Saturday, June 28, 2008

“Che”, riverside walks and beautiful women…

So earlier this week I spent 2 nights in a town called Rosario – it’s about 4 hours by bus form Buenos Aires. It’s smaller than Buenos Aires with a total population of over 1 million people. It’s a modern city that’s sort of busy in places, yet at the same time it has a relaxed feeling (something I think may be helped along by the slow yet steady flow of the nearby Paraná River). Although it’s a modern city some of the architecture around town suggests that someone regarded preserving the architectural heritage as important. While I’m not exactly sure why there was something about the town that made me think of Stellenbosch – a university town situated about 50km from Cape Town.

There are a few things that caught my attention about Rosario. The people appear to have a good sense of style and love good clothes and apparel. Fitness and good living also seems to be a priority for a number of residents in Rosario. There are fitness clubs on many streets around town and many people seem to run, walk and cycle along the river. The walkway, apartment blocks and gardens along the river remind me of a suburb on the Atlantic seaboard in Cape Town.

One of Rosario’s main claims to fame is that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was born there 80 years ago this month. As a result there were celebrations this past month in recognition of what would have been his 80th birthday, had he not been executed in Bolivia in 1967. His image can be seen all over town and there were a number of exhibitions etc relating to the celebrations this month.

Last but not least, I was told that Argentinean women are distractingly beautiful and if you ask me many of them live in Rosario. I was only their for 2 nights, but I’m glad I went. At the moment, I’m back in Buenos Aires and I’m going to see how things develop. I guess I’ll let you know if something else is happening…

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Music, kisses and strange sounding words…

Coming to a place like Buenos Aires I knew I was bound to encounter more than a few things that were unfamiliar to me, or perhaps familiar things with a strange twist. As I’ve already said in a previous entry the sound of the tango is something you get used to hearing when walking around this town. The music is played in cafés where dancers show how the dance is performed, as well as in music stores on busy streets with shops of every kind. But I’ve also encountered another kind of music while I’ve been over here – a music that is not specifically South American in it’s origin but it’s enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. I went to a show last week where a band of drummers and percussionists called “La Bomba de Tiempo” took to the stage in a musical performance that was quite unique and perhaps something like I may have expected in some part of Africa.

Something else that stands out is some of the customs I have encountered, especially when it comes to greeting. Now I’m used to shaking someone’s hand when meeting them, but in South America I have gotten used to kissing women on the cheek and vice versa even when I meet them for the first time. Well, here in Buenos Aires it’s the norm to do so with men too. At first this surprised me, but it was something that I was not apart of but when I met with some friends of a friend over the weekend it seemed that was the normal way of greeting. It was a bit weird at first, but I guess it’s one of those things where you just need to step out of a comfort zone and do as the locals do.

One more thing that has been difficult at times, although t doesn’t impact my comfort zone in any way, is the way Spanish is spoken here in Buenos Aires. Imagine this for a second. Imagine that you visited an English-speaking country where for some reason every time the letter “y” is used as a consonant – such as in the words “yesterday” or ”yellow” – they pronounce it as a “sh” sound. Then, those words would become “shesterday” and ”shellow”. Well that’s what I’ve had to deal with here in Buenos Aires – I think it would be hard enough with my first language so with Spanish being my third (that I only learnt less than a year ago) it’s really challenging at times. And let’s not forget that they speak much faster here than in Peru where I learnt to speak Spanish. All in all, in spite of all these differences I’m experiencing I seeing each day how true it is that “people are people” wherever you go… More on that another time…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The (so-called) Paris of Latin America…

Before arriving in Argentina I was aware that Buenos Aires has for a while been referred to as the “Paris of Latin America“ and I think that this description is at least one of the reasons that I wanted to get to know this city.

Buenos Aires has an interesting combination of old neighbourhoods, high rise office buildings, numerous parks scattered throughout the city and some of the best architecture I’ve seen in South America so far. There are also countless monuments and parks commemorating events of the past; cafés and eateries of different kinds; as well as markets on the weekends that occasionally include musicians busking and people who perform the tango in the street. The city has a rich cultural heritage and one of the places that this is evident is in the cemetery I mentioned in my last entry. Among the influential members of this society laid to rest a number of them had Dutch, German and Italian surnames as well as a few from Eastern Europe.

So those are some of my thoughts on this riverside town. I’m hoping to see another side of it at some point – I plan on going into one of the suburbs and getting out of the city centre. So maybe then I’ll have another perspective, a different one to share.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The tango, “Evita” and hopefully some good steak …

Yes, I’m in Argentina at the moment. I arrived in Buenos Aires on Saturday after a long bus ride from Santiago de Chile – a journey that was made even longer by local strikes disrupting some of the major roadways to Buenos Aires. What am I doing here? I don’t know. How long am I going to be here? I don’t know. You see the simple fact is that this is where I needed to come because that’s what God was telling me to do. Things have changed drastically in some ways over recent weeks to the point that more and more this journey is becoming something about which I don’t have much of a clue. Does that freak me out? At times, definitely! But this is my life as I have chosen to live it. Yes, it’s a choice because this is not something I have to do – it’s an opportunity placed before me to take or to leave.

So what have I been doing in Buenos Aires so far? Mostly I’ve been lying low in the midst of taking things as they come I’ve seen a few of the sights around town including a Japanese garden and a cemetery where great generals, former presidents and Argentina’s beloved “Evita” are buried. The visit to the cemetery was really interesting with some of the tombs being larger and definitely more extravagant than the homes of many South Africans (and poverty stricken people from other parts of the world). The Japanese garden was simply a distraction, but I really enjoyed it – I’ve also had a fascination with Asian design, landscaping and art so that was a worthwhile little trip. Something else that was really interesting was that the garden was presenting to the city of Buenos Aires and opened the very day I was born – that was just an interesting coincidence.

Later this evening I hope to head out with some people I met here at the hostel to grab a good steak, Argentinean style, and perhaps a few turns on the dance-floor (strictly tango I think). Further than that I don’t have much of a clue… But, watch this space for more developments…

¡Hasta luego!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More thoughts on "home"...

“All of life is a coming home… All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home… Home. The dictionary defines it as both a place of origin and a goal or destination.”

The idea of home has been on my mind quite a bit lately, at least in part due to the amount of interaction I’ve had with other South Africans. I was staying with Stephen (from Cape Town) and his family and then met some other South Africans here at “La Casa Roja”, the hostel where I’m staying at the moment.

In a conversation with one of the guys I met here I repeated a thought that had been on my mind over the weekend that’s related to the quote at the beginning of this entry (the quote is from the film “Patch Adams”). I was chatting to a guy named Shane, from Durban, when I said that while South Africa will always be home in the sense that it’s my point of origin I’ve come to realise that I don’t think of it as a goal or destination anymore. While that could change at some point in the future I realise that being a bit of a “global nomad” over the past 2 years has caused me to see the world and my place in it quite differently compared to how I saw things just 2 short years ago. As I said in the entry called “Wandering around South America” I don’t know where I’m going to end up next, but I do know that I would not want to return to South Africa just because that’s where I’m from, I would want to return if there was a conscious forward-looking decision and/or purpose to going back.

Unlike some who leave because they’re fed-up with things as they are in South Africa; and that is at least to some degree a motivation for me to go back. But that is not my destination or goal at this point; my destinations at this point in my life appear to be mostly temporary…

Wandering around South America...

So since I have not written anything here in a while I thought it was time for an update and what better time to do it than when I’m stuck in a city I thought I was going to be leaving earlier this morning. At the moment I’m sitting at “La Casa Roja” (The Red House), a hostel in Santiago. As you may know I’ve been here in Chile since mid-April when I left Peru after 8 months of living, travelling and working there. I came here to visit some friends and stayed with them for a number of weeks. In the process of my stay I found myself under the mistaken impression that this was perhaps where God wanted me to stay for a while. You see, as I said in an earlier entry in this blog, the main reason I left South Africa for England back in March 2006 was that He was telling me that there were things He was going to do in my life and that I needed to get away from South Africa, at least for a short while. Little did I know that this adventure He had planned was going to include working, travelling and living in South America. And now it seems there could be a few other destinations coming up in the not-too-distant future.

As I said I was mistaken in thinking that this was my next medium-term stop, but instead I have now come to refocus on getting to Buenos Aires at least for a short while. I don’t know what’s going to be happening over there, but looking back at the past 2 years I have to trust that He has a plan. The other destinations I referred to earlier are unclear at the moment but for a while now I have been thinking about the possibility of going to New Zealand for a while to live and work there. This is something that is on my mind and is on my wish-list (or should that be prayer-list), but at this point there is not a definite plan taking shape yet quite.

In spite of my confusion and uncertainty about life and stuff at the moment I’m still (mostly) enjoying my time in South America, although sometimes I feel like I could really do with a secure home with some sense of so-called normality and/or stability. But, I’ve seen countries I’d only read about, I’m learning a new language and I’m getting a perspective of this little planet of ours that I constantly expanding and being reshaped. I also have to remember (and I’ve said this before) that I do not want to spend my whole life preparing to die comfortably…