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April 29, 2005

Siega's Casa de Bocce

In about 20 minutes I am heading for the Florianopolis airport, saying goodbye to Garopaba for the last time during this Brasilian adventure. I still need to catch up on past happenings, but I'll continue to backfill posts as I have time.

My last days here have been quite pleasant. Some nice days surfing alone in extremely clean and calm waters until the sun set and the ocean and sky melted together. It was practically hallucinatory at times. Also some nice times hanging out with Alex, a neighbor who I discovered much too late during my stay here, as he lived in Miami so speaks great english, and is also the system admin for the local ISP! We traded many gigs of MP3s in the service of cultural exchange.

But I'd like to dedicate my final post from Garopaba to Senhor Siega's bocce court.

My landlord here in Garopaba, Senhor Siega, has his own personal indoor bocce court behind the house. Bocce (or "bocha" in Brasilian) is a sport which originated in Italy. Siega seems fond of all things Italian, but especially Marconi and Bocce. Every day as I sat here typing away on my laptop I could hear the frequent eruption of cheers from the long narrow blue building just outside my door, and the occasional crashing racket of the wooden balls colliding at high speed.

Siega Bocha Pitch Bocce Scoreboard

Siega and his friends gather every afternoon for a few hours of rousing bocce. The skill level possessed by this group of sportsmen is breathtaking. The touch they exhibit with delicate precision blows me away. A couple of times I tried playing with them, but it was just too embarrassing.

Siega Bocha Pitch Measuring Distance

Siega Bocha Pitch Siega Bocha Pitch

Saude! Viva de Bocha

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April 11, 2005

off again

Mie has been here for four days, and it's been great having her here with me in Garopaba! In an hour or so we are heading up to Rio de Janeiro for a week long visit with my cousin Daniel who lives there. On the 18th Mie flys back to San Francisco and I will return to Garopaba for another couple of weeks of surfing and hacking before heading home to San Francisco myself.

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I still have two or three posts left from my Buenos Aires trip, but those will have to wait another week now. In the meantime I have added new posts and updated old ones with new photos and text from Porto Alegre, Rio Grande, Chui, Escape From Chui and Montevideo.

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April 05, 2005

sweet home, garopaba

Last nght I arrived back in Garopaba! It's nice to be back "home" after all the traveling, the best part is that Mie will be here soon. She lands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and hopefully can get a flight down to Florianopolis the same day.

I've got a gazillion photos to upload and stories to tell about Rio Grande, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. And also my eventual exit from Chui.  I'll start doing that today and adding posts here pre-dated before this one to match up better with the actual dates of the activites.

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April 03, 2005

Buenos Aires: day 3

The next morning I decided to go back to Plaza Dorrego again for brunch. When I got there the square was overtaken by a market selling mostly antique knick knacks. On the sidewalks young bohemians had spread blankets covered with hand made jewelry. In the middle of the square two gauchos were busking with performances of music and dance routines. I especially liked the routine which uses two small balls on chains twirled in the same fashion as fire dancers. However the balls were made to actually strike the pavement as they were spun adding a percussive effect which combined with the dancers high heeled tapping boots. A little google research leads me to believe this might be called "malambo". You can see a video I shot of it here: gaucho spinning balls dance (AVI 5 megs). Also they did another cool dance using their ponchos like a flag show: gaucho poncho dance (AVI 8 megs).

Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires

I had arranged to meet Res One at the site of one of his murals which turned out to be only two blocks from my hostel, down the only street I had not gone down yet. He showed up and we headed out for Res One's Contemporary and Historical Buenos Aires Graffiti 101 class. I'm going to make that a separate post so I'll skip ahead now to the evening. Res and I hung out at his apartment for a bit before heading out for dinner. He showed me his scrap book of old work he had done in Argentina and Spain, and also a collection of his tattoo works including photos of him giving himself a large gothic script R E S  O N E tattoo across his torso. Crazy.

Later at a pizza joint I noticed a punk girl carrying a guitar and then some other kids too carrying other instruments. I got Res to ask them where they would be playing, and it turned out to be a party for a circus performer collective. Man, that's so San Francisco! We got the address from them and decided to check it out later.

But first we went to a bar Res had told me about. I had mentioned to him that there were no real strip clubs in Buenos Aires, apparently just brothels, and he told me that he knew some places but they didn't necessarily look like strip clubs from the outside. So we went to this place, and it was sort of like a Hooters, but there wasn't really any food, there were waitress (wearing thongs and tiny t-shirts) and waiters (wearing only hot pants), and every hour three of the waitresses did a fully nude floor show. And the beer was cheap. Nice place!

Circo Party Res and Dione

Around midnight we headed over to the circus party. It was held at the collective's rehearsal space which was the top floor of a building in a slightly sketchy side of town. When we got upstairs we found a pretty sizable crowd mostly out on the rooftop patio which was set up with a small stage. We had just missed the band we had seen at the pizza place, but pretty soon we got to catch some comedy acts with performers popping up over the neighboring buildings walls. A all-clown band provided ongoing musical accompaniment. The audience was having a great time, laughing at all the acts. Even though it was all in Spanish I found myself laughing along anyhow. The clowns were quite talented. Later there were suspended rope acts, juggling and various impressive gymnastics. Res's girlfriend Dione showed up around 2AM to join the fun. Around 4AM I had to say goodbye though. I needed to head back to the hostel so I could get some sleep before heading to the airport in the morning.

Circo Party

It had been a long day, but probably the most fun I'd had the entire time in South America so far!

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April 02, 2005

Buenos Aires: day 2

Friday morning I wandered around San Telmo some more and discovered a nice little square called Plaza Dorrego. The neighborhood around it was full of antique shops and the square itself had a number of restaurants so I stopped to have a meal on a balcony overlooking the plaza.

Some Dork The Pink House, Buenos Aires

In the afternoon, Paula met me at the hostel and we took off on our tour. First we walked through San Telmo while she pointed out this or that thing of interest. She didn't have answers for some of my questions (such as "how old is the San Telmo neighborhood?") so I told her if she wanted to be a tour guide she was going to have to find these things out!

We walked all the way to Casa Rosa or "Pink House", which is the Argentinian equivalent of the White House. The large square in front of it was the scene of all the famous Buenos Aires protests, such as the ones in 2001 over the economic crisis (which caused a rise among the middle class in Barter Clubs and using creditos, which has always fascinated me as I am interested in underground economies).

Paula Best Subway Guide Evar

From there, we got down into the subway system. I hadn't even realized Buenos Aires had a subway system. We lucked out with the first car that pulled up, it was an antique train-car with all wood finish and even a cool mirror in one spot. Paula said there were only a few of those still in operation. Buenos Aires has the best in-car subway maps I've ever seen. Above each door is the line map which shows the stations along the line as usual, but also which street and cross-street you will find at the station and even if the station has a bathroom!

From the center of Argentine government, we rode out of the central area towards the "real" Buenos Aires. Exiting the subway station we found ourselves in a slightly shabbier part of town alive with stores and pedestrians going about their business. I'm pretty sure I was the only tourist around at this point. We wandered through this area for a bit trying to find a graffiti mural wall Paula knew about (since I had mentioned my proclivities to her). Unfortunately the wall she knew of had been recently covered up so there was no art to be found.

Wine Shop under the Tracks Falkland Island War Memorial

It started to rain, and Paula needed to get to work, so we hopped in a cab and headed back downtown to San Martin park. There she showed me the memorial to the 600+ Argentinian soldiers who were killed by the British during the Falkland Islands war of 1982 (It is known as the Malvinas War to the Argentinians). The memorial lists the name of every soldier killed (much like the Viet Nam War memorial in the USA).

She explained to me that the Argentinian people were very upset because at the time of the war soldiers were conscripted and nearly all of the ones killed were only 18 or 19 years old, barely trained at all. It was as if they were simply sent to their deaths by their military commanders. The defeat by the British army quickly led to the end of the Argentine Military dictatorship.

From here Paula went on to work and I took a walk around Florida street which is a pedestrian mall filled with trendy stores. I suppose it is the Buenos Aires equivalent of Union Square in San Francisco. Quite a difference from the "real" neighborhood I had been walking through earlier.

That evening I went to see a band Paula recommended (I wish I could remember the name, but I can't find the ticket stub now). When I showed up at the venue (La Trastienda in San Telmo) I was at first told it was sold out, but soon after I turned to leave one of the ticket takers chased me down and said they would sell me a ticket after all. I think perhaps they took pity on me since I was a foreigner. Inside I found the place to be not too crowded at all, by normal standards for a rock show. There were a few hundred people in the club but I could easily see fitting another 100 or so. I suppose this cautious capacity limitation was a result of the fire in December too.

I didn't have my camera with me, but I wished I did just to take photos of the crowd. When I entered there was just some recorded music playing and a crowd of college aged people were milling about drinking beer. Then a projector screen was lowered in front of the stage and started playing a music video for the band scheduled to play that night. As soon as the video started, people just went ape-shit. They were jumping up in the air, climbing on each other backs, spinning around with their arms in the air practically shouting the lyrics at each other (all in Spanish of course) .  I think that moment was the biggest piece of culture shock I'd yet experienced in South America.

I mean, it was just the video.

After the video finished, the band came on and I realized I previously had no idea what ape-shit really meant. The band launched into their first song and the entire place was hopping up and down,  there were women and men on the shoulders of others waving their hands in the air. Everyone knew every lyric and was just screaming it out at the top of their lungs. Most of the guys took off their shirts and were twirling them in the air like footbal hooligans.

The music was OK, a sort of Argentinian U2 sort of thing I guess. What I really enjoyed that night was watching the crowd. People were crawling up support beams to get a better view, grown men were hugging each other and giggling like schoolgirls, it was just  insane. Really, I wish I had a video of the crowd.

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April 01, 2005

Buenos Aires: day 1

Buenos Aires is located not far from Montevideo, just up and on the other side of a huge inlet/river (not sure). I took a Buquebus hydrofoil ferry and the trip was about 3 hours from dock to dock if I recall correctly. Hydrofoils are those boats with underwater wings which lift the entire body of the boat above the surface once they get going. They really feel more like flying than sailing, I like them a lot. I haven't rode in one since Mie and I visited Nii Jima in Japan. The trip itself is fairly boring though; you're inside, you can barely see land from the windows and there isn't really anything to do. The ferry ride across the Straights of Gilbraltar is certainly more fun.

Micro$oft, Buenos Aires Sun Microsystems, Buenos Aires

Upon arrival I was greeted by some very modern looking glass and steel buildings including twin sky scrapers facing each other labeled Microsoft and Sun. Passing between them I felt like an Argonaut passing between Scylla and Charybdis. I wandered around for a bit trying to get my bearings and possibly find my hostel before giving up and jumping in a taxi. I had reserved a room at the Sandanzas hostel in the San Telmo part of town, which turned out to be very far from the ferry dock by foot!

San Martin Park, Buenos Aires San Martin Park, Buenos Aires

The hostel was nice. It is run by some friendly hippie types. I think they intend it to be more of a community of guests than just a hostel, but I don't like spending a lot of time in hostels so they probably found me a little rude. It's a nice place though. Art on the walls, music, free Internet and nightly grill outs (or so I was told, I never showed up for one).

I dropped off my bags and headed back out, doing my usual shtick of wandering about aimlessly and taking photos of street art. It was mostly stencils, but they were everywhere. I stopped by an Internet cafe and fired off an email to Res One whose work I had found in Montevideo in hopes he could guide me to some real wall art.

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After sunset I headed back downtown. I was in the mood for some live music. Anything, jazz, tango, rock, hip-hop. Something. But I wasn't finding much and finally I got in a cab and tried to explain in a mixture of bad Portuguese and English that I wanted to listen to some live music and could he take me somewhere. He said a lot of stuff in Spanish that I didn't understand and shoved a flyer in my hand for a club called Solid Gold with a photo of a busty naked blond on it. I said "no, no, no. Eo nao caro este, eu caro musica." He started driving a few neighborhoods away to what I hoped was a part of town with nightclubs, but instead he pulled up in front of Solid Gold.

The cab driver called over the doorman, who turned out to speak perfect American English. I told him what I wanted, he told me Solid Gold had music. "What is it, a strip club?" I asked. I like strip clubs actually and was thinking maybe an hour here first wouldn't hurt. But he said "well, no it's more like a whorehouse." I told him I wasn't interested, did he know anyplace playing live music? The best he could come up with was a bar named Kill Kenny that had a DJ. Feeling defeated, I said OK that'll do.  And besides a bar named after a South Park gag can't be all that bad right? The driver dropped me off in front of Kilkenny's Irish Bar which I realized was about one block from where I had originally got into the cab (you bastard!).

The bar turned out to be full of suds-soaked Argentinian and ex-pat yuppies squeezing against each other as they made circuits through the crowd. The music was typical top 40 classic US crap. I finished my two drink minimum and split. There were a few more bars in the area, mostly playing the same type of music, but I kept walking by one doorway with some nice ambient stuff coming from it. Since the doorway just had a menu next to it and led upstairs I figured it was a restaurant, but after exhausting all other possibilities in the neighborhood I went upstairs to check it out.

It turned out to be a restaurant/bar so I planted myself in a bar stool near the DJ. The music was really very good. I struck up a conversation with the bartender who spoke fairly good English.  Since I was really enjoying the DJ, I asked her where some good dance clubs were. She told me that most of the clubs in the city had been closed down since the fire in December that killed 169 people. I had been told by some other travelers who had been to B.A. in January that the clubs had been closed then, but I really didn't expect them to still be in March. She told me that children as young as 10 were in the club and killed as well, and that exit doors were locked. It was a big disaster.

Still, it was incredibly strange for such a metropolitan national capitol to have no large dance clubs for so long. What did people do? I was sure that there must be an underground scene raging now, but she said there wasn't. Usually bartenders know these things, but she had no idea so maybe people just didn't dance any more. I felt like Kevin Bacon in Footloose.

At one point, Paula told me that she hoped to quit bar-tending and try to make money giving personalized tours to tourists. I told her that was a great idea and volunteered to be her first customer, so we made plans to get in touch the next day so she could show me parts of Buenos Aires that are off the beaten track!

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