Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Guia T

One my concentration areas in the urban planning school at the University of Michigan will be in public transportation. I´m not quite sure why I find this subject so interesting. Is it the little kid in me still fascinatied by these neato busses and trains? Is it my compulsion with doing things efficiently, carrying the maximum amount of people across town in the least amount of time for the lowest price? Whatever it is, I can see it clearly reflected in my recent obsession with the Guia T. The Guia T is a guide to the over 300 busses that crisscross the metropolis of Buenos Aires. It comes in a pocket form (what I have) and a larger full size guide. It consists of a grid map that devides the city into tiny sectors. In these sectors there is a list of all the different numbered busses that pass through that quadrant. You look up the place you want to go, find the busses that pass through there, then cross reference that with the quadrant where you are starting. The trick is to find the same number for your starting box and your destination box. If you find that magic number, you have found the bus that will take you pretty close to your desired destination for usually about 30 cents.

They also provide illustrations of each numbered bus, so you can try to learn what color trim that 151 or 37 bus has. I find myself treating the Guia T like a game, picking a destination on the opposite side of the city and tracking down which bus can get me there most efficiently. √Čnough of my geekiness for now!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Circuit complete

Well, I´ve completed my several thousand mile circuit of southern Argentina and Chile and I find myself back in Buenos Aires. A 14 hour bus ride rolled me comfortably through the pampas from Mendoza to BA. I´m staying with the same aspiring opera singer that I stayed with during the first week of my trip. This time I´ve actually met his parents (who he lives with) as they were on vacation during the first week of February when I was last here.

I don´t have any grand plans for my last few days here. There is a very large international book fair this week so I might check that out and I might try to find a few nice things to bring home for souveniers but other than that it will just be relaxing and growing more anxious each day to see my friends and family back home.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wine and water

This is my final day in Mendoza, so I figured I had to make it out to a tour of at least one winery, being that this is the wine capital of Argentina. The winery I visited was founded in 1885 and had a nice little museum tracing the history of wine making from the 16th century to the present. A free guided tour and tasting was also included. My new favorite wine is Malbec
There is a silky smooth quality to it that I just can´t get enough of. I´m hoping I can find some once I return home.

Menodza has been a nice place to spend the past 4 days. The town itself is actually located in thehuge desert that is the Andean rain shadow. Because of this, every street has water diverted from the Andes that is diverted into ditches running parallel to the sidwalks, creating a constant but subtle reminder that if it were not for such an elaborate man-made irrigation system this town would not be a very pleseant place to be. Large cyprus trees line most of the street, creating a loverly tunel of greenish yellow leaves to protect you from the sun. The architecture is not particularly notable but these noble trees make it so you don´t even notice.

I haven´t done a lot during my time here, mainly relaxing among the half dozen or so plazas, frequenting the internet cafe, eating yummy ice cream. I feel like while traveling it is easy to fall into the ¨I always have to be doing something¨ trap. Sometimes the most rewarding thing to do for a few days is exactly what I have done here, just relax and soak up wherever you are. I love walking in figure eights throughout the city with no particular direction, simply seeing where my feet take me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Playing on an island

Though it ended in a 0-0 draw, the game last night was a ton of fun. The stadium, built in the late 70s for the 1978 world cup held in Argentina, was an interesting place. It sat about 40,000 and was a typical bowl shape. There was a tiny contingent of Chilean fans who had made the hop across the Andes to cheer on their boys. The authorities were not messing around and had riot police (complete with plastic shields and batons) completeing closing off on all the sides the small section the Chileans had occupied. Occasionally the Chilean supporters would attempt to do a group chant or song and the rabid Argentenians would start whistling and making whatever noise they could to drown them out. The Argentines were in great voice and they continued to sing, chant, whistle, jump up and down, wave flags and even occasionally get into fisticuffs among themselves. The game was almost immaterial as I took in all these sights around me.

One other unique feature of this stadium was that the playing surface itself was literally on an island. A dry moat, maybe 10 feet in depth and 10 feet across, circled the entire field. I had never seen this at a sporting venue before and though it was obviously an excellent way to keep the fans off the field, there was just something about it that seemed a little disconcerting.

Tomorrow will by my final day in Mendoza, I will then take another overnight bus, this time back to Buenos Aires. Arriving in BA, I will have about 5-6 days to enjoy the city before I have to hop on a plane back home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

International friendly

Walking around Mendoza yesterday I noticed a chalkboard sign at a bar advertising a soccer match between Argentina and Chile that would be broadcast on their giant screens at 20:00. I thought to myself, hmmm that might be fun to go to a place like that and watch the game with some locals. Well, it turns out this international friendly match is actually taking place in Mendoza tonight! I probably would have never even known if it were not for a couple guys staying in the same room at my hostel who I overheard talking about it. They said the people running the hostel were selling tickets. I thought this sounded like something I had to do and I quickly asked the owners about it. They made a few phone calls and reserved an additional ticket for me. I think they are making a really fat profit on the ticket, they charged me about $25 and I´m sure if I asked around locally I could have found it for about $5. However this is my first soccer match in latin america and I will feel a little more comfortable being seated in a section with my fellow hostel mates, instead of duking it out with firework tossing, crazed Mendozians. I think sitting with the locals would be an experience and I hope to do it sometime but I think it would be a bit much for my first time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Thai heartthrob

While my dad and I were having dinner our first night in Bariloche, a funny thing happened. We were the only people in the restaurant to start (our 8:30 arrival time was a good hour before even the first Argentines would ever trickle in). While we were noshing on some bread a trio came in and were seated at the table directly beside us. It was clear they were speaking neither Spanish or English and I was almost sure I had heard some Thai. I focused my ears on them, trying my best to hear their soft tones and after another minute I was positive, there were 3 Thai people sitting next to me in a random restaurant in Bariloche, Argentina!

To put this into perspective, I have met one person from Asia during this trip, Alex from Taiwan. I could see running into some Japanese, Koreans, or maybe even an adventurous Singaporean, but 3 Thai people forget about it! Interestingly, as I listened intently to them, picking up a lot of what they were saying I could feel my heart racing. It was that feeling where you put your hand on your heart and it feels like it is about to bust through to the other side.

My dad and I quietly speculated on why there may be 3 Thai people in Bariloche. Surely they wouldn´t be tourists, I really think the small number of Thai people who do travel internationally don´t often find themselves in South America. We then thought maybe they ran a restaurant in Buenos Aires or that they were diplomats. Turned out the later was the correct guess. We chatted with them for a few moments and they all work at the Thai embassy in Buenos Aires (one of 5 Thai embassies in latin America along with Mexico City, Brasilia, Lima, and Santiago). They were visiting the lakes district and patagonia for a week or so. I told them I would be studying Thailand in graduate school and asked if I could stop by and say hello when I was back in Buenos Aires. One of they guys said sure and gave me his business card, saying: ¨You can have a tour of the Thai embassy¨!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Travel day

Sunday was my final day traveling with my dad. Thankfully we had a beautiful day weather wise, which was not the case for the majority of his visit. We decided to rent some bikes and do a 10km roundtrip cycle to a nearby lakeside beach outside San Martin de los Andes. Within minutes of pedaling out of town by chain decided to rupture and I was left with a lame bike. I was really bummed because I knew the ride was going to be nice and I thought it would be a great way to spend our last day together. We returned to our hotel and after confiring with the owner decided that we would take a boat ride do a different beach, supposedly even more beautiful than the one we were planning on visiting.

Turns out we had a really nice time. The boat took 30 minutes to arrive at the beach and we made a short walk and lunched with views of the white-capped lake and the surrounding mountains. We spend the rest of the afternoon walking, reading, and napping in the serene sun. He caught a 6am back to Chile this morning, as he is due to fly out of Santiago tomorrow and I caught a 6 hour bus north to the city of Neuquen. I am only hanging around here for a few hours before catching an overnight 12 hour ride up to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. I plan to spend several days here, as lonely planet claims it is one of the nicest cities in all of Argentina. My bus ticket for the overnight journey up there is in coche cama class, the Argentine bus equivalent of business class. For about $7 you get a set that reclines almost 180 degrees, I´ll be sure to tell you if it was worth the extra expense.