Tuesday, 23 December 2008


The sun shone again yesterday: it shone brightly and it shone all day. That was enough to make my day, in spite of the mishaps that poked fun at me...

I didn't mention event number one yesterday, which occurred as I was on my way to the internet place to write a blog, but since it was joined by another event later in the day, it became worth writing about. Like I say, I was on my way to use the internet, with my iPod on, wandering down the sunny street, with my iPod in my hand, looking at the screen, trying to find the next tune I wanted to hear, walking along, looking at the screen - this town isn't like the capital: there's no shit in the streets, so you don't need to look where you're going all the time - I'm walking along in the sun, choosing the next track from my iPod, looking at the screen, and then...

Slow motion. When I thought about it later, I wondered if the music had slowed down too, because everything else seemed to slow down. I was lost in the list of albums on the screen of my iPod and didn't realise what was happening, but it was happening so slowly that I eventually realised that I should stop looking at the screen and consider the world outside of the list of albums. I realised that my right leg was sliding from beneath me and, as soon as I realised, there was that cartoon moment where, upon realising what should happen next, the next event happens. I found myself on the floor, on my side: my right foot had slipped on the sandy incline of the smooth dropped kerb and I was on the floor, on my right hip. After a further moment's thought, the exclamation came: "What the fuck?!" I said, utterly bemused at what had just happened. I then realised that the preceding ten seconds or so had probably only just been a couple of seconds at most, and that, yes, I'd taken a tumble. I got up, looked around to see if anyone had seen what happened, noticed only a guy in the nearby garage working on a car, and went on my way. Fortunately, I was wearing my longer shorts, so I didn't scrape my knee, but my foot took a slight scraping and my hip is a touch bruised. Anyway, I must've known it was coming, because only that morning I decided to put the protective cover back on my iPod. It did me proud. Otherwise, the corner of my iPod would be scraped too.

Anyway, I got over the fall and went to the beach in the afternoon for the first time in a couple of days (it had been miserable the previous day , and previous to that it had been too windy). It was nice to see that the weather was being kind to me on my last day of sunbathing at the seaside. I put my towel down, put my iPod on, and lay in the sun, soaking it all up and drifting off into a peaceful place. It was great: there was a slight breeze which kept me cool, but the sun was shining brightly. I lay there for over an hour.

The beach at Pinamar

I lay there for over an hour, and while I was lost in the music and the sunshine and the joys of the beach, I suddenly became alert to the scream of a child, and the sensation that someone was throwing water on my head. It took me a short while to react, but I sat up to see what was going on: who was throwing water at me, why were the kids playing so close to me?! That was when I discovered that I'd been wrong and that I wasn't the victim of a waterfight gone astray: the scream had indeed been related to the soaking I'd taken, but unrelated to my own personal circumstances.

I got up instantly, grabbing my bag and my towel: the soaking had come from the sea, which was coming in, and had suddenly made an unexpectedly large advance up the beach! I got to safety, and couldn't stop laughing. I looked out at the sea: it was close, but not so close that I should have been hit by the water. The advance had been a one-off. I looked around to see if anyone was laughing. I know that I was laughing, and I would have been laughing even more if I'd seen myself become the victim of one of Mother Nature's pranks. I looked at my towel: my giant beach towel was soaked and covered in sand. It weighed a tonne. I checked my bag to make sure my notebook hadn't got wet, and felt relieved that I'd had the foresight to put everything else in the bag in small plastic bags. Everything was safe, fortunately. But my towel was ruined and my t-shirt was drenched too: how was I going to continue the sun worship?!

Wet and sandy towel

I realised that I'd have to leave my towel in a place where it could dry off. Luckily, on the beach here there are private areas where people have their own little tents. The frames for the tents are made of steel and a permanent feature of the beach: nearby, such a structure existed that wasn't in use. I headed over there to drape my wet towel and t-shirt over the framework, and used my water bottle to beat the sand out of the towel as best as I could. It was actually quite pleasant to just sit on the sand and watch the towel flapping in the wind: it barely moved at first due to its weight, but slowly began to lighten as it dried, and swung increasingly large distances. After an hour, when the sun had pretty much gone, it was light enough and dry enough to be carried again, and my t-shirt was dry and good to wear.

Still, the towel was slightly damp and still held a fair amount of sand, so I dropped it off at the launderette on my way home. At least I now have a clean towel to take back to the city with me, so I won't be getting sandy every time I lie in the park from now on...

And that's pretty much the end of my little break: I guess it had to end with a small dose of misfortune. Hey, I do it just to make you guys laugh...

Monday, 22 December 2008


At the hostel we were staying at (and where I'm still staying), there were Argentinean lads on either side of our room. They seemed like a nice bunch, they just hung out on the lawn in the evenings and ate and drank together. While Doug and I ate on Friday night, they passed us by and all said: "Buen provecho" to us: I commented on how sweet it is that over here and in Spain, if anyone ever sees you eating, they wish you a good meal (unless you're in a restaurant, of course: that would be a bit mad). And, as they passed us again with their own food, one of them asked if we were enjoying the beer. At least, that's what I heard: Doug wasn't sure he understood anything that had been said. I thought I had understood, but realised afterwards that he'd used the Italian word for beer ('birra'), instead of the Spanish. Anyway, after all of this, in addition to the fact that one of the guys had opened our beer for us with his lighter, I joked with Doug that I'd be hanging out with them once he'd gone.They seemed like a good bunch.

I joked, but the next night, before I even had to make the first move, the boys themselves invited me to come and share a beer with them, to save me from boredom. The alternative was indeed to spend the evening on my own, getting bored, so I took them up on the offer. I went off to the shop with one of them, Pablo, to get some beer. He bought me the beer! Nice. Then we started the night and got acquainted. There were three of them: Pablo, his brother Marcelo, and Fabian. I won't lie: understanding them was difficult at best, and generally impossible, especially when they talked among themselves (I did learn, however, that I'd been correct the previous night: he did say 'birra'). But it was fun hanging out with them. "Hey," said Pablo, "this is cool, because we've got a story to tell now! We can tell everyone that we hung out with our English neighbour, and you can tell everyone that you hung out with us!" He wasn't wrong: stories like this make for half-decent blogs...

One thing that I definitely understood was the story of how they'd come to be staying at the hospedaje. I was told it at least six times over the course of two nights, so it wasn't too difficult to get the gist in the end... The boys wouldn't let it go. They were labourers, working on a site nearby, and they'd come here with the promise of being put up in a big house with a TV, DVD player, grill, air conditioning, a kitchen, and all that jazz. But when they arrived, they discovered that the house was already full (with other guys from the site), so the project manager promised them another place. And he took them to the hospedaje... "When he opened the door, we were like: is this a joke?!" After the promise of living in luxury for a week, they were given a room to share between the three of them, in an hospedaje where they had no cooking facilities. The poor boys had to go a week without hot water to make mate with, and no grill for them to have a wonderful asado every night! "You were robbed," I concurred. "¡Hijos de puta!"

Pablo, Fabian and Marcelo

But anyway, disgruntled as they were, at least they had each other. On Saturday night, we went off to hang out with another couple of labourers who'd had the good fortune to be given a house. It was understandable why my friends were annoyed: they were having to spend a lot of money on eating out all the time, while the others had their own kitchen facilities. Still, we had a fun night, drinking a bit, then heading off home "early" to stop off for a pizza and more beer. The young waitress at the bar we went to wasn't fond of the boys, because they'd been there earlier to watch the Boca game and had got a bit excited. She was a fan of a rival team. She was all: "Be careful, these boys are idiots," but I had to point out to her that they were actually really good guys who'd shared their beer and their evening with me.

Well, we didn't have the promised grill together last night, due to bad weather and tiredness, but we sat out on the lawn again and I smiled as they talked incomprehensibly between themselves. A nice bunch. I have a photo, but can't upload it at the moment. I'm returning to the Capital tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately, the sun's come back out again, so I won't need to spend today walking around town to keep warm. Yes, guess which muppet forgot to pack a hoodie?! I've been a bit cold in the evenings. Apart from for the past two evenings, when my builder friends have been kind enough to lend me a top. There are some nice people over here: everyone keeps telling me to watch out for the bad guys, but so far I've been lucky enough to meet only the good ones.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


In a small town like this, people notice what's going on... After eating dinner last night, Doug and I made our way towards the town in the hope that we'd find something to do. This town is tiny, and there's not much other than an amusement arcade, but we hoped to maybe find something that we hadn't come across the previous night. Anyway, we left our residence, and as we got to the hotel next door, and old woman stopped us in the street, asking: "Where are you from?!" Doug explained that he was from the States and I was from England. He reckons that she asked the question in Spanish, but I can't be sure any more (there are two languages for me these days: the ones I don't understand and can't place, and the few I understand without bothering about what language is actually being spoken...). Whatever, even if she had asked the initial question in Spanish, there was no doubt that the dear old lady then proceeded to talk away to us in Italian!

Doug looked utterly bemused, as he didn't understand what she was suddenly going on about. I had a nice chat with the old girl: she's been over here since 1952 and she loves it. It was a typical conversation with an aged person, covering all topics in a flash. She told me that I absolutely have to go to see the Iguazu falls (that's where I was planning to be today originally...), that Italy was worse off under the Euro and that she's far happier to be here than there, that she gets loads of Swiss tourists coming to stay here, that the Capital Federal is too hot in February and most of the city comes to Pinamar... She was 82 years old, but she was full of beans. She said that she'd heard me and Doug walking by, and she knew that we were English (she was almost right). Anyway, it made my evening. How bizarre to be walking down the street and suddenly have an old lady start talking away to you in Italian... Like Doug pointed out: if she knew that we were English, then what on earth made her think that she could get away with jabbering away to us in Italian?!?!

Anyway, Doug got up to go back to the Capital early this morning, and I'm currently praying that the clouds are going to go away so I can get some sun. The forecast says that today should be sunny. Sunday and Monday aren't supposed to be quite so nice. Unfortunately, I discovered that after booking myself in until Tuesday... I went for a walk along the beach when I got up, and it was grey. On my way back, there was a tremendous wind blowing in my face. But I can see blue skies now, so hopefully the strong winds have only come to blow the clouds away, and they'll disappear once it's hot enough to lie on the beach. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 19 December 2008


Forget about the jungle and the waterfalls: instead of paying big pesos to spend almost a day on a bus that would take me to a place where I could see some nice falls and not much else, I opted to get on a shorter bus ride with my flatmate Doug, to go and lie on a beach in Pinamar! We got up early yesterday and jumped on the bus that took us to the coast. Five hours later, and we were there, almost. The bus station is kind of nowhere near civilisation, so we got a cab to take us to the town. Ten pesos later, and we really were there. Excitement!

Pinamar entrance

The first stop was tourist information, which was clearly signalled on the map that the taxi driver gave us. We walked up the relevant road... and didn't find it. Maybe it was on the other road? No, it didn't look like the kind of road for a tourist office. I got out my Lonely Planet guide. Yes, it really was on the road we'd just walked up. We had a number now, and walked back down the road looking for the office. There were no numbers on the buildings. We got to the bottom of the road. Still no sign of anything. I asked a lady if she knew where the office was. She pointed us back to where we'd originally looked, and gave us a more precise description of the location. We walked back up the road. There was a yellow house where she'd told us to go. The house was closed. It didn't look like a tourist office. We continued walking up the road. Where was the office?! I went into a restaurant and asked there. The waiter told us to go back down a couple of buildings. "The yellow house?" I asked. "Yeah! The yellow house!" he confirmed. "It didn't look like it was open..." I said. "No, no, it is," he replied. And we headed back down the street again, towards the yellow house.

Then the waiter came running after us. "No, no, sorry: it's moved! It's up there, on the corner now!" So, we walked up to the corner and, sure enough, there was the office. If only we'd had the right information in the first place... Anyway, the guy at tourist information told us that there was a cheap place nearby and gave us another map (the same map as the taxi driver had given us: he pointed to where we were, and I pointed to the sign for the old tourist office on the map, laughed and said: "Yeah, we're not there, are we?!" He laughed as if to say: yeah, I know where you're coming from...). The hospedaje was very close: he located it on the map for us with a pen, and we made our way there. 60 pesos for the night for a double room sounded like amazing value.

On the way down the street, we pulled out the map to make sure we hadn't overshot the mark, and a woman came up to us and started asking for directions. "I... I need hotel, er, street. Looking for street. Hotel." Doug and I tried hard to understand what she was trying to say. She continued throwing out words of bizarre English at us. Eventually we figured it out: she wasn't actually a foreigner, looking for somewhere to stay, but a local, trying to help us out... I said to her, in Spanish, that we were going to our hospedaje, told her the name of the place, and the street it was on. Still hell-bent on helping us, she took the map from my hands and tried to locate the street for me. Doug and I were amused, bemused and slightly annoyed by this point. She looked at the map, told us where we were, and then pointed to the street we needed to go to. Doug and I were both standing there, thinking: "Can't this woman see that the place we're going to is actually indicated on the map in biro, and that we know exactly where we are and where we're going?!" She told us, helpfully, to continue along the street we were on and take the third turning on the left, turned the map around for me so that I could follow it clearly, and handed it back to me. Then she finally left us alone to go on our way.

Of course, laughter and ridicule followed... What a bizarre episode! Did she not realise that we knew where we were going?! Nutcase...

Anyway, we got to the hospedaje and asked to see the room. For $60, it was amazing. We'd have paid about $200 for a similar room elsewhere in town. Bargain! $30 each for a night!!! We were happy: we dumped our stuff, paid the lady, and went for pizza and a beer. Then to the glorious beach, where I wasted no time in getting into the sea, coming out, lying on my towel and falling asleep. The pair of us were whacked from the day, and just dozed until the early evening.

Doug's going back to the city tomorrow afternoon, but I fancy staying here a bit longer. I plan on staying in the same hospedaje: even $60 a night is cheap. You'd probably pay about $45 to share a 6-bed dorm in the shabby hostels here. I think I'll stay until Tuesday, walk on the beach in the morning, lie on the beach in the afternoon, swim in the lovely warm sea, and enjoy the break from the city. This is my Christmas holiday! Woop!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Pesos and Pounds

The most common note in my possession is the 100 peso ($100) note: I have lots of these, because when I cash in traveller's cheques, that's what they give me. I'm also told that you should expect $100 notes if you withdraw cash from an ATM. 100 pesos seems like a huge amount, but it works out at roughly £20. It's all psychological...

The value of a $100 note is exaggerated further by the fact that most places seem uncomfortable about accepting them: unless I'm spending more than $20, I feel like I'm putting people out by paying with them. I generally apologise if a $100 note is all I have to pay the $10 bill in a cafe. You get a fistful of notes in change.

Anyway, $100 is £20. I'm thinking back these days to just how often I would hand over a £20 note, and get less than half that amount back in change. $100 seems like a huge amount to me over here, while £20 in the UK was at times the average amount I'd spend in a day, just on breakfast and lunch, and other bits of food and drink. I'm thinking back to the last night out I had in London, where a round of three drinks cost a surprising amount of money: I must've got through at least $200 in that night alone, and it wasn't even particularly long or wild... The other day over here, I was horrified to be greeted with a bill for $15 for a pint of beer.

One of the things I was looking forward to about this trip was not having money to burn. And I'm enjoying myself more out here than I ever did in London when I was blowing at least $1000 a week. I'm not sure if I want to return to Britain and the pressure of getting a high-paid job again, because it all just seems absurd to me at the moment. Mind you, looking at the headlines, it seems absurd to quite a lot of people at the moment.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

This Saturday

The pressure's mounting on me to leave the city. Get real: the Pound's devaluing faster than Brown can say "shit", people are losing their jobs in Britain faster than they can say "bollocks", and the range of adjectives at my disposal to describe the country I left no longer includes many more words than the ones just mentioned, even though I'll never be able to say anything quickly: just look at the length of this opening sentence if you need proof of that... Anyway, I'm now casually looking for work, and for a way to stay here longer than originally planned (hey, well, the original original plan was to stay for a year, so that's not strictly true). When I say "casually", I mean "not really, but sort of". You don't need a work permit to work in this country. A US bank account would help, though.

Anyway, I'm waiting for my camera battery to charge. I left the flat early this morning, with the intention of taking photos of non-tourist attractions. Fortunately, I tried turning the camera on as I was going down in the lift and discovered it wasn't working. I got to have an extra ride in the lift. I raced my flatmate the other day, and we discovered that both lifts in the building actually go at the same speed. This disappointed us slightly. Anyway, I was talking about the camera. Yeah, the camera battery's on the recharge. I'll snap some photos of homeless people, dog shit, dirt, bin-searchers, and girls rollerblading in bikini tops and hotpants, later.

That's all you're getting from me today. What else do you want? I had scrambled eggs for breakfast and I'm going to go a few days without coffee to see how I feel. I'm spending all my money on stamps for postcards at the moment. A stamp for Europe costs the same as a cortado (that's an espresso with milk, or a macchiato, as I once knew it). Oh, I had a very chocolatey drink yesterday. I didn't take a picture, so I'll have to have another one soon... End of blog.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Yes, check me out. I made this for the benefit of iPhone users, but everyone's entitled to watch it. Beats reading words, innit?!


There was a holiday over here yesterday, in celebration of the Immaculate Conception. Hey, that's one way to get people to believe that the book of fantasy that is the Bible is actually speaking the truth...

I might as well write something here to entertain anyone who's been checking in over the past week, desperately searching for something boring to make their own life that little bit less boring. I've been busy writing other things, mainly of a personal nature (to other people. No, not insults to other people, but emails). I might as well say something here of a public nature, even though there are other public places out there were far more interesting word doodles of mine can be found.

I'm getting through a set of essays on the work of Macedonio Fernández. I could say more, but it's not like it would mean anything to anyone, so I won't. I'm also getting through a book on programming techniques. I'm cooking more frequently than I have done in the past year, which is good, and strange, since over here I have the most useless array of kitchen tools, and I can't even store most of my food in the kitchen. But I have free time.

I also have a bite on my elbow. Last week I had a bruise in the same place. I'm wondering why the elbow's getting all the attention.

Vivid dreams continue. It must be the relative lack of human contact I'm getting, or something. Last night I was on the train to work (what work?!), and Graham Coxon was sitting behind me. I was wearing Blur shoes. Do such things exist? I was wearing Blur shoes: they had a Blur logo on them (it looked like a Nike logo, to be honest). The one on my right foot was inside-out. I was also wearing my jeans on the inside-out. All this, because I was thinking back to my teaching days yesterday, and imagining what I'd have to do to teach them "inside-out". 

Anyway, the dreams I'm having all take place in England, and in the future, because when I talk to people, my time in Argentina is spoken about in the past. I've been here over a month now, which means I only have about 10 weeks left. That's not long. I'm annoyed by that. Can somebody stop time for me?

I have a stack of postcards, half of them have words on them, my mission for this morning is to post the ones with words on them. I'll do that while I'm on my way to the cafe for breakfast. In the meantime, this will be published in England at lunchtime. Okay, so I'm having a late breakfast....

More to follow when I can distract myself from personal emails again.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Entertainment this morning

I did some late-night shopping at the pharmacy last night: I needed some razor blades. However, even if I shave, I'm going to look pretty rough today, after the most bizarre night. I was woken up at about 4.40 this morning, as my nutty landlady decided she couldn't sleep, and started crashing around the kitchen to make herself a drink. There was no getting back to sleep after that. I think I only actually managed to get to sleep at about 1 anyway, so I'm in a daze at the moment.

In my awake state, I discovered that I really do get woken up by her before 7 every morning: her alarm clock goes off at 6, and I can hear everything that goes on in her quarters of the flat. Including farting when she goes to the toilet. That's the part that's really starting to get to me. I've seen the layout of her area now, after "fixing" her PC yesterday (I turned it off and then back on again), and I've learned that her bathroom isn't actually right next door to my room as suspected, but across a corridor. Maybe I should ask her to shut the door in future, so I don't hear her?

- - - - -

I logged on to the Guardian website and read the latest from Bangkok, and discovered that Google needs to tweak its adsense software a bit. The headline of the article was: "Thai anti-government protestors defy police warning to leave airports", and it had the subheadings: "Fears of widening unrest as blast injures 51 people" and "Emergency flights sent to pick up stranded tourists". And what are Google advertising below the article? Cheap flights to Bangkok! "Don't waste time! Book now!" Hardly appropriate, but it made me laugh.

- - - - -

Last night I watched the first TV show that's grabbed my attention in a while. It was totally sexist, but I can't deny that I love such shows, if only because they're honest in a way that other shows aren't (take news programmes, for example, and the abhorrent contradiction between the moral stance they take and the way in which they behave themselves...). The show is called "La noche del Domingo, con Gerardo Sofovich", he seems like an Argentine Bruce Forsyth (but not as charismatic as our Bruce). Two attractive girls with short skirts and amazing legs were playing ten pin bowling. I didn't really pay attention to the pretext for such entertainment: hearing one of them shout "LA PUTA!!" when she came close, but not close enough, to getting a spare, was entertaining enough. "La pucha...", Gerardo would remind her calmly, trying to get her to refrain from swearing on the live show.

There are the girls in all their glory. I think they must be B-list (and D-cupped) celebrities over here.

- - - - -

Anyway, our maid has arrived to hang out in the house all day, so I'm going to take a shower and then book myself into a hostel so I can maybe get some sleep...