Monday, 31 March 2008

Toilet Etiquette

When visiting Argentina, you will notice a distinct lack of public toilets. When you do find a public toilet, there's a good chance it won't have toilet paper. There may well be a toilet attendant who will dish out a few sheets (usually way too few!) in exchange for a coin, so I always recommend to people traveling to keep a roll in their bag for emergencies. It's also advisable to have coins in case you don't have your bag with you. If you don't leave a coin for the attendant you might be verbally abused and if looks could kill you would surely be dead! Above all, be sure to follow the toilet etiquette below!


Photo: Toilet Etiquette

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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Government in Argentina extends LENT

In a drastic measure aimed at tackling the widespread food shortages in Argentina, the government here has extended the religious period of Lent. The Lenten period of 40 days of fasting and prayer officially ended last Sunday. The new president Cristina has been under increasing pressure (including street protests in the capital) to address the food shortages of meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables and cooking oil brought on by the farmers strike. The extension of the Lenten period is also to prohibit alcohol and is effective immediately and will continue until further notice. The population here is over 90 percent Catholic.

"It's just not F#$%in' fair!" said an Irishman who preferred to remain anonymous. "I've just spent 40 days without caviar and Cristal champagne and now I'm expected to give up me beer! - Me big fat arse I will! - I'm probably going to convert to Judaism! - I was always jealous they had to go confession only once a year anyway, but this is enough to make me swap sides, although I'm not sure about the whole circumcision thing at my age!"

A spokesman for the Vatican said "We were thinking of extending Lent ourselves, since it's been getting easier over the passage of time, so we'll be monitoring the situation as a sort of trial run for the rest of the world."

What do you think? Have your say and comment below.


Photo: New Argentinian Diet

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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Weekly News in Brief




Photos: Mothers of the Disappeared

As yet another thunder storm with lightning roars and heavy rain beats against the window, I will give you the news in brief from Argentina from this last week.

New Visas
Ireland and Argentina have agreed to a work exchange program whereby 100 people of both countries can get visas to work in the respective countries. More details here. Good initiative but why only 100 slots available? Argentina's population is 8 times that of Ireland.

Farmers Protest
Before the thunderstorm hit tonight, I was awoken from an late evening siesta (sleeping is fashionable here don't ya know!) by the sound of pots and pans being hammered by spoons and whatnot (a throw back to the protests after the crash in 2001). The farmers strike (due to excessive tariffs / taxes on agricultural produce) made its way to the capital with major protests in the centre of the city, outside the new president Cristina's abode and beyond. As a result of the blockades, there are food shortages including meat, veg, eggs etc in the shops here as supplies are blocked by the protests. I just went to the supermarket and the meat section which is 2 aisles wide was EMPTY!!!!!!!!! If my steak fix is cut off, I may well go postal or worse cannibal! I'll be down on the street myself with my pot & pan!
The government so far is not interested in negotiation. The rural people who voted for the new president Cristina are being ignored. This has the potential to become very ugly indeed. More details here

The Disappeared
This week was 32 years since the beginning of the military dictatorship which led to 30,000 people 'disappearing' and approx 200 babies being kidnapped and appropriated to military couples. There are still protests every week by the mothers of the disappeared in the centre of the city. Only now are some of those responsible being brought to justice. The majority were given immunity under previous government administrations. Many of the biggest houses in the richest neighbourhoods belong to military personnel from the dictatorship. More Details here.

Expensive Cities
In slightly more positive news, Argentina was named 2nd cheapest city to visit for tourists. Oslo, London, Copenhagen and Dublin were the four most expensive in Europe. (I lived in three of these cities so no wonder I'm hiding down here for a while!) More details here

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Friday, 21 March 2008

LOST!



If you're not a fan of 'LOST' then you will be LOST reading this post. I got hooked on the hit TV show 'LOST' before I arrived to Argentina but unfortunately even though they show it over here, I have missed every episode of the new season 4, because I keep forgetting to set the VCR to record it. Truth be told, I'm not even sure I know how to program this VCR since I thought that piece of technology was dead with the advent of easy to use TIVO-ish PVR's and DVD recorders etc, but had to revert to a second hand VCR, since my fancy digital tv PVR is not compatible over here.
My sister-in-law gave me a catchup DVD with the first six episodes of season 4 last night and although bleary eyed, I watched five of them (well 4.75 really as I fell asleep on the sofa). I watched the remaining 1.25 episodes today and I have to say, although still a big fan, I am completely 'LOST'!
Season 1 to 3 kept doing flashbacks to the past lives of the survivors. Season 4 is zipping to the future lives of 6 survivors who managed to escape 'The Island' and although I'm still interested, I fear they will run out of plausible interesting viewing material soon. I miss The Sopranos too! Does anybody know what's happening on Eastenders? What's your theory on 'LOST'? - Explain all, enlighten me in a comment below!

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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Part Time President of Argentina

There's been quite a stir in the local media recently about the new Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner's lack of time on the job. She swans into the office at lunchtime and apparently jets off to private social functions by 5pm.


I find the latter hard to believe as I have yet to go to a social function here that started earlier then 10pm. I reckon she must be going home for a badly needed siesta as the country is renknowned for it's late night culture with dinner starting at 11pm, bars empty until midnight and clubs only getting going at 2am.

(Warning - now going off on a tangent as I usually do!)
I first visited this city on a Tuesday night ten years ago. My brother and I, and a very short stocky Aussie lad who went by the name of 'Stretch' (apparently nicknamed by his friends after the kids toy Stretch Armstrong) headed out to discover the infamous Argetinian nightlife at 8pm only to be severely disappointed. 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 12am came and went and barely a sinner was to be seen in the bars. We eventually mustered up our collective awful Spanish ("errr....emmmm...uh...un bar con chicas, err....muchas chicas?") and were directed to a not so nearby bar called 'JOBS' with three floors of pool tables and wait for it.....archery! (not your typical safe sport where alcohol is involved but this is gaucho country!). We got there at 1am and it was wall to wall packed and yes thankfully there 'muchas chicas'. I'm not going to go even more off track so you'll have to click on this link to find out who I met that fateful night (albeit one word i.e. I met the ?) as I don't like to repeat myself (..and now back on track to Cristina - she can't be going to social events at 5pm - proof above!


But she does seem to be living the life of Reilly and has also been accused of receiving sponsorship (US$800,000 in a briefcase) for her pre election political campaigning from Hugo Chavez, that was intercepted by Argentinian customs. Relations with the US are at an all time low as Condaleezza Rice

just snubbed her on her South American visit aparently because of her leftist alliances (not that I blame Cristina for distancing herself from the Bush administration!). In contrast, her husband Nestor, the previous president, immediately visited 'significant' heads of state around the world (including Bush) after being elected but our Cristina has been more concerned with wining and dining influential people like Naomi Campbell and Antonio Banderas among others?!! More details here. At the moment she's better known for her supposed sense of fashion than her political astuteness.

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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A Picture Says a Thousand Words!








......so three pictures must say three thousands words!
My longest blog post ever!

Thank God Paddy's Day is just once a year!

Hangover cures listed here

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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Saint Patrick - Patron Saint of My Blog


As a child, I spent many fantastic summers on a farm, in the small village of Lecanvey, Murrisk, (near Westport), County Mayo where my mother was born. It's in a spectacular setting at the foot of a mountain and overlooking the picturesque islands of Clew Bay. The mountain is called Croagh Patrick (known locally as 'The Reek') and apparently, the main man himself, St Patrick spent 40 days and 40 nights on the top, doing holy stuff like blessing rocks and casting out snakes and what-not. It's a pity St Paddy wouldn't come back and cast out the biggest snake known to man a.k.a. our fearless leader, Bertie Ahern.


Photo: Croagh Patrick


Photo: Clew Bay

There's a yearly pilgrimage on the last Sunday in July (Reek Sunday) where up to 40,000 people (some of them barefoot!) make the ascent over jagged slate rock to go to the church on the top.

As kids we had the privilege of knowing all the locals, so could cross over private property and climb up the back of the mountain which was an easier route. There was a great pub in the village called T. J. Stauntons or simply Peggy's to the locals. It had a games room in the back and it was here I met my first true love, a pool table. No not on the pool table! (keep your mind outta the gutter now!) I was only 10 years old and developed a passion for playing pool (badly) that continues to this day. b.t.w. it's normal for kids to be in pubs in the country in Ireland because remember it rains a lot, so where else can you go!

Then I developed my first vice, gambling on slot machines. Many vices to were follow in later years but at a young age, I loved the damn slots! The feeling you got and that noise (Clang, Clang Clang!) when that machine paid out even 30 pence was like you'd just won the jackpot. I also perfected my Space Invaders skills in the games room, so am now kitted out with the necessary skills to defend earth should the little green bastards ever invade. Great experiences, great memories, good times!

This will be my first Paddy's Day in South America - and its supposed to be a big one!

For the locals, here's some info on what's going on courtesy of Stefan at B.A. Insider Magazine

Wherever you happen to be, here's wishing you a

HAPPY SAINT PATRICKS DAY 2008! or FELIZ DIA SAN PATRICIO 2008!

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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Irish Leprechaun Invades Argentina and Terrorises Locals


Photo: Beware Little People!



Video: Footage from a mobile phone

Update Oct 20th, 2008 - More footage of the Argentinian gnome 

Tags: Irish Leprechaun Invades Argentina and Terrorises Locals, gnome

(As reported by several newspapers - Terror strikes a small town of General Guemes in North Argentina as as creepy gnome like figure scares the living shite out of the locals. There have been numerous sightings including the photo & video footage above and people are afraid to leave their houses after dark.

For those of you who know me in the flesh, I can confirm, that despite the uncanny resemblance, this is NOT me and I have an alibi!

I reckon they should hunt the little fecker down (probably hiding at the end of the rainbow) and get his 'pot o' gold'!

What do you think, real or a hoax?

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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Punta Del Este - TITS 'n' ALL !


Photo: Fashionable TITS!

ok - almost finished rubbin' yer nose in my latest travels, but we did a quick side trip to Cabo Polonio which has no road as such and can only be reached by 4 x 4 vehicles where you are loaded into the back of a large 4 x 4 truck like cattle and transported across a sand obstacle course (not for the faint hearted!). It's basic, remote and it was raining yet again so we bailed and headed for the blitz and glitz of Punta Del Este for a few days.

This small beach city is famous for being the playground of the rich and famous a la Cannes in France. It was noticeably expensive with designer shops, fancy restaurants and people trying way too hard to look important. I seriously wanted to slap them hard and remind them they were just as unimportant as me, but I resisted the temptation as most of them were working out at the gym and would likely have kicked my wee Irish arse and that included the women.

Much as I loathe pretentious people, I don't care too much for the baking hot sun either, as I tend to go pink, then red, then peel and then if I'm lucky, I finally get some colour, so I hid under a parasol on the beach most of the time with my beer cooler until the sun eased off a bit. Finally we headed to Montevideo for one night. It has a Spanish feel to the city with an 'old city' section full of bars and restaurants in narow streets. After a good night out and a day at the yaught club (sounds posh but it isn't really) we got the 3 hour Buquebus ferry back to Buenos Aires.

I found a rather interesting shop while taking a wee stroll in Montevideo - (photo above) - Ten out of ten for whoever came up with the marketing idea for the name of this chain of stores - I asked if I could get an empty branded plastic bag as a keepsake but they having none of tit!

Quite a catchy name don't ya think? - Know a better one? - let me know!

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I'm in Uruguay ( Where are you?)


Map: The road much travelled (click to enlarge)

After the Carnival washout we headed east to Uruguay for a weeks exploration of the beaches. The border crossing is a bit of a roll of the dice these days, as the local Argentines are blocking several bridges at different times, in protest at potential pollution from two paper mills that have been built just over the border in Uruguay. It's causing a major rift between the countries and there is no end in sight to the protests. Since the bridge at Gualeguaychu was blocked, our route took us first north to Colón then across the border to Paysandú, then south to Montevideo and finally north east as far as the small isolated beach town of Punta Diablo before backtracking to Cabo Polonio, Punta del Este, Montevideo and finally ferry back to Buenos Aires.

For those in colder climes and busier times, I'm not trying to rub it in...but...ah shite!..I am trying to rub it in, tough titties! We spent 2 majestic days in a private cabin by the beach (see photos) in Punta del Diablo, just sitting on the porch and listening to the waves crashing against the shore and catching some great sunsets/sunrises. It cost the small fortune of US$50 dollars a night for our paradise on the beach. This small town is described as the anti-Punta del Este as it's very basic and non pretentious. The only downside were the mozzies who were feasting on me like they'd never tasted an Irishman before. By the end of the 2 days, I looked like I had a serious case of the measles.


Photo: Our Abode


Photo: Beach Bum


Photo: Sunrise from the porch (Yes surprisingly, I was up at that hour!)

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Monday, 10 March 2008

Boo-A-Hoo!


Saturday was to be the last big night for Carnival 2008 in Gualeguaychu. Every Saturday for 2 months, the place goes crazy with a parade of scantily clad dancers in traditional carnival costume, watched by thousands of people, partying till the wee hours. The festival basically involves women wearing no more than 30 sq. cm of glittery transparent material, gyrating their hips in a provocative manner, to the deafening sound of carnival music being blasted from a massive truck full of speakers, while throngs of onlookers watch,drool and drink on the sidelines. All good clean fun, to be sure, to be sure!

The town, situated on a river was fairly small and despite the frequent rain showers, there was a good buzz around the place in anticipation of a long fun night ahead. There was a big beach party to get things warmed up beforehand which was completely packed with young ladies being ogled and cheered at by older men. I only ogled, no cheering, honest! Half an hour before the official kickoff (10.30pm) of the main event we got the news the party was postponed for a day due to rain. Despite this setback, it was a fun night and a short visit to the casino brought some respite and a small profit. The following day brought more rain and more bad news. The last day of Carnival 2008 was officially canceled due to wet weather! Sob sob, boo hoo!
It was a tad disappointing but an enjoyable experience nevertheless.

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