Reflections on Life From the Depths of Argentina PDF Print E-mail
South America - Argentina
Written by TK   

While travelling in South America, surprisingly I found myself addressing the big questions that scientists, theologists, philosophers and Britney Spears (through her gifted songwriting) have been attempting to resolve for years.  

Regressive Evolution? 

No greater argument can be found for regressive evolution than the following conversation I had with a 30 year old Israeli woman whilst I was travelling around Brazil - 

Me:  "The coffee in Brazil is very strong.  It certainly wakes you up doesn't it?  How strong is the coffee in Israel?"¨

Her: "It depends on how much coffee they put in the cup".

Enlightening stuff, and also a fascinating conversation to boot.  Maybe evolution is simply regressing now?

In Buenos Aires, the first step in the evolutionary chain can be examined in detail.  But it isn't in the museum, but rather the local soccer derby involving Boca Junior, the team that is home to one Diego Maradona.  At every match that is played, fans from the opposing team sit at the very top level of the stadium and throw bottles full of urine at the opposing supporters in the level below, as well as bread rolls and anything else they can get their hands on.  Luckily, I was at the top level, so was safe from harm (apart from the anti-Gringo rhetoric being cast in my direction).  My friend, however, wasn't so lucky.  He had his camera wrestled from around his neck by four Argentineans as he was leaving the stadium. One of the men had a gun on him.

Which is a pretty common theme here in South America.  In fact, to resolve disputes in Rio De Janeiro, the locals resort to pistol whipping.  Now I have never heard of such a term before, maybe I had a more sheltered upbringing than I initially suspected, however it has nothing to do with eroticism or some sick sexual fantasy.  In fact, it is when a loaded pistol is slapped across someone's face as a way of getting a point across.  When the pistol whipping episode was over, the pistol whipper put his gun up his ropa interiors (the expression in Spanish for underwear - hilarious) and walked towards my direction.  I ran off as quickly as a Brazilian could say "gringo" (pretty fast).  An idiot from Turkey who I was standing with obviously wanted to get shot, so he stood around gawking at the man with the gun for a good minute.

The Human Spirit: 

Don´t ever question that intangible quality that binds all of us together, the human spirit.  You can find it everywhere.  I found it on a nineteen hour bus ride to a waterfall.  I had been told to go to these waterfalls from a number of people, but to be honest was immediately suspicious.  Back when I visited Vietnam, a lot of people had told me to go to a waterfall as well, but when I got there after a two hour bus trip and a half hour hike there was not even a trickle of water.  Not a drop.  Wrong season it turns out. 

"Wet season better, sir.  Dry now". 

Yes, I can see that, thank you.  However, there was an odd cart near the base of the waterfall, actually let's call it a dry cliff.  Apparently the cart was quite famous with the Vietnamese, and a popular spot for honeymooners to take a picture.  I wasn't on my honeymoon though.  I happened to be with a friend.  So I got him to take a picture of me by myself with my arm extended to no mans land, and maybe one day a lucky girl will be superimposed onto the picture.  However, I digress.

So here I was in Argentina on an extraordinarily long bus trip going to a waterfall I hoped was there.  And a movie starts.  For once it wasn't dubbed over in Spanish, and is in English.  So I got comfortable, pulled the seat back and started watching it. 

Then I noticed that someone had started a chainsaw next to my right ear. 

An overweight Argentinean man had decided to keep the whole bus from (a) watching the movie or (b) falling asleep by incessantly snoring.  World´s worst snorer.  This persisted for a good one hour, and then the human spirit prevailed.  A mother, who was sitting with her daughter, got up and turned on the man´s light to wake him up.  No response.  A man sitting behind the snorer starts to kick the snorer´s chair.  Still no response.  A few people coughed loudly, talked loudly, laughed.  No response still.  Someone else walked up to him and yelled in his ear.  Still no response.  So finally the daughter gets up, stands next to the man for one minute, and hip and shoulders him.  The snorer finally wakes up, looks around and spends the rest of the trip awake for fear of falling asleep again and snoring.  

Life is a struggle: 

Spend one month in Buenos Aires and you will understand.  Nothing makes you appreciate life´s struggle when you have to prepare for a night out in this city.  By about 9pm, by which time in more normal countries the bar is usually the only thing holding you up, your stomach is groaning with hunger.  But there is no respite in site, and you usually have to wait another one or two hours before eating dinner.  You then have to occupy yourself until at least 1.30am at your house, before meeting up with some friends for some pre-drinks at about 2am, usually a pretty late night out in most people's language.  Finally you make your way to a bar or nightclub at 3am, at which time the place is just starting to fill up.  The peak crowd is at around 4.30am, and getting to bed at 7am when the sun is well and truly up is the norm.  Makes you wonder how Buenos Aires actually functions. 

Getting acclimatised to this way of life is akin to getting over a bad case of jetlag after a flight.  On my first night here, I was so tired from sitting around waiting to go out that I somehow managed to fall asleep on a friend´s bathroom floor.  Certainly not the most comfortable place to sleep by any stretch of the imagination, especially not a cold tiled floor where the only thing holding up your head is the corner wall of the room. 

But this is not uncommon, it is usually the tourists who crash and burn early in this city, and for a good reason. 

Survival of the fittest:

Once again Darwinism is debunked in the city of Buenos Aires.  In this city, dogs rule.  So much so, that you can't walk for more than one block without coming across dog poo.  Big mounds abound everywhere, like mountains springing from the pavement. 

Existentialism:

Struggling for meaning and purpose in your life?  Get a grip.  Try living in a favela in Rio De Janeiro, a villa miseria (shantytown) in Buenos Aires or a village in Guatemala and you will instead be struggling for your next meal every day. 

However, you will be amazed at these people´s resilience and acceptance of foreigners with open arms, especially the Guatemalans who seem to be the only South American nation with patience for my bad Spanish and salsa dancing, and the Brazilians who open their arms up to show you a gun in their left hand and a gun in their right hand. 

The Meaning of Life: 

It´s easy really, and has been staring us in the face for some time.  Beef.  And more precisely, steak.  Done the Argentinean way.  Nothing compels you to be more thankful for life than chewing down 400gms of the best cut a cow has to offer, for the princely sum of £4, although I am sure there are some Vegetarians who might disagree with this.  Argentina has without doubt the best meat in the world, and some of the best steakhouses in the world. 

Does God Exist?

For those sceptics, or at least the males, I may have found an answer in the affirmative by way of the Argentinean girls, clearly amongst the best on the planet.  Unfortunately, the way they act I think they may believe that they are in fact the Gods. 

Unfortunately, despite delving to the depths of human reasoning, I haven't as yet been able to answer the most pressing question of all.  Why on earth does the cabin crew on airplanes insist on waking you up at 6am for breakfast, even if the plane has only left the airport an hour before??

 

 
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