My first turkey.

We are thankful.

We are thankful for being here.

We are thankful for being here together.

I made my first thanksgiving turkey yesterday. It was not a complete disaster.

The kitchen in this apartment is designed for one of the seven dwarves. Most likely grumpy because that’s the only way I feel when I’m inside. It is so small I can’t even turn 45 degrees without breaking anything. My tally is 4 glasses and a plate so far. That’s an average of 1 item a week and I haven’t even lived here that long.

As holiday season approaches and families back home started to get together for thanksgiving, I became a little daunted by what I’ve gotten myself into traveling far away from home. At times this week, I was definitely thinking about home more than usual.

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate being with family and enjoy a delicious meal together. For this, it’s one of my favorite holidays. However, yesterday I was really lucky yesterday to be able to get together with friends–old and new. I cooked a turkey with the help of Ollie Klingenstein and Elliot Taft, two fellow Americans who have been traveling and working on ranches in South America. I introduced the magic of thanksgiving to three awesome Argentinians.

Back in early October, I got a message from Eliot. He knew I was going to be in South America sometime towards the end of this year so he wrote me, saying that he and Ollie were going to meet me in Buenos Aires for Thanksgiving. I laughed it off there, understanding the flakiness of travelers. Plans change, you meet people, find out about new places–anything can happen–so I wasn’t entirely convinced that we were actually going to cross paths. But they made it happen.

Ollie, a rugby teammate taking a semester off college to get learn from the winds and sands of Central and South America, came in on a flight from Lima at 5 in the morning. We caught, shared stories of our travels so far, then went later that afternoon to pick up Eliot at the ferry terminal who was coming in from Montevideo after working at a dude ranch for a couple of months.


We walked around, I showed them a place to get a 60 cent sausage sandwich, which is likely what kept me bent over the toilet, fully emptying my stomach for the next day. We went shopping, very lucky to find a turkey.

Pumpkin pie is easily my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, but pumpkin pie producing products were no were to be found. Emily Norton hooked it up with a sweet potato pie…we never tried it. It’s still in the fridge. The other Argentine twist to the meal was replacing cranberry sauce with a pear/fig marmalade. Its harder, and usually used to compliment crackers and cheese. Adding some water, it made a great substitute though.

We had a blast cooking all day, listening to CCR, Zac Brown Band, Trampled by Turtles, and a whole lot of other music to make us feel at home. Unfortunately we missed out on some key events: no football, no catch in the back yard, and no post dinner dog walks. But, it was great to be connected with good friends and to share the holiday with new ones. Thanksgiving this year was different, but absolutely memorable.

Iguazú National Park

In order to get a better understanding of what the brute force of water looks like, I went to Las Cataratas de Iguazú in the Northeastern-most corner of Argentina. Tucked in between the corner of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are the Iguazu waterfalls, easily one of the most sublime natural features I have ever laid eyes on.

My friend Emily and I traveled by bus. We left Buenos Aires at 3:30 Friday Afternoon and got to the bus stop in Puerto Iguazu at 10:30 on Saturday. It was 19 hours of non-stop bussing–about the same time of non-stop driving as it took me, Sarah Johnson, Lulu Oakes, Julie Bender, Zina Huxley-Riecher Phil Cuddeback, Alex Thompson, and Ben Richmond  to get from the Old Crow Medicine Show concert in Savannah, Georgia back to Bowdoin for school the next day.

Bus travel in Argentina is very popular, though. A bus trip of that magnitude is a pretty standard, especially compared to the United States. On the road I would say 15% of the other vehicles we passed were coach buses. Another 20% were logging trucks, then the remainder were trucks, cars, motorcycles and scooters–carrying more than they could handle. Once you get outside of Buenos Aires, its quite common to see trucks and cars from the past couple decades. I’m used to seeing outdated cars rotting on the sides of the road in Northern Maine, here, there were cars and trucks from the 60s, 70s, and 80s rotting on the side of the road and also still rolling on past me the roads.

18 hours on the bus wasn’t so uncomfortable. We opted to spend the extra ten dollars and get a Semi-Cama seat, which is basically a lazy boy chair that reclines to about 150 degrees. It would have been easy to sleep if it wasn’t for the audio of awful movies projecting directly through the mis-wired speaker like a PA system to the whole bus, rather than only being able to be heard when plugged into the audio-jack. In Bear-Grylls fashion, I rigged up my fleece, with this all purpose heavy duty twisty ties from EMS and jammed a pillow in between the fleece and the speaker, as air tight as I could crank it to muffle the whining rants of  the atrocious video content. I figured the guys that rotate through driving 18 hour shifts must see so many movies that it may become very slim picking. Or they just have bad taste.

The unfortunate media let me focus on appreciating the Argentine ranch-land out the window. The setting sun cast an orange glow across the landscape, which looked quite a lot like rural texas with barns, farms, cows, low-lying brush, and the occasional crop-field windmill. It was nice to be able to see the sun fully descend down the horizon rather than being cast in darkness an hour early behind the shadow of Buenos Aires’ buildings.

The most satisfying part of the bus trip was the coffee. In Argentina the go-to coffee is café con leche, a really frothy and milky 4th cousin of coffee. I really miss the big mug of black coffee that is easy to fill up and lasts much longer than the european expresso style in a little teacup. The bus had just what I had been missing, and lots of it, in a vat approximately the same size as crate for medium sized dogs.

Even though I drank a few styrofoam cups of coffee, I slept through to the morning, waking up to shift around a bit every hour or so. We arrived in Puerto Iguazu and found the hostel. It was a really nice place, with a little swimming pool in the back. It cost 252 pesos for two people for two nights. Thats 25 dollars, or just about 6.50/night.

The hostel was in town–a place with stray dogs, abandoned buildings, restaurants, and bars that cater to the park’s visitors. The place had an authentic South American feel. The roads were stained red from the iron-rich jungle soil, and all around was thick brush and a limitless expanse of trees. The town is just a little pocket of streets, telephone wires, and buildings, completely enveloped all around by jungle.

It was another 20 minute bus ride to the park. Sheraton has a hotel directly inside Iguazu national park, but that was a little pricey. We spent two days in the park, both days on the Argentine side. There are also great views from Brazil, but we planned the trip last minute and didn’t have time to straighten out a Brazilian Visa. Europeans can travel to Brazil without a problem, but Americans need to pay a fee and get it sorted before hand. The closest I got to Brazil was on a boat on the river that powered its way up the rapids and right underneath some of the smaller waterfalls. The river is the border. The border is still the country, so I’m checking it off my list. I’ve been to Brazil.

In two days, we hiked all the trails in the park, took a boat ride underneath the falls, spotted a toucan, a couple jungle raccoons, a whole lot of beastly lizards, and some funky butterflies. One of the highlights of the park was a longer, less popular trail where after a 3.5 km walk you get to a natural pool below a waterfall where you can swim. The whole place was really incredible. Pictures can’t do justice to the space, the immensity of the currents, or the beautiful jungle climate surrounding. In the Iguazu National Park, there are between 150 to 300 waterfalls, depending on the water level of the Iguazu River. About half of the water from the river flows into one channel, named the Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat.

I just got back to Baires after another big bus ride. We took another company back, one that loves to blast air conditioning. I was shivering like a penguin the whole night in shorts and a tank top, extremely envious of the people in front of me who knew we were traveling by ice box and packed their winter gear and a blanket. If the sounds were the distinctive feature on the first bus, the smells were the feature of the second. We sat in the very back, right in front of the motor, so got drugged up by the 18 hours of smelling gasoline.

Drawing on the roof

After three straight weeks of intensive Spanish class, I feel completely confident chatting with girls casually with text messages. Every once in a while, I need to ask Paddydel what a word or phrase means, but still I can get by. When speaking it is much tougher for me to keep up a sustained conversation. I need to think a lot, which leaves long pauses and completely negates any interest I might have implanted after introducing myself. In small business interactions in stores, I’m completely fine. But, in an inter-personal context, I do best socially with pre-schoolers. But I’ve been taking the mighty Crush learning attitude to learning. Be unabashed and let yourself fly solo.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Iguazu. The trip is by bus, an 18 hour ride to the North eastern corner of Argentina, tucked in between Paraguay and Brazil. I’m going to see the Iguazu falls, which are supposed to be the honorable mention for the 7 wonders of the world. The falls are on the waiting list, so if anything happens to any of the other wonders, Iguazu will take their place. I’m incredibly pumped to see the waterfalls. I’m not as excited for the 18 hour bus ride, but it’ll be some good time set aside for writing, reading, and studying. Also, I’ve got pretty good company.

The weather is really starting to heat up down here. But 18 hours north, it’ll be really roasty. The forecast says 95 degrees in Iguazu. I’m paying 9 dollars a night for the hostel…which has a swimming pool.

I told my roommate that the only person that reads the blog is my mom, which is 98% true. Maru wanted to meet you, Mom. Meet Maria. She does my laundry sometimes and gets mad at me when I’m messy. She’s filling in for you terrifically!

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El Tigre

16 pesos roughly translates to 25 cents. That’s how much it cost me to get to Tigre. El Tigre is a small town on the Paraná Delta, 45 minutes north of Buenos Aires. Paying for the ride with the scraps in my pocket was a fresh break. In the Netherlands I had to scoff up about 20-25 euro’s for an equivalently distanced ride.

I don’t know if the moving carriage can be considered a train though. I was hustled and heckled by about twenty five different vendors–cookies from the grocery store, Jesus stats baseball cards, homemade electronics, bubble gum, or off-tune guitar chords were just some of the products that were being sold. The salesmen were relentless, but they never came back more than once. Different shops just kept on coming through. Once they had made an offer to everybody on the carriage, they got off and waited for the next train.

I opted to take the city commuter line, rather than the tourist-oriented coastal line. The coastal line might have provided nice views but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see some more of Buenos Aires…or the convincing price.

As you pull out of Retiro, Buenos Aires’ central station, you get a good glimpse of one of the city’s Villas. (Vishha in Argentine/Porteño Spanish–the double L is pronounced as an ‘sh’ sound–Pollo, chicken, becomes Poysho). A Villa is sort of the Buenos Aires analog for one of Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas. Bolivians and Uruguayans began to squat alongside and eventually take over the rail tracks. They plugged themselves into the electrical lines and cables, built houses, and set up their own community. Alongside the tracks there is a shanty town, a mixing pot half complete houses, tin roofs, laundry lines popping through caving roofs, or cardboard signs for schools.

The poverty was immensely visible. But it was exacerbated by the Buenos Aires Lawn and Tennis Club that was over a fence and through a thick brush beside it. The red clay and grass courts define the club that hosts Buenos Aires’ professional tennis tournament were first set up for the city’s elite. Yesterday though, the place was eerily empty as the train rolled on by. Directly next to first world amenities is a third world shanty town.

Tigre had a similar aesthetic to the Withlacoochie River and Okefanokee Swamp that I canoed last spring break in Georgia and Florida back in the states. The banks of the rivers were lush and green, but then the water was thick dark and ominous. As far as I could tell though, there were no alligators like in the Withlacoochie. However, chemicals, trash and pollution were stirring beneath it’s depths. The river that passes through Buenos Aires is one of the top ten most polluted rivers in the world.

Tigre is the home of all of Buenos Aires’ antiquated rowing societies. There are about 18 that each have their homes along the main drag of the delta. Most of the city was shutdown on Monday when I was there, their real rest day after the hustle and bustle of the Sunday market places. Todo estaba cerrado.

El Tigre is situated on an island thats created by several small streams and rivers. The whole area is lowlying and especially vulnerable to floods. Last year Tigre was hit by ‘sudestada’ the Spanish word for floods from coastal storms. Everywhere I walked yesterday was under a meter of water last September.

I’ve recently gotten wind of a town South of Buenos Aires that was underwater for a quarter century:

La Fuerza Bruta

Ayer, yo fui a un evento se llama la fuerza bruta. Fue muy ruidoso. Pero en general, fue un evento spectacular, un poco como de ‘el grupo de hombre azul.’ Hubo mujeres que estuvieron bailar encima de mi y los actores tocaron música con tambores y cosas electrónicas. En Buenos Aires tambien, Emily, una chica que está un estudiante de Bowdoin y va a graduarse este año. Yo y Emily fuimos a la Fuerza Bruta.

Después del concierto, sentamos a una mesa cerca del Cemetario de Recolata y tomamos una bebida. Hablamos sobre amigos en los estados unidos y comimos nachos! Que bueno!

Mama…cierra su orejas y ojos…!!!
Este mañana, yo anduve una motocicleta por la ciudad detrás de Paddy que manejó esa. Fuimos al banco para cambiar mi dinero. Los calles de Buenos Aires son locos, y yo tenía miedo cuando manejamos por el avenida de Santa Fe.

Pero, todavía tengo mi cabeza. Que suerte!

Antes de mi clases de español, yo busqué por un restaurante que se llama un buen libro. El restaurante tiene un sandwich muy famoso porque el sandwich es largo y grande y parato. Pero no pude econtrarlo. Que lastima!

Después de clase, yo estaba caminado por el avenida de 9 de julio y yo compré dos libros. Una la página está en Ingles, y el otra pgina al lado está en castellaño. Es muy bueno para aprender. Con una chica de Geneve, en pais Swiss, que yo encontré en la tienda de los libros, yo volví a mi Barrio. Yo voy a descansar un poco sobre un sillón y después, voy a pensar como que yo quiero cenar.


Tambien, mi amiga de mi apartamento limpió todo de mi dormitorio y tambien sacó mis ropas en la lavaropa. Yo traje ella flores. Que linda!

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Yo soy muy divertido para escribir todo de esto en español. Woof woof.

Image 2Te gusta mi bigote?!

aqá esta un dibujo de una vida (still)

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