Friday, 29 February 2008

Gualeguaychu Carnival, Argentina

Photo: Carnival Fun

Tomorrow, I'm off to the last day of carnival in these there parts in Gualeguaychu Carnival, Argentina with the missus and some friends. I went to carnival in Trinidad & Tobago a few years ago and it was an absolute blast. It was a 'lads only trip' and we got kitted out with costumes and took part in the parade. Before you ask, NO, you can't see photos (one is above & no I'm not in it). The missus just went to the carnival in Bahia, Brazil 2008 (chick only trip!), which is supposed to be better than Rio according to carnival veterans. I won't be able to read, comment on blogs for a wee while but hope to post the occasional mobile phone post to the blog so keep watching and I'll catch you on the other side.


Thursday, 28 February 2008

When it Rains it Pours!

The forecast for today was "Light Thunderstorms containing Rain". It hasn't rained much in Buenos Aires since I got here and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. It did snow for first time in 90 years the week before I arrived but its been dry and sunny since (I know, it's tough out here! ;-))

The forecast is usually fairly accurate here and sure enough, I awoke around 4am with the sound of thunder followed by rain. I got out of bed and closed the windows to stop the splashes getting in. I went back to sleep amidst the sound of raindrops beating against window. I woke up at 8am with a now familiar sound of more raindrops beating against window, only heavier, stronger and faster. By 10am, the rain was falling with such force, it was like a giant power hose from the heavens. This continued for several hours, but then, as it always does the sun came out.

Photos: Light Thunderstorms with Rain

In the aftermath, roads were flooded, trees were blown over and more than 500 people had to be evacuated from the worst affected areas in the city. I spent the afternoon searching the internet for an inflatable dingy as I want to be totally prepared for when the "Heavy Thunderstorms containing Rain" arrive!


Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Barking Mad (Take Two)

Photo: K9 Boca Juniors Supporter

Update: Despite the serious effort invloved, recording the dogs on my phone , the damn thing wouldn't play on the blog. That is hopefully now fixed (blue play button below) and I've softened up my tone for the poor dogs in question as it wasn't totally P.C. (except for 'Brucey' - you I still hate with a vengeance!)

I've mentioned dog themes in previous posts (e.g. post A and post B )

I remember as a kid, our next door neighbour had this Jack Russell/Pitbull mongrel called Bruce (we called it Brucey after the tv host of the 'Generation Game' as like him it liked to talk(bark) a lot). Brucey liked to bark at the birds. He would chase them if they landed anywhere near the garden and even if they were perched 3 metres above in a tree, he would bark and bark until he got hoarse or the poor birds got fed up listening to the annoying little mut bastard and flew away. I'm not a big fan of birds either, as they can be annoying too, what with their tweet-tweet-tweetin' at 6 o' clock in the morning when you're trying to get some shut eye, but rest assured we'll fight that battle another day.

This barking would go on and on and on, and I often resorted to screaming obscenities at the little blighter to try and shut him up (especially at 8am on a Saturday if I was nursing a sore head). He seemed to respond to the 'F' word better than any other vocab I tried, so I used that quite a bit. So much so in fact , the dogs owner heard the torrent of abuse one morning and complained to my parents at the severity and vulgarity of the abuse. Fortunately for me, she put the blame on my older brother, as she must have figured, a young wee angel like myself, wouldn't be capable of whispering the swear words being used, never mind beltin' them at the top o' me lungs out the bedroom window.

My parents weren't too sympathetic to the owner either as they were fed up listening to the woof-woof-woof racket and being lumbered with keeping an eye out for the dog when the owner went away. If only Barbara 'Walkies' Woodhouse could have come to visit, the situation could've been defused. Alas, like Barbara, poor 'Brucey' passed on to dog HELL many years ago, but has been replaced with different reincarnations since although none as bad or loud as the original.

So what brought on this trip down memory lane?.. you may well ask. Well, our neighbours here in Buenos Aires, in the apartment block opposite, recently got some young dogs (about 3 by the sound of the racket). The poor dogs are locked up all day and as soon as the owners go to work, an impromtu concert of 'Hounds of the Baskervilles' ensues. Here's a wee snippet of what I now wake up to in the morning, and repeats as required during the day, eve and night! (recorded with my mobile phone).

Wait for the blue play button appear and then click to hear the free 3 dog tenors concerto, I listen to everyday!


If perchance, my blog goes quiet and you hear of an Irishman being arrested in Buenos Aires for screaming profanities at animals, I've probably been hauled away by the R.S.P.C.A. (again!). Rest assured I'm not an animal hater as when the owners come home, I will be be screaming at them with equal, in fact more abuse for abandoning the wee critters for hours on end


Friday, 22 February 2008

There must be something in the water!

A 16-year-old Argentine girl has given birth to female triplets - for the second time.

Courtesy of Raiméis

7 Kids and she's 17 today!

There's been quite a backlash from the Argentines here where poverty is widespread. She got a freebie house and land after her 1st set of triplets and will now need more support and probably a bigger house. The father of the first set of kids did a runner.
There's not much sign of Daddy for the second set either.

Jaezuz H. C. !!!!



Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Stranded in the Desert

My siblings and I, have a bit of a reputation for travel jinx's and mishaps. We're a well traveled bunch, but somehow a dark cloud seems to follow us around as soon as we set foot near an airport.

This latest chapter is very bizarre indeed. My brother had recently gone to Saudi Arabia for a contracting work assignment and involuntary detox. I mean, why pay for the Betty Ford clinic when YOU can get paid wads and detox at the same time. His work agency arranged for a 6 month multiple entry work visa. Having spent just over a month working there, he was planning to travel back to Europe for 2 weeks and then return to work in Saudi.

He checked in for his flight and proceeded to immigration control where he was informed he'd over stayed his visa by 3 days - huh? Turns out that even though it is a 6 month multiple entry work visa - you must leave the country every 30 days.

Now here's the clanger. The visa is immediately revoked and he is told he CAN'T leave the country until everything has been sorted out. (whatever that means?) Apparently, he needs a letter from his visa sponsor humbly apologising AND he has to pay a fine. Fair enough that shouldn't take long right? WRONG! This was last Thursday and the Saudi weekend is Thursday-Friday (not Sat-Sun) and everything is closed and/or people are uncontactable. He's free to go back into the country, but needs the paperwork sorted before he can leave. He's now been stuck there for a week but hopefully close to getting out. If and when he does get out, he's unlikely to be let back in.

Ah.... but stuff like this wouldn't happen in the "civilized" world or would it? Well actually, yes it would. Attached is a recent news article detailing an Icelandic tourist who was detained at JFK in New York and was shackled hand and feet and interrogated for two days without being allowed to contact anyone. I understand the need for extra vigilance on our borders these days, but where do we draw the line between vigilance and abuse? ...and who's policing the police?


Saturday, 16 February 2008

24 Hour Delivery

Photo: Beer 24/7

I was out for a walk the other day. I love walking. It's therapeutic or soothing or something like that and it's good for you! I pick an area of the city I haven't been to and try and navigate there on foot. Sometimes I get there and sometimes I don't, but I enjoy the exercise. I hate most forms of conventional exercise. The gym, swimming, jogging, pilates (whatever the hell that is?), they are ALL so bleedin' BORING! Walking is cool and everybody does it so it must be really cool. So there I was, walking the other day and I passed this kiosko, which is like an off-licence / mini-mart shop thingy and look what I found......and this in the middle of Lent as well. Jaezuz, what a bunch o' heathens. Who in their right mind would need an alcohol delivery service available 24 hours. It's a moral outrage I tell you....tsk tsk tsk.


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Talking Shite

Just a heads up, this is not so much of a tongue in cheek humourous post, but something I've been chewing on for a week now and just needs to be said.

Most people have heard of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849). I'm not sure what was so 'Great 'about it mind you, but it was the catalyst for many Irish to emigrate from the 'ol' sod', and that trend continued until the Celtic Tiger and perhaps it's the reason I've been wandering the four corners of the earth these past twenty years.

What many don't know, including most of the Irish themselves, is how many Irish continued to emigrate after the famine to Argentina. My uncle Paddy gave me a heads up on this trivia before he passed last year, but as with most of my education, it went in one ear out the other - could I have A.D.D?......huh? .... where was I?......ah yes.....I was doing a bit o' websurfin' the other day and came across the following excellent site which details immigration of Irish into Argentina and I'd encourage you read it at your leisure, as it's a bit of an eye opener into Irish to Irish hospitality or more accurately 'Kick 'em when their down'.

The interesting fact is the percentage of County Westmeath people who ended up here - 49% out of a survey of 70,000. Sorry Da, I know, two blog posts in a row (full text of above website on its way via Ian), but heads up to me Ma and the County Mayo contingent you's are next! Warning - Warning - Danger - Danger!

The Argentine government was aggressively encouraging foreigners from all over Europe to come and settle here in the 1880's. To promote this, they used various means including employing foreign agents to actively recruit prospective immigrants. Unfortunately, for a lot of Irish people involved, some of the Irish agents involved (collecting commission of course) promoting Argentina, were talking a lotta' Blarney, as they promised a land of paradise with houses, fertile farmland, cheap tickets etc as the following poor soul who got swindled and never received his tickets illustrates.

James Dooner to Timothy Michael Healy, M.P., 14 September 1889 (Kilbeggan, County Westmeath)
The Undersigned, James Dooner, humbly begs to bring under your kind consideration the following facts, trusting you will take the trouble of having me remunerated for the great loss I have sustained.

Firstly, I am a poor dealer, going round with my donkey and wares. I have a wife and eleven children, when I was induced to apply for tickets for passages, in March last, to bring us out to the Argentine Republic. In consequence of these communications, I disposed of my donkey, my little furniture, and, above all, of a large heap of manure - the greatest loss, as I have now no potatoes. Trusting you will see after us, and God may bless you always, I am your very humble, James Dooner

Many of the folks who did make it Argentina ended up worse off, as there were no free houses, farmland or land of promise waiting and I'm pretty sure poor James Dooner (above) never got his compensation and probably never ended up in Argentina, so for me the 'current day' moral of the story is........Never give anyone shite (especially your personal stock) and steer clear of Ryanair!


Saturday, 9 February 2008

Show me the way to Amarillo

Photo: North is East

I had a bit of a shock recently when I realized my whole geographical perception of Buenos Aires has been a bit skewed...well completely arse backwards actually. I had bought a big map of the city when I arrived 6 months ago, which showed the barrios (neighbourhoods) and streets. Unfortunately, I only realized a few days ago, it has North pointing right i.e. North is actually East on the map. Now I ask you, what gobshite, would design a map with North pointing East?

I went for a wander last week to walk off an extra large Chivito, which simply put is a huge Uruguayan steak sandwich and then some. Anyways, because I was using the mental arse backwards map in my head, I got completely lost and four hours later, I was still wandering round like a missionary in Iraq and it was hotter than hell so I was sweating something fierce.

This is nothing new to me however, as I have that extra stubborn County Westmeath gene inherited from me Da (not that I blame him, apparently it's been in the family for generations or possibly since Adam and Eve. They were from Mullingar according to some biblical historians or was that the Devil himself?, I can never remember. Anyway this defective gene prohibits asking directions for fear of being ridiculed, or worse, sent to the fiery depths of hell for sheer ignorance. Poor ol' Adam was fecked outta the garden of Eden for eating a miserable ol' apple and we all know it was that conniving hussy Eve that led him on, so there's no way I'm asking directions in a city I lived for six months.

Now I could have jumped in a taxi or God forbid, actually asked someone the way, but no, no, no, a wandering I a went. I did make it back home eventually, having walked the four corners of the city. It wasn't a trip completely in vain, as I happened upon some beautiful neighbourhoods and far flung places that I otherwise would never have seen, albeit I still haven't a clue where they are now. Shame, I didn't have the camera though. Ah well sure, they say life's an adventure, but I'd prefer an adventure on a wheels next time.


Monday, 4 February 2008

Suckin' Face in Pinamar

Five hours down the coast from Buenos Aires, lies the laid back beach resort of Pinamar. We went for the weekend to see what it had it offer and because this is high summer season, it was busy,busy, busy! We were lucky to be able to stay with friends right on the beach front.

It seems as though, if you're not a teenager, then you probably don't belong here. There are throngs of kids who takeover the beach during the day and then the majority of the nightlife scene is also geared towards the young folk. It's quite normal here for thirteen to sixteen year olds to be out till the wee hours, a.) because it's safe and b.) the kids here for the most part, are not into drinking or other vices although recent news reports suggest that's changing.

It would be difficult to see this being possible back in Europe or USA, with the drug/lager lout mentality of kids today. It's hard not to feel old as you pass the clubs at midnight, with queue's of teenie-boppers round the block. When I was their age, I was lucky if I got to go to a school disco and even then, the nuns and priests (Sister Concepta and Father Feely) would be doing the rounds of the dance floor, making sure bodily contact was kept to an absolute minimum. Kissing was grounds for ex-communication. Here it's a different story. They're suckin' face at any given opportunity, street corners, parks, bars (is nowhere sacred?!).

Where I'm from, P.D.A's (public displays of affection) are culturally frowned upon and proper order too. The last thing I want to see as I'm walking down the street, is a hoard of prepubescent teenagers playing tonsil hockey. They should be rounded up like stray dogs and locked in bible study for a day. I've always found religion to be a great deterrent, like being grounded only worse. I mean which is scarier?

A.) Stay in your room - ok fine!
B.) Go to Mass! - No, No, anything but that!
That'll teach ya to keep your tongue in YOUR mouth, not hers!

In Pinamar, the ol' foggies like me are relegated to the cafe's for a quite chat and a game of dominoes, as the kids stomp it up at the clubs. Because this is the Atlantic coast, the water is damn cold and its windy a lot of the time, so in conclusion, I'm not a big fan of the place or scene. It's almost 10pm so I'm off to bed to with me cardigan and slippers and a cup o' hot cocoa.

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