Sunday, 30 November 2008

Passports with a Purpose

With the holiday season upon us it's easy to get wrapped up in the craziness of buying presents but it's also supposed to be about giving to those in need. The good folks over at Wanderlust and Lipstick came up with a great idea about tackling world poverty.

People who travel often gain more perspective about the world in general (not in a snobby - we're better than you way - but you see things first hand - things that make you reevaluate what's important).

Quite often, you see poverty, a lot of poverty. It's easy to distance yourself from poverty if you read about it in the newspaper or if it's on TV. Just click the channel and you can go from a famine in Ethiopia to watching really important stuff like Paris Hilton strike a pose at a nightclub or Britney shave her head or drop her kid again!. It's hard to ignore poverty if it's on your doorstep or on the side of the road as you take a bus

So the idea is for travel bloggers to help spread the word e.g. to those who travel vicariously thru their blogs. Click here and see how you can make a difference - buy a raffle ticket online for some great prizes and help make a difference to someones quality of life and don't forget to spread the word.

Tags: ..Passports with a Purpose..

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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Irish Rover - Part 5

....continued from Irish Rover Part 4 - Part of a series of posts recalling my wandering ways.

After my exodus from Oz I decided I'd catch a few highlights on the journey back to Ireland. First I spent 2 weeks in Thailand for some R&R and traveled on the cheapest bus from Bangkok to Phuket (non air conditioned - non reclining seats) which is highly recommended if you're into a 12 hour self inflicted S&M session. The locals traveled with all sorts of goods they bought or wanted to sell including massive refuse bags full of WTF and live chickens so there's not much room to spare.

It was a beautiful beach spot, but also very disturbing due to the number of local young girls who worked as prostitutes. I took a wrong turn one night and walked into what I thought was a nightclub. There were about a hundred girls behind a glass screen holding large white cards with a number. Quite a few old fat ugly tourists were drinking and chatting in a lounge and deciding which number they'd pick. Very seedy - not my scene - I exited stage left.

Next, I spent a week in Nepal and traveled a ridiculously dangerous and memorable hair pin bend road from Kathmandu to Chit Wan national park for a 4 day safari and a close up view of rhinos (not to be messed with), elephants (ditto) , crocodiles (ditto x 2) , monkeys and even a tiger (ditto x 3) - Absolutely amazing trip.

Next stop was India and the hustle and bustle of Delhi and on to Agra to see one of the 'seven wonders of the world' the Taj Mahal - spectacular! - an amazing structure that defies belief and beyond the descriptive abilities of this blogger. You need to see it to believe it!

Next stop London to catch up with old friends for a weekend and finally Dublin. The date was Dec 24th 1993.

I hadn't told anybody including the parents I was coming home for Xmas.
I hadn't seen them in almost 3 years so wanted it to be a big surprise. As I pulled up in a taxi, I started to imagine the wild reception I would get - Jumping, rejoicing, fireworks, beer! After I rang the front door bell - I could see the silhouette my Dad making his way to answer the door. I started to shuffle my feet in excitement. The door swung open and as he eyed me and then the taxi pulling away he said....

...."Yeah I thought it might be you alright - Gobshite - why are you wasting your money on taxis when I could've picked you up at the airport?"

Not quite the warm Irish welcome reception I was expecting - but good to be home nonetheless!

Tags: ..Irish welcome, Irish hospitality, Irish humour..

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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Irish in Buenos Aires

Irish Leprechauns really look like this (ok it was this photo or a midget in a green suit?)

Truth be told, I'm a bit of an intravert (not unsociable but I do shy away from the big get togethers) and I'm not a big social networker. I typically avoid the expat gatherings here. There's plenty of social activities with the in-laws to keep me busy and interacting.

A four hour lunch with verbal diarrhoea is par for the course with the in-laws. I went to a few expat gigs when we arrived but was put off by the whole experience. On the one hand, by the mix of immature frat boy dorks on their 6-12 month whirl wind tour and on the other hand by the Argie vultures looking for fresh expat meat to prey on. One individual was trying to sell me a Ferrari!

A few weeks ago I finally relented and attended an expat gathering once more. I bumped into a fellow Irishman who asked me "Are you Paddy in BA?" - Jaezuz - I'm famous I thought (for a moment)!

I thought that I was the only 'Paddy' in BA, but he burst that bubble in double quick time and it soon transpired there's feckin'
loads of Paddys here.

Well obviously you can imagine my disgust. It's like Columbus being told that some gobshite Irish monk called Saint Brendan sailed from Ireland in a makeshift piece of crap boat and discovered America before Columbus did - as if!

On Saturday, I went the suburb of Acasusso (30 mins outside the centre) to infiltrate this close knit group of Paddys. The occasion was to watch Ireland kick Argentinas arse in rugby (always a nice spectacle). The Irish banter amongst us was flowing, as was the beer. I realised these people are potentially more Irish
(friendlier, wittier, Irisher) than I am.

Thankfully, I have a good lawyer and contacts in immigration. If all goes to plan, I'll have ALL of them deported in a few weeks. Finally, I WILL be the only 'Paddy in BA' (as it should be)

Tags: ..Irish in Buenos Aires..

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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Altar Boy Anarchy

I was given a choice at ten years of age of either joining the boy scouts or becoming an altar boy. I figured I'd be buggered either way (OK - bad joke!) and I'm not sure exactly why (maybe a gentle bit of persuasion from my mother), but I made the decision to follow the holy path of righteousness.

The expression for a priest is that he "says" Mass (a service) and an altar boy "serves" Mass. So my duties involved "serving" Mass at 7:30am once a week and again on Sunday anywhere between 7:30am and 5pm. This duty was handed out like shift work at a supermarket and if you didn't show up for a good reason you had the potential to be damned to the fiery depths of hell or worse.

If you played your cards right you could get the 'golden cow' shift of serving at a wedding on Saturdays where the dizzy couple would leave an envelope with $$$ for all concerned i.e. an envelope for the priest, another for the altar boys (up to 5 punts = u$d10) and another for the sacristan etc.

The problem was, not everybody knew who the sacristan was or what he did. He is basically an admin assistant to the priest and does a fair chunk of the prep work for the wedding. Many times the dizzy happy couple would forget this poor shlep with the magic envelope.

After about 10 of these weddings, young inspector 'Paddy in BA' started to notice a similar pattern in the hand writing of the envelopes for the altar boys. Same handwriting for each one over several months - hmmmm.... same measly donation = 1 Irish punt = approx u$d2 compared to the 5 Irish punt norm.

In true 'Cluedo' style, I deduced that Mr Sacristan was switching the envelopes from the happy generous couple for his own less generous ones in the sacristy with a thieving conniving contempt for us altar boys.

I couldn't contain my disgust anymore. Did these people really think I was giving up half my Saturday for the the good of the holy church? - Hell No! = I wanted KA-CHING baby!

I left three of Mr Sacristans envelopes on the notice board in the changing rooms with the addition of....

p.s. how come the last three envelopes I got, have the same handwriting?"

As many of you are probably aware - Catholics don't take kindly to non conformers (think Spanish Inquisition) and so it came to pass that I was cast out of the holy order of the altar boys (no joke!)

Lucifer himself (with horns and tail) and I meet up for coffee on Tuesdays and Thursdays and reminisce about how - there but for the grace of god - the world was our oyster.

Tags: ..Altar Boy Anarchy..

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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Irish Rover - Part 4

Some of the folks that comment regularly here missed my
previous post - as there were RSS issues
one of my few serious posts ever :-( scroll down to the previous post or click here

....continued from Irish Rover - Part 3 - Part of a series of posts recalling my wandering ways.

Having worked like a dog for 12 months straight after arriving in Australia in 1991 (without a holiday), I had more money in the bank than at any other time in my life. I decided to chuck in my job so I could explore the vastness of Oz. I went backpacking up the east coast which was an amazing experience.

This pasty white Irishman had seen nothing quite like this before. White sand, turquoise water for mile after mile of coastline. The nightlife in the hostels was great with a diverse cross section of people from all over the world.

I stopped in a small undeveloped town called Mission Beach near the Great Barrier Reef and did the diving / snorkeling thing which was incredible. I ended up staying there for 2 months and worked in a hostel. For 2 hours work a day, I got free dinner and free accommodation in a dormitory. I went white water rafting, abseiling, skydiving, you name it I did it and of course I had the occasional wee tipple as you do.

I continued the journey and visited Darwin, Kakadu, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Adelaide, Melbourne and eventually back to Sydney. The trip took about 6 months in all but I've always regretted not making it to western Australia.

I rejoined the rat race and worked for another 9 months before TWO significant immigration issues had a major impact on my life.

First, a phone call from Australian immigration.

Hi Paddy,

We notice you've over stayed your visa ........

...long story for another day, but short story is I left Oz within 7 days (not a happy camper) but the alternative was a detention centre with Chinese boat people.

Second, a letter arrived from the US embassy.

Dear Paddy,

We are pleased to inform you that your application for a lottery visa to work in the USA has been randomly selected by our computer and if you complete the necessary prerequisites and paperwork you will have the opportunity to enter and work in the United States of America.

Sometimes by a stroke of luck, as one door closes, another opens and so it was in this case. be continued

Tags: ..Irish immigration, ..

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Saturday, 15 November 2008

What REALLY defines your happiness?

So I've been asking myself this question a lot recently.

The wiki definition for the 'Standard of Living' is the quality and quantity of goods and services available to people, and the way these goods and services are distributed within a population.

The wiki definition for 'Quality of life' is the degree of well-being felt by an individual or group of people.. It consists of two components: physical (e.g. health, diet) and psychological (e.g. stress, worry, pleasure) and other positive or negative emotional states.

In an ideal world you would have the best of both worlds but unfortunately the two are often at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Happiness and success are also potentially worlds apart.

When I was growing up the following rather simplified guidelines to achieving happiness and success applied:
  • Study hard in high school so you get enough points to get into a good College/Uni
  • Study hard to graduate from said good College/Uni so you can get a good job
  • Get a good secure job with prospects to advance so you can be 'successful'
  • Work hard and try and save as much as possible so you can eventually settle down
  • Get on the property ladder and keep climbing cos 'there's gold in them there hills'
  • The better you are at this, the bigger your house will be.
  • The bigger the house, the more cars, gadgets and toys for the kids.
To reach this nirvana for many people (not all) sometime looks like this.

Let me introduce the Sucker Family.

Mr Gaylord Sucker commutes 2 hours and works 10 hours a day in a high stress environment. Half the time, he makes it home in time to tuck the kids into bed, half the time he doesn't.
Missus Sucker works locally but juggles dropping the kids at expensive day care and running her own business. The kids are spoiled with all the clothes, toys, gadgets and everything and anything they need except enough attention from their exhausted parents.

The family spend 2 weeks in LottsaFunland each year but Mr S is constantly checking his Blackberry and is called away to conference calls 2 to 3 times a day. Mrs S has to check up on her business by phoning her liason for long conversations 3 times a day and checking on emails in the evening. The kids have a great time but the parents find it difficult to relax while juggling the work demands and keeping the kids happy.

15 years of this continues and seems to fly by and they move twice into bigger better homes. Mr S is now the proud owner of a top of the range blue BMW and Mrs S has an identical red one. Mr S is a bit burnt out but the kids still need to go thru college so he must persist. The kids have become a bit of a handful and ungratefully resent Mr and Mrs S's lack of quality time over the years. Rebellious outbursts are frequent. They rarely eat dinner together anymore and when they do get together, arguments typically ensue.

With the downturn in the global economy Mr S gets laid off but with a decent redundancy package there's no immediate need for alarm. Mr S starts to remember what it was like NOT to dread Monday mornings and wants to spend more time with kids, but they are now grown up and indifferent to his newly rekindled interest.

Mrs S's business also takes a nose dive and stress levels in the home rise as she is now the sole bread winner. Mrs S's mother visits but this only adds to the stress as she never got along with Mr S and they are not on civil terms. Mr and Mrs S wonder where the years went and how, even though they have all the material possessions anybody could want, they wonder why the family is not quite 'a Unit' and happiness has somehow eluded them.

Best case scenario - With a bit of luck they all live long and healthy but not necessarily happily ever after. Thankfully my own story is far removed from this nightmare, but it is something I have observed in friends and colleagues too many times.

Alternate case study - I've seen entire families here in Argentina (on or close to the poverty line) - grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren sitting around an Asado (BBQ) on the side of the road, who look more family functional, happier and healthier than the messed up wealthy family of 'The Suckers' above.

Being part of the rat race facilitates a certain standard of living but at what cost to your quality of life?

How do you define your 'REAL' Quality of Life and Standard of Living?
What REALLY makes you happy?
Yes - there's nobody else here - I am talking to YOU?!!

Tags: ..quality of life in Argentina, standard of living in Argentina,quality of life in Buenos Aires, standard of living in Buenos Aires..

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

My maid refuses to wash my car..

Align Center
..What am I supposed to do?

As reported exclusively on a web forum here in Buenos Aires, a poor unfortunate expat woman is in a bit of a kerfuffle. Her maid has point blank refused to wash the family car and had the audacity to say it is not in her duties to do so. This is the forum link to the post in question.

BA Newcomers

You need to be signed up with the Yahoo group to see the post so I've given you a free guest pass below

id =
pw = washmycarbitch

The numerous responses on the forum go on to discuss in great detail what course of action this poor woman might be able to take against this horrendous rebellious maid. e.g.
  • Contact the local Maids Union and see if they could help persuade her to wash the car
  • Speak with the Minister for Employment to determine the labour law obligations
  • Pay the maid extra to wash the car - God forbid!
  • Damn the maid to hell and bring the car to a car wash - last resort!
  • Get off your frikkin' lard arse and wash your own car - BEE-ATCH - (suggested by an anonymous Irish expat)

Apparently the maid washed the car for many months before this current outburst of anarchy raised its ugly head and now it appears a revolution is imminent. All across Argentina, maids are uniting and refusing to mix cement, paint barns, shear sheep, lasso cows and other typical maid type stuff that they now consider to be outside of their duties.

These insubordinate, ungrateful heathens are already more than handsomely rewarded for their meager endeavours. Some earn as much as A$10 pesos (US$3.30) an hour, yet they seem determined to pick and choose what they want to do. They plot these schemes as the travel long distances to work, crammed like sardines in overcrowded buses from the far flung suburbs of the city .

Please help support this poor, poor expat woman by leaving a comment (anonymous if you like) on this blog which will be added to a petition to help force this evil uncooperative maid to wash the womans car like she should do. Without your support, more unfortunate expats like her will be driving around in filthy BMW's and that just doesn't seem right. Life can be so unfair!

Tags: .maid duties, Buenos Aires..

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Saturday, 8 November 2008

Noche de los Museos (Night of the Museums)

As promised, here is more of the cultural stuff going on in Buenos Aires - Noche de los Museos (Night of the Museums) Buenos Aires, Argentina

National Geographic recently mentioned this humble blogger not just once but twice for Free things to do in Buenos Aires

There maybe no such thing as a 'free lunch' but on Saturday, November 15th, 2008, most of the museums in Buenos Aires will be open from 7pm - 2am (yes am) for free. Add to this the free concerts of all varieties of music from classical to jazz to rock to tango. Public transport to get to the various venues is free. The whole thing finishes off with a kick ass open air party down by the docks in Puerto Madero with bands, DJ's, dancing and as is typical in this neck of the woods it goes till dawn and oh yeah, I forgot to mention - it's free. Click here for more details for free.
Tags: ..Free things to do in Buenos Aires, Noche de los Museos (Night of the Museums)..

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Friday, 7 November 2008

WAR - What is it good for?

Editors Note: If you're a little lost about what's going on in this post then you'll have to click the links to fully understand the gravity of the situation.

As many of you are no doubt aware from the official Maxi News outlet - the new 'Axis of Evil' aka K8 the GR8 has surfaced from the fiery depths of hell and arrived on our doorstep. Forget about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden (big girlie pussy with a beard that hides in a cave and wears a Nappy on his head) This she-devil is broadcasting her lies and evil filth 24/7 and must be apprehended at all cost.

Allow me to introduce to you Satans sister
- K8 the GR8.
The witch that put the '8' in fornica8e, she put the 'K' in Kocaine, she put the 'G' in tonic, and she donated 100 Euros to the dyslecix bad spellerz of the wurld - well .......ok....... in retrospect that wasn't so bad.

The time has come for you to take arms, take sides and unite for the good of the country. Ladies and gentlemen, we are at the crossroads of the future of Irish humanity and no it's not the Lisbon Treaty. The two questions you need to ask yourself are:

Whose side will you be on?
Whose round is it? = Mine's a double.

NEWSFLASH - This just in - Danger, warning , warning : Latest terror alert status has been raised to hairbrush

Editors Update 12 hours later: No more blog posts to be written late at night under the influence - no really I mean it this time.

Tags: .WAR - What is it good for?..

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Postman Paddy

After I finished high school, I did a brief stint as a postman in Howth in north Dublin. I had to get up at 4:30am and cycle 30 minutes to the sorting office in Baldoyle (not always easy if you went to bed at 1:30am)

When I arrived, I'd have a continental Irish breakfast which was a cup of tea and a cigarette. Each postie was allocated certain roads and streets, so first you sorted the post into streets and then into house numbers in the specific order of your round. There was always a great bit of banter going on as numerous cups of tea and smokes were consumed and some poor postie would normally be the brunt of the jokes.

At about 8am, we'd head off in a van and get dropped off at our allotted spot to walk the route and deliver the mail. A dog may be 'mans best friend' but he's a postman's worst enemy.
There were some fierce and vicious K9's on my route. I soon developed some exceptional survival skills such as clamboring over 7 foot walls to escape the fangs of death. I don't know if it's the uniform or the whistling (it's mandatory in Ireland for the postman to whistle badly off key!) but most dogs HATE the postman.

One of the houses I delivered to had a bad ass German shepherd called Gnasher with a nasty disposition. Luckily he was contained behind a metal gate by the side of the house but as I passed the gate each day, he would be wait silently then suddenly go berserk and bark and snarl and push his face thru the gate with all the force he had. The first time he did it I nearly shit my pants as he caught me off guard.

My last day on the job I decided to get my revenge on Gnasher. I rolled up a newspaper and as he let loose with his torrent of K9 abuse I slapped him on the snout with the paper. Animal lovers - fear not - I didn't hit him that hard but the shock sent him yelping to the back of the house.

A few weeks later I heard thru the grapevine that the poor schlep that took over my route had a bit of misfortune on his very first day. Gnasher somehow got beyond the gate and sank his fangs into new posties butt cheeks requiring stitches and a tetanus injection.

Apparently his bite was worse than his bark.
Luckily, I didn't experience it first hand!

Tags: .dog, dog bite, postie, postman, postal, post office,postman paddy,..

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Ireland - USA News Headlines

There I was just toddling off to bed like the old man I've become and I did one last check of the online news and these three headlines caught my attention - It's late here and my warm milk and cookies awaits, so no time to put a proper post together but penny for your thoughts and kudos and a prize to who can sum it up in one sentence?

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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Barrio Chino (Chinatown), Buenos Aires

According to Google, quite a few visitors to this blog come here to discover tips and info about Buenos Aires and travel in Argentina in general and I've not been posting much of that type of content recently so I'm going to try and do a weekly post to introduce different neighbourhoods and events.

We went to Barrio Chino recently which is a small area of just a couple of blocks where there are lots of restaurants (Chinese ones strangely enough!) and supermarkets where you can buy all sorts of oriental produce including spices and soy sauce etc. It's one of the best places to buy fresh fish as they have a great selection and they are very reasonably priced. I decided to buy some merluza (similar to hake) so I bought 2 huge fish for 23 pesos (US$7).

They de-gut them in a quick n' dirty fashion for you but don't de-bone them. I put the fish in the fridge on Friday when we got home. We had family commitments most of the weekend and stayed over at the in-laws Saturday night and didn't get back to the apartment until Sunday evening.

When I opened the fridge there was the most god awful, noxious, abominable smell you could ever imagine. Not to be deterred, I removed the fish and washed them and filleted them. The smell subsided.

I put one in a large pot and cooked it slowly with coconut milk and veg for fish stew which was quite tasty. I stuck the other one in the freezer. Bad Move! Opened the freezer the following day and the same waft of wrank nasty fish hit me in the face. I immediately dumped the fish but the smell won't go away. It's like that Seinfeld episode where he can't get the smell of B.O. out of the car.

Anybody want to buy a fridge - going cheap?

How to get there: Intersection of Juramento and Arribenos in Belgrano.
Subway D to Juramento or there is a bus depot right beside it

Tags: ..Barrio Chino Buenos Aires, Chinatown, Chinese in Buenos Aires, smelly fish, where to buy spices Buenos Aires..

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