Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Thursday, May 26, 2005

33. Sky-diving (Lobos, Argentina)

Today is May 25, Independence Day which means another public holiday, which means I don't work which means I don't get paid. Such is the life of a contracting language teacher.

On Sunday Juan and I finally went sky-diving. Almost every time I see Juan, he says to me "Hey man, so are we gonna do this sky-diving shit?" and we always put it off for another weekend. But a friend of mine from Australia, Phil, was visiting, so I'd told Juan to set the date for May 22.

The Sunday rolled around and as it turned out, Phil couldn't make it as he'd bought some scalped tickets to the Boca vs River football match ($100 pesos, normally $20), the most anticipated local derby game of the year, so it would be only me and Juan doing a jump, with another friend Pablo watching.

Skydive - 02 - Hangar
The hangar

We arrived in Lobos (translation: Wolves), a town 100km from Buenos Aires at 12pm and signed up. I guess peer pressure worked because Pablo decided to jump as well so I loaned him the $270 pesos (NZ$130). We waited around for a couple of hours, watching the pros coming in to land in their fluorescent jumpsuits and wondering when it would be our turn to suit up. We passed the time making jokes about how the guy who signed us up was walking with a really bad limp, and how much time our 30 seconds of free fall is. We were jumping from 3000m and falling until 1500m (35 seconds of free fall.) Go on, look at your watch now and time how long 30 seconds is - it's ages. Your time starts... now [0 seconds].

Skydive - 01 - Plane
Our plane

So at about 2pm we were introduced to our tandem pilots - the guys who we'd be strapped to, and suited up in our harnesses. To my surprise, we weren't given a fluro jumpsuit but would be jumping in the clothes we were wearing. [10 seconds?]

Skydive - 05 - Posse Juan
Pablo and Juan harnessed up

We piled into our tiny plane, which only had room for the six of us and the pilot. Not only was it the first time skydiving for us 3, but it was also Pablo's first time in an airplane. While we ascended we went through our technique again with our pilots - hands on chest for the first 3 seconds, then starfish position with legs wrapped under the pilot's. The pilots gave us funky WWI leather caps to wear which were cool. [20 seconds?]

Skydive - 09 - Matt cap
Me on the ascent, hat and goggles

Juan said that for every 300m we climb the temperature drops 2 degrees, so at 3000m was about -2. The ascent took about 15 minutes, then the door was popped open, and Pablo and his pilot clambered out onto the step and flipped off. Juan and his pilot followed immediately, and soon enough it was my turn. We clambered out onto the small step, and I'd convinced my pilot to let me jump with my digital camera in my hand so I could shoot a movie. I soon realised why we had to keep our hands on our chest - it meant we couldn't hold onto the plane. In no time we'd leapt out in a flip and I saw the underside of the plane flying off, before we turned over and I was facing the ground. Well, the 30 seconds of free fall went by really fast. It felt like about five or ten seconds, but the movie I took with my digital camera verifies that I would have fallen for the 30. [30 seconds!]

Skydive - 16 - Matt Falling
Me falling. Click the photo to view the video.

So, how did it feel? I've always wanted to skydive ever since I was a kid. I guess I imagined the sensation would be like flying. Then when I was older I imagined the sensation would be more like the horrible feeling you get when you're falling when your guts drops - if you've ever jumped off a bridge into water or ridden a roller coaster you know what I mean. But, having done it, my recollection is of a falling sensation for the first couple of seconds followed by a floating sensation. Juan said he didn't feel like he was moving towards the ground at all. I did - I could see the ground getting bigger, in between grimacing at my camera. I remember it feeling rather nice, a lot of wind obviously since we were going at 200km/h, I guess in that regard it felt a bit like riding a motorbike. As I said, the fall went quickly, and I was woo-hooing the entire time. There was a great feeling of relief when I felt the chute start to slow the fall and then kick in, but also a feeling of regret that the ride was over so soon.

Skydive - 16 - Matt gliding
Chute open

Well, it wasn't quite over - next was a lovely 5 min descent towards the airfield which in itself was enjoyable, like riding in a hot air balloon I guess.

Skydive - 19 - Laguna
The view on the descent. The tiny pink blob is Juan's parachute.

On landing we were reunited and sat around recounting the experience over a couple of beers, as you do, and again and again at the asado at Juan's house that night. We also laughed that Pablo had now been in a plane but he'd yet to land in one.

Skydive - 23 - Matt Posse Juan reunited
Reunited on landing

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

32. Wanting Music (B.A, Argentina)

One crap thing about being 'on the road' is I miss out on what's happening with the music scene back home. The music scene here is pretty good, much better than in Asia, at least here they receive most mainstream music from the Northern Hemisphere, except for Hip-Hop, which I guess is too irrelevant if you don't speak the language.

Anyway, I big thanks to my friend Dean for posting me a CD full of mp3s of mostly NZ new music. Ministry of Sound 2005, P-Money's latest, Breaks Co-Op and the D4 which I liked, and Fast Crew, Baitercell & Schumacher, and Dogs Die in Hot Cars which I'm not really into.

Around BA - 44 - Magazines
Random pic: Men's magazines for sale. It's all about the culo (ass) here

If anyone has any music they wanna send me, email it to: Cheers

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

31. Busted! (B.A, Argentina)

On Friday night I met up with Juan and Pablo, another friend, and we drove across town to go to a tribute gig to Joaquin Sabina. Joaquin Sabina is a Spanish singer/songwriter who I'm told sings a lot about women and drinking - my Spanish isn't good enough to understand songs yet. Anyway, the band we were going to see was a covers band of him. The bar was packed full with a partizan crowd - everyone seemed to know the words to most of the songs (except me).

Anyway, during the gig I somehow got arrested by the Police. I'm not going to divulge what I was doing to get arrested, other than it was a fairly typical weekend activity for young fellas on a Friday night, that is frowned upon in some countries more than in others.

So, I was hawled off to the comisaria, interrogated by ten different cops (none played bad cop though), asked for my personal details including my parent's names and addresses, fingerprinted 21 times - 21 because I was a foreigner so they needed extra copies for whatever reason, and then asked if there was anyone I could call to help me out. At about this time my cellphone started ringing, it was Pablo at the gig wondering what happened to me. So he and Juan turned up at the station and Juan acted as my official interpreter even though the police thought my Spanish was bastante bien (good enough). Juan told me my offence wasn't serious enough to need a court appearance, but that I would have to spend a night in the cells anyway until they contacted my Embassy. I borrowed a denim jacket off Pablo - until then I'd only had a shirt on so was freezing, and sent into the holding cells. But not before the cops had stripped me of my belongings, including my belt and shoelaces.

Around BA - 39 - Puerto Madero night
Random pic: La Puente de las mujeres, Puerto Madero

There were 3 cells and 3 detainees - including me. One was a 20 year old in for the same thing as me, and the other cellmate I didn't speak to that night, but he was obviously in detox as the rest of us had to listen to his agonising dry-retching through the night. The cells were pitch black and freezing cold as they were exposed to the night air. Concrete roof, floors, and sleeping bench. I didn't want to enter mine as I couldn't see a thing and was paranoid about sitting or stepping in a turd or something left behind by a previous resident. So I curled up in a crouching foetal position outside my cell and somehow managed to semi-sleep like that for an hour, with my breathe warming my legs. By about 7am it was light enough to see inside my cell. There didn't appear to be any turds or piss lying around so I went in and sat on the concrete bench, which was freezing. Somehow the previous residents had had food, as there was an empty pizza box and soft drink bottles in the cell. So half the pizza box became my mattress for my ass (the other half had shit-marks on it) and the empty Fanta bottle became my pillow. I semi-dozed like that for another hour, still in a foetal position for warmth as my legs were freezing.

Although the night was bad, the next day was much worse. The jolly Inspector the night before had told me I'd be out by about 12pm, after they contacted my Embassy. But guess what, the Embassy is closed on Saturday, I could have told them that. And it was still damn freezing - the cells received no sunlight and being concrete stayed cold all morning. Pacing for warmth was awkward without shoelaces and a belt. I found a coin one of my pockets that the cops hadn't confiscated, and set about scratching Kiwi Was Here in the wall of my cell, which became A Kiwi Was Here which became A Kiwi Was Trapped Here For 12 Hours. By about 10am a crack of sunlight had appeared high on one of the exterior walls so I climbed up on my (unlocked and open) cell door to receive the light on my face. After about 5 minutes a cop told me to get down, and asked me if I'd like to take some sun. Very much, I said, but rather than let me out to sit in the sun I was locked inside my cell. Now the boredom really set in. The worst part was not knowing when I was going to be let out - no one was telling me anything and besides, no one was walking past my door to tell me anything. With every jangle of keys I'd be peering out between the bars trying to see if the cop was coming to my cell or that of my neighbours, which was always the case. By about 1:30pm I was getting really pissed off. Still cold as I hadn't stopped shivering, hungry and thirsty as I hadn't eaten or drunk anything, tired, but mostly plain bored, I kicked the door of my cell to get a cop to come. The cop told me they were still trying to contact my Embassy, but no one had answered yet. I started singing to pass the time - my favourite guitar singalong songs, well the ones that I could remember anyway. The acoustics of the square concrete cell were most pleasing. My neighbours never joined in but I suspect they didn't know the words to my songs in English. Finally, at 3pm a cop came and told me that my friends were here (Juan and Pablo) and that my 12 hours was up, I could leave. I signed for my possesions and we were out of there - first stop a gas station, where I bought some breakfast. Then I realised that the cops hadn't given me back my silver ring, but I really could not be bothered going back for it and besides it was probably gone for good anyway.

Around BA - 43 - Balcarce night
Random pic: Balcarce St, San Telmo

So there it is. I'd always wanted to spend a night in a cell just for the experience, but man, it sucked. It was cold and uncomfortable and miserable. The night was bearable but the day hell. And thanks to that night I have a bad headcold, again, I'd only just gotten over my previous one that I caught two weeks ago. I've been a bit of a sickly begger the last month - my diarea/fever, followed by a headcold followed by another headcold. I started taking vitamins to make up for my lack of vegetable intake but they weren't enough this time.

Oh yeah, at every Sunday asado at Juan's house I always have another crazy gringo story for him and his friends - things that have never happen to them despite them having lived here all their lives - starting with the time I fell from a moving subway car, to my fake peso story, to the time I rode in the cop car looking for car theives. But this time I told them - OK, there's gonna be no more gringo stories. This is the last one!

Monday, May 02, 2005

30. Safety concerns (B.A, Argentina)

It's easy to forget I'm living in what is a large and sometimes dangerous city. Old ladies walk their dogs until midnight, and their is often a cop standing on many street corners. The cops here are always sporting guns and usually bullet-proof vests too, which at first is an interesting site. While I usually feel safe in the street, a couple of organised robberies I've heard of only from word of mouth are quite alarming.

It's the one that says Bad Mother F**ker

The first one I read about on the forums at Lonely Planet. A gang of armed men raided a hostel in Congreso (near where I live) and took their time robbing all of the guests of all of their valuables.
The second I heard read about in a mass email - a gang of armed men boarded a Manual Tienda Leon bus from the airport and robbed all of the passengers of all of their valuables.
And the third happened to one of my fellow English teachers on Thursday night - a gang of armed men entered a fairly nice bar and robbed all of the patrons of their money Pulp Fiction style, they weren't afraid of pointing their pistols at heads I'm told. He lost $60 pesos (NZ$30).

Any of you f**kin pricks move...

While this sort of thing would be very newsworthy in NZ and maybe in Australia, here all 3 events seem to have gone unreported. Just as in the US, gun-related crime is all too common and I've only heard about each crime from other sources. I'll just have to keep my head down.

29. Puppetry of the Penis, FĂștbol (B.A, Argentina)

The other night I got dragged along to see Marionetas del Pene, which is a local franchising of the Australian Puppetry of the Penis show. When I was in Australia, these guys were all over the media, and received respectable reviews for their show. So at first I was interested to see the local version. But then I thought about it, and realised I didn't really want to pay $20 pesos (NZ$10) to see 2 naked guys on stage manipulating their genitals. But it was a Friday night, and I'd met up with some friends for dinner and they were keen to see it so along I went.

Around BA - 36 - Puppeteer
Not a Penis Puppeteer

And, it was exactly what I expected. 2 naked guys on stage, creating various objects with their cock and balls, blown up on a big screen: genital origami, if you will. e.g, a hamburger, the Lock Ness Monster, a frog, and of course the good ol man-gina. After about 10 minutes I wanted to leave, but we stuck around for what was about an hour long show. In all they did I guess a dozen tricks, maybe more, but I should point out the show is supposed to be a comedy and not pornographic. The only funny thing was the todger the slightly shorter guy was sporting, his foreskin resembled a turkey baster. Maybe he'd been stretching it for a bit too long.

River Plate v Lanus - 06 - Crowd
Crowd shot at the River vs Lanus game

Yesterday I went to my 3rd fĂștbol game here, this time it was River Plate (the championship leaders) vs Lanus. This game was played in River Plate's stadium which is I think the largest in the country, I don't know, maybe 60,000 capacity. The first half was boring, 0-0, but the second half was good, final score 1-1. But the spectacle itself wasn't as good as the Racing v Independiente game I went to a few weeks ago, which was one of the local derbys. Around the football field is an athletics track so the crowd is quite a bit further from the game. The police were confiscating newspapers on the way in - I guess because it's a fire hazard, but it meant there wasn't much confetti. No balloons either. Not many songs either. No, I enjoyed the Racing game much more.

28. Ridin' with the man (B.A, Argentina)

The other night I was walking along in the pouring rain huddled under my tiny Kathmandu traveller's umbrella, when I heard the sound of a car window breaking across the road from me. The breaker of the window was some tall lanky guy, and he stepped away from the car and watched as his smaller companion reached in through the broken window and tried to remove something from the car - probably the stereo.

Around BA - 38 - Snake
Random pic: A man with a snake in the street in San Telmo. Dunno why.

What was I to do? Stop them? Yell something? I kept walking, not wanting to draw attention to myself as who knows what piece of hardware they used to break the window. When I got to the corner about 30 metres away I saw a cop car cruising along so I flagged it down and told them what I'd seen in my broken Spanish. When? They asked me. Ahora! (Now!). I replied. Get in, they said. So I hopped in the back of the VW Passat cop car and we drove down the street where 30 seconds earlier I'd seen the ladrones break the window. We stopped to see if I could recognise the thieves but I couldn't see anything through the rain, as I could neither wind down the window nor open the rear door. We drove around a few blocks in a circle but didn't see them - I suspect they had lookouts standing on the corner who'd signalled as soon as I'd gone to the cop car. I left my details with the cops and they said I might have to go to the station to make a statement. I asked if I could get a pancho (hot dog) first as I was hungry and it was 1 in the morning, and they said no, you don't need to go now, we'll call you if you need to.