrest. There was picketing signs in Chile and Peru with people marching and in Bolivia there was flat out riots. Here in Argentina there is strikes and picketing as well. South America as a continent just doesn't seem very happy right now. It is really interesting because in my experience with Thailand and other countries how this seems to go is the people as a whole get really angry over something like bad pay or something and they mobilize and stand up to the government and the government tolerates it for a while then steps in and usually crushes it all violently with people ending up dead. It is quite sad actually.

In America we have our fair share of problems and people do get angry with the government but I never really hear of riots or huge protests like they have here and certainly the government doesn't step in and start killing people. I guess generally speaking back home people as a whole don't care enough to protest in large numbers and our government never feels the need to step in or change anything so everything just stays as is. Well hopefully South and North America can work their respective issues out and everything will be peachy because there is much more to life than having to argue with your own elected government.

My new host here in La Plata actually had a party in my honour I was totally blown away! She made a cake and everything! All of her friends are really cool here and everyone was nice. There was a lot of Spanish being spoken that I didn't catch but they did manage to translate most of it for me. The Spanish here in Argentina is a lot different from anywhere else we have been and it is much harder for me to understand. They love to had a “Sch” sound to lots of words. Here in B.A. Americans are called “Schyankees” a play off of Yankees I am assuming. My new host Sole was nice enough to personally show me around town and take me on a tour.

We went to a huge cathedral here in La Plata. Also, in La Plata they have an all numerical system for the streets. No names only numbers. It is really quite easy to figure out once you get used to it and the whole city is laid out in a big grid. I have never come across this before and it was odd at first but actually quite handy! The only one bigger than this that I have seen in my life was the one in Cologne Germany. They both are massive! We took the lift to the top and the views were really impressive! She has given me a lot of history of the area and helped me a lot. It was really nice of her to do all this for me. Since being in Argentina I have had to get used to kissing men on the cheek. When I moved to New Zealand and got active in Couch Surfing there I got used to kissing girls on the cheek because there was a lot of foreign girls there from Europe who did it as a hello/goodbye greeting.

It was weird for me at first as we don't do that in America but I eventually got used to it. Argentina is the first country in the world that I have visited where men kiss men on the cheek as a greeting too. Women do it, men do it, everyone does it. It is just normal for them and and it means nothing really just a hello but I am still getting used to kissing all these men on the cheek and receiving kisses lol. I think this weekend I may leave La Plata and go to an island close to here that is supposed to be great called Tigre. If everything works out I will stay there for a few days and tour around with a friend I met back in B.A. But for now I am having fun in L.P.! :) I will be going out with Sole later for drinks with her friends and we may even see a movie.

I am still adjusting to the Argentian way of night life. They routinely as a culture just don't eat cena (dinner) until 10,11 or even midnight! Then they just party all night long until the sun comes up. You wont see anyone out on weekends until 3am at the very earliest and the clubs here don't close until the start breaks thru at 6:30 or 7:30am. Even on week days the people of Argentina stay up all hours of the night and seem to be able to function on just a few hours of sleep and still be able to go to work the next day! The only way I can deal with this as an American is to take a long power nap during the day so I can stay up late and I nibble on food all day so that even though I am eating at 11pm or later I am not starving by that time. It is interesting how different culture do things. You just have to know how to go with the flow.

That's all I have for now. Until next time,Ty

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Buenos Aires City Life

We went out for our first proper night out here in Buenos Aires last night. It was an event organised by some Couch Surfers at a pretty flash club here and we had VIP access! The night life is different here, NO ONE goes out before 2am (closing times for most clubs back home) and they party til like 7:30am in the morning (at least we did) but luckily I knew this before hand so I took a good long nap during the day and I was good to go. It was really fun and the language barrier was not as much of a problem as I had thought. It was a really fun night.

Other than that we have seen a really cool weapons museum here that I really enjoyed and been to some markets here. We have also been to Recoleta Cemetery a very famous very old graveyard where a lot of famous ex presidents and important people of Argentina are buried. Most of them were really rich so they have huge sarcophagus that their entire families are buried in with giant life size statues of themselves or their pets or family or whatever. There is a surface level that you can see with basically a shrine to these different people with lots and lots of religious stuff (Argentina is very Catholic) then a staircase that leads down under the ground and underneath the surface level there can be like 10 or 15 family members all buried in the same crypt.

On most graves in America they list the name and birth and death date. Here it is totally different. It only lists their death date and their grave markers are by in large "sponsored" by the deceased person's friends. They are placed there anywhere from 1 year to 100 years AFTER the person has died. So it will say ________ (insert name here) we your friends dedicate this to your honor X number of years after you have died. It is very strange how they do it. It was super neat to see those even though it was a little morbid. But, it was a shame to see how bad the condition was on some of the graves it was terrible. Some were very well preserved and others were not.

We are still going to see a live tango show and maybe take some lessons here and have a proper steak dinner. Buenos Aires is extremely expensive compared to other places we have visited so far so that is kinda sucky. Especially considering my money situation haha. It is impossible to eat here for under 10 USD and that is the cheapest of the cheap. In Peru and Bolivia you could get an entire meal for 1-3 USD! There was street stalls everywhere and here there is none. It is really frustrating! But, I am willing to pay extra for that good steak here. There is absolutely no middle class eateries here. Either you pay like 10 USD for crap food or you pay like 40,50 USD for a really good meal. It is extremely hard and frustrating to find somewhere good and cheap to eat! Also, they charge you "Cubierto". Basically almost every restaurant charges you 1 USD (or more) for the privilege of sitting down to eat and using their silverware. PLUS you have to tip. It is really shit but it is what they do here and there is nothing you can do about it.

The food culture here is different. They salt EVERYTHING excessively (really bad for your health) and I ALWAYS have to request ketchup,butter and black pepper those are just not normal for them but they do have them if you ask. They usually give you huge portions of rice but unlike Asia where soy sauce flows freely (I love it) here they give you plain dry rice and they give you oil and vinegar to spice it up. Pretty odd for me but normal for them.

Buenos Aires is a neat city and we have enjoyed walking around and meeting people and going to cool places I just wish it was less expensive. The weather has been good but now it is kinda crap with rain etc. Can't have it perfect all the time huh? I have gotten (re)sick again! That airplane ride from Peru just re infected me and I cannot seem to kick this freaking head cold it is horrible and I hate it but I am still alive. We are still having fun and enjoying ourselves. We saw another movie the other day (in English) we saw Thor like the comic book Thor and it was actually pretty good I liked it quite a bit.

Well I guess that's all I have for now. Yall take care,Tyler

Oh ya just a little side note. Unfortunately I am running out of money. Due to this fact I booked my flight back home to Texas for 4 June. See yall soon-ish huh? Its been a good run for me.... I have been super lucky and had lots and lots of fun.