Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Day on the Paraná Delta Near Tigres

Well I finally started reading the manual for our SLR camera after 5 years. I've been playing around trying to get decent shots in the extremely bright sun, something that can be a challenge if you rely on the camera's automatic modes. These shots are from a day trip we took to "The Delta," which is where Porteños go to escape the city heat and relax in the cool milk chocolate waters of the Paraná Delta . And for you factoid lovers: the Paraná Delta is fed by the 1600 mile long Paraná River running through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina ultimately dumping as much water volume as the Mississippi into the Atlantic ocean.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: the delta

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rockin the Tango at San Telmo

Our Sunday ritual here in Buenos Aires is to hit the San Telmo antique and craft market. Today, we spent a good time sitting on the curb listening to this rocking street orchestra called Orquesta Tipica Imperial. I never thought there could be anyone crazier then my dear friend Timothy of Bellingham who hauls his full size acoustic piano around in a mini van, that is, until I saw the piano player from Orquesta Tipical, lugging his massive instrument through the cobble stone alleyways of San Telmo. What a glorious treat.

It turns out someone made a documentary film on these guys. The trailer looks interesting, apparently they are often harassed by the police for playing on the street. If anyone finds out how to get a hold of the film, please let me know, I'd love to see it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boys, Bodies and Bashings

One of the greatest joys of marriage is that your partner's stories become your stories. So my wife was sitting in the kids play area at Plaza Cortezar, the local park and restaurant area where we spend a lot of time. The kids were busy digging in the sand, sliding and playing their never ending game of tag. It was late morning, lots of folks were milling about, many sipping coffee, some setting up for the daily craft fair, and some preparing their restaurant for the day. A couple guys in their late teens were a part of a construction crew working on some repairs in the plaza. One of the boys was drunk. The two broke out into a fist fight. All bystanders remained in their pre-fight positions; no one rushed in to stop the fight or gawk, but everyone was watching, and aware of the fight. At one point, the drunk boy fell to the ground and struggled to stand. Blood gushed out of his nose. The other boy kicked him hard in the face. At this point, immediately multiple older men, around 50 years in age, stepped in, constrained the standing boy, and walked him away. Other men helped the fallen boy, someone arrived with a large bottle of water and poured it on his head; another brought a towel and started cleaning his wounds. Soon the police arrived.

So what my wife found most interesting were the cultural dynamics at play. For one, it seemed no one was particularly worried about weapons, or serious danger. Also, there was an acceptance that boys will be boys, and the fight was fair and therefore immediate intervention was not required or desired. Upon the violence taking a turn toward the "unfair," however, with one boy clearly down and incapacitated, bystander response was swift and thorough.

This story reminds me of another story. One day a few years back in Punjab, we were driving home from a day trip to the Himalayan foothills. My Thiaji (father's older brother), myself, my wife and kids. We slowly drove through the chaotic, dusty streets of Nawanshar. A cacophony of cars, goats, people, cows, honking buses, strewn wires, and a uniformed policeman directing traffic. As we approached the town center where multiple streets intersect, right in the middle of the street were about 15 boys, again late teens, in a full fist fight. My Thiaji scratching his gray beard, started laughing, "Deep, look at our boys! This is how we live. Ah, I wish I was young again." Thiaji then stopped the car in the midst of the chaos to chat with a policeman who was calmly directing traffic as if nothing was going on. Thiaji asked, "what's going on?" The policeman responded, "oh the kids are just bored, it happens every Friday evening." My uncle looked at the cop like he was totally daft, pointed out his window toward two flying fists a few feet away and said, "well of course, but what is this particular fight about?" He needed the details. Something about a boy, a sister, a crass remark. Thiaji rolled up his window, waved to the cop, smiled at the fighting boys, and we inched along, wondering what was for dinner.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Buenos Aires Nose Beatings

So a few minutes after arriving in Buenos Aires, I noticed some woman with a broken nose sipping coffee at a cafe. A day later I saw another broken nosed woman chatting with a well coiffed tough looking guy; I wondered if she was a domestic violence victim. Then yesterday I saw another one, and thought, wow, are the men here abusive? Maybe its all that hot Mediterranean blood. Then today I saw another one, and thought, okay, something is up; all of the broken noses have the same exact bandaging. Later, we met a tour guide who started cracking jokes about the "lions" here in the BA jungle -- she pointed out plasticated boobulation examples everywhere; she said the national health insurance even covers it. So I did some searches, and a bunch of weird things showed up. I don't typically follow the Miss Universe news, so I missed the fact that Miss 1994 Argentina died recently from a botched buttocks implant. And this freaky woman has issues with hers as well. Apparently though, this is all old news. This 1999 Newsweek article has a punchy quote:

In "The Masks of Argentina," author Luis Majul estimates that one in every 30 Argentines has undergone cosmetic surgery. And with prices plummeting, face-lifts and nose jobs are becoming "democratized," says plastic surgeon Maria Cristina Zeaiter. But the country's elite sets the tone; everyone from Diego Maradona to President Carlos Menem has gone under the scalpel. Menem's ex-wife, former First Lady Zuelma Yoma, is a frequent client of cosmetic-surgery clinics. But few Argentines are put off by such dangers. "Mankind suffers two great ills: aging and ugliness," says cosmetic surgeon Jose Juri. "Plastic surgery can treat them both."

So, it turns out that, not only do folks here get a lot of plastic surgery, but BA is actually a major plastic surgery "medical" "tourist" destination. Here's a rather disturbing CNN expose.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homeschooling at La Campana National Park in Chile

We're still working out many of the kinks in our home schooling efforts. One of the things that seems to be working is field trip based learning. So recently we hauled the pod out to La Campana National Park which is in the Vizcachas Mountains about 60 kilometers from where we are staying in Valparaiso.

This was probably the most public transportation we have ever taken for a day trip, so we started out the lesson discussing how to catch the train, how the automated ticketing system works, where to find the bus, and how to find a toilet at a bus station without eating a meal. Since we haven't had a Lonely Planet guidebook with us, we're flying a bit blind relying heavily on our hosts for some advice; stuff like: "I'm pretty sure if you make it past the land of the big tomato to Olmue, you'll find a bus that will get you close to the park. From there, just hike into the park." Our homeschooling lesson continued by a colorful illustration of how to look really clueless on a bus in the middle of no where while butchering a major world language; our illustration rendered perfectly, inspiring a wonderful Chilean gentleman to help us flag down the next ride in our route. This photo below shows the man running away from us as fast as possible, fleeing the half baked field trippers.

Along the way, we continued our lesson discussing what horses eat in the Cordillera de la Costa, apparently smooshed tomatoes from the back of a truck.

And more information on why you might hang a cow skin from the ceiling.

Here was another quick lesson on why National Park's are located on the end of really long dirt roads:

And another one on why you might build a blue shack on top of a well a half mile up from the rangers station.

Ah yes, and the environmental lesson we originally set out on, which was to witness and understand the very unique ecological system of this region in Chile.

So we also spent some time understanding how a plant ecosystem can remain shielded from the world at large (in the case of Chile, huge mountains a short distance to the east, and a big ocean to the west). And of course, we chatted about who this Charles Darwin guy was, since he climbed this mountain during his "Voyage of the Beagle." Darwin was interesting to the kids, in part since Manuel, one of our hosts, while recommending the park, described how he came here with Darwin's great, great, ... great grand daughter, who herself is also apparently a scientist.

So there you have it, a serendipitous field trip based ecological homeschooling lesson on the last of the Jubaea chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm) forests.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Downhill Distractions in Valparaiso

My wife has grown tired of me constantly checking out the lines here, as in, me imagining how I would hit a set of stairs, or launch out into the street off a nice drop with a downhill bike. Obsessing over lines is something I've done ever since I was a kid and I first started skiing. It seems I can't enjoy a hike unless I convince myself first that it wouldn't be that great of a mountain bike ride. I've never though, had this problem in a city, since I normally think of cities as terrible places to mountain bike. Valparaiso changed that; it is simply so obviously built for 8 inches of suspension, a downhill helmet, and some armor.

So, after feeling a bit OCD, I was thrilled to discover that I am not the first to obsess on the Valparaiso lines. This morning, I was chatting with Manuel, a very relaxed gourmet Chilean chef who cooks for guests here at the cozy Valparaiso Experience; I was telling him how amazing the streets are. He asked me what I meant, and I explained. He then asked me if I was one of those crazy guys. I laughed while my wife nodded. So Manuel went on to tell me a story. Apparently the traditional male Valparaisians are a pretty hardy stock of fisherman and port people. When they first saw an army of "green haired, pierced skinny kids" parading through the streets on their beefy rigs, they laughed. Then, they witnessed the Valparaiso Urban Downhill, and were hand-on-forehead impressed at the kids "bravery." Manuel even described his personal shock at witnessing a hard core rider get some fat air while jumping out the window of a house; upon landing, this rider removed their helmet revealing long flowing locks of blond. Manuel said, with a starry look in his eyes, "we have wonderful women here in Val, they are artists, painters, architects, but wow, I'd never seen anything like this. She was amazing."

After some quick YouTube sleuthing, I've dug up some footage of the 2007 Downhill race. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Day at Pablo Neruda's

We had a wonderful day visiting Neruda's house here in Valparaiso, Chile. The gardens are beautiful. Slideshow courtesy of Smilebox, a friend's company in Seattle.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: A Day at Pablo Neruda's

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Flip Cam Cruising Through Valparaiso

I'm convinced there's a light weight way to make a decent video and quickly get it onto this blog, though I haven't yet found a good made-for-grandma webware solution. This is my first attempt with minimal editing and slim formatting. I'm experimenting with shooting lots of clean, short clips and then basically rapidly stacking them together. Where I usually sink a lot of time is in splitting clips in iMovie and going too high res, so I'm intentionally avoiding these slow downs. This video of us cruising the colorful streets and wonderful waterways of Valparaiso, Chile went from Flip Camera to blog post in an hour and a half, not bad, though still an hour and 25 minutes too long I think. I wish I could just plop in my Flip Cam, pick a song, and walk away; alas, perhaps a little video geekery project is in my future.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Put a Dagger in the Steering Wheel

A few months ago I was on a business trip in San Francisco having dinner with a friend who'd spent a number of years working in Kazakhstan. He said to me, "sometimes in life Deep, you just have to put a dagger in the steering wheel". After a moment of staring into the air picturing my high school 75 Ford Maverick with a butcher's knife in the steering wheel and a stack of pizza boxes on the passenger seat, I said, "Eh?"

Recently, folks have been asking me how I could just pack up and take off for over a year with a wife, 2 kids, a mortgage, dog, blah and blah; I do remember feeling overwhelmed by the forthcoming details about 4 months ago when we finalized the decision; so instead of doing what comes naturally to me and analyzing myriad complicating factors, I thought of Patrick and decided we just need to focus on the dagger. So we sunk a bunch of cash on pricey non-refundable plane tickets, and then, the mortgage, dog, kids schooling, house, and all the remaining hoo hah just became part of the path.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Poem of the Day from Pablo's Hood

On occasion I feel a conflict between my multiple selves. I thought I'd include one of my favorite Neruda poems titled We Are Many which contains such lovely words on this topic.

We Are Many

Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
They have departed for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of intelligence,
the fool I keep concealed on my person
takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.

On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous self,
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations.

When a stately home bursts into flames,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. There is nothing I can do.
What must I do to distinguish myself?
How can I put myself together?

All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.

But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
I would like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly me,
because if I really need my proper self,
I must not allow myself to disappear.

While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have already left.
I should like to see if the same thing happens
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to themselves.
When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in things
that, when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ballard Pundit Reveals a Year of Wandering

Virtually every Sunday morning, my family and I head down to the Ballard's Farmers Market. We meander past the stalls and sample the latest organic goodies, while our kids suck on honey sticks and pester us for caps and Pop-Its from the toy store. So last Sunday, on a whim, I decided I'd pay $10 to a fortune teller and see what my future had in store.

The last time I went to a fortune teller was about 15 years ago, so its not something I do every day, nor is it something I take very seriously, but I figured worse case scenario, I was helping our local market economy out. So the fortune teller asked me whether I used to write a lot of fiction. I said well yes I did. She said, "it looks like you stopped about ten years ago for some reason, and I think you are going to start up again in full force." Then she asked, "are you going on a big trip? I see you surrounded by laughing kids and you are a teacher." I said, "well yes, actually we are going on a trip." She said, "I see you in Thailand, is that where you are going?" I said, "well to be honest, we haven't planned that far ahead, but it is certainly a possibility that we wind up in Thailand." So then I went ahead and explained our plans, rough as they were. Then the fortune teller said, "I also see that you were a philosopher working in academia on the French and Belgium border in a past life." I laughed. She then said, "make sure you start writing again, you must return to your writing, it is essential to your soul."

So while I'm not sure whether I wore a beret and a Dali mustache in a past life, I am sure that I am sitting on a plane heading on a year plus long adventure. Turns out the fortune teller did pretty well, I have no idea how. Ever since my wife and I got married, we've tossed around the idea of a long global trip with kids in tote. Even before my wife and I met, we both traveled a fair amount, and it was something we assumed we would continue, even when it was more challenging, i.e. while hauling kids about, paying a mortgage, feeding a dog, and taming the many items of modern life competing for attention.

There have been multiple points in the past decade that Ameen, my wife, and I had thought seriously about leaving. Mostly they were disrupted by my strong desire to see a project I've had the great privilege to be a part of take off. A prior post of mine, titled Evri Exposes the Web that Always Was is perhaps my best attempt to articulate why I've felt so attached to this work for the past 8 and a half years. After much thought, I feel now the time is right to make a change; the company has strong leadership, an amazing team, and committed investors. I have stepped back from my full time role with the company and will be continuing on as an advisor. My time with Evri has been one of the most exciting in my career. It has truly been amazing to see a nascent unformed idea grow into such a wonderful and promising content discovery engine.

So what are our plans? Well the truth is, things are only half baked; we're basically escaping the wet northwest winter, and following the sun through South America, southern Africa, Dubai, then on toward India. Once in India, I'm not too sure on the details, we want to help out a non profit building sewer systems in rural Punjab in some capacity, and of course we have lots of friends and family we'll be visiting. We'll also be homeschooling the kids on route until we can get them enrolled in India where we'll be stopping for a longer duration.

If you're interested in following along with our trip, I'll be blogging here on Chalo Bolo and tweeting as zang0. I'll also be available all the usual means, Skype, Facebook, email, Seattle phone number, etc. First stop: Valparaiso, Chile, home to one of my favorite poets: Pablo Neruda.
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Liked what you read? Tell your friends

More info about content in my post