Sunday, April 13, 2008

First visitor, Argentina, and photos (finally!)

My friend Jacob Stone is in town at last and about halfway through his visit. So far we've been getting along remarkably well considering we're both strong willed and sharing a small apartment. We've been telling everyone we're cousins because it's a much easier relationship to understand than "Friends. Yep, friends. Yes, we really are just friends." I met him in Santiago last Saturday and we spent a good day exploring the city, plus a night of drinking with my Santiago friends. It was pretty hot there so it was nice to get back to Valparaíso where the sun was shining but there was also a nice ocean breeze. So far he's been able to spend a day at the beach and is hooked, but I keep warning him that the weather will turn any day.

This past weekend we were in Buenos Aires and it is an incredible city. The weather was mostly good and we were on foot for a lot of it, wandering through its many neighborhoods and sampling a variety of Argentine cuisine (read: beef). We did a few obligatory tourist things - took in a tango show, during which I was involuntarily made to dance - and also got around to a few off-the-beaten-path activities like biking around a lovely ecological reserve that was built on top of a landfill. We went shopping - he found a store called Stone and bought merchandise branded with his last name - and I got two pairs of shoes made from genuine Argentina leather. We were also able to meet up with a friend of mine, Paula, and it was nice to get a local's perspective. To us it felt like Europe meets New York, two places I love. All in all it's definitely a city I want to revisit. I can see why so many people choose to move there, although I do have to say the accent got on my nerves... all Ls become Js in Argentinianease.

By pure happenstance we were there for the arrival of the Olympic fire, so we saw the running of the torch through downtown on Friday April 11. I heard there have been some crazy protests in other cities - London, Paris, San Francisco - and there were definitely some demonstrations, but the police kept them confined to a small area and completely surrounded with riot-gear-clad officers. For our part we weren't sure if we were pro or against until we were forced to move from our perfectly staked-out spot (two hours in advance!) because the local Chinese organizers demanded the police relocate any non-Chinese to less than choice spots, presumably for the newscast but also for posterity I'm guessing. It was sort of a bummer, especially considering it was the only stop the torch made in South America and locals weren't even welcome to watch it from their own sidewalks (not that we were locals, but plenty of Argentines were moved as well).

Anyway, the actual torch running was pretty intense, once it finally came through. I had no idea it would be preceded by busloads of media, athletes, and school-age youth, though I could have predicted the abundance of police enforcement, many of whom seemed to have gone completely insane on four-wheelers, often driving against traffic and into pedestrians. The athlete with the torch was surrounded by a human chain - literally twenty or so people running with arms interlinked - to protect him from the masses, plus an additional outer circle of various athletes, plus a crush of military and police officers. The word 'mayhem' seems appropriate to describe the two minutes or so it took for the torch to move by and past where we were standing. We were lucky to see the fire actually passed from one athlete (apparently a famous soccer player) to another, which was pretty cool. For the video Jacob was able to take of the torch, click here:

We didn't have much time in B.A. and spent pretty much an entire day on the torch, but ultimately it was worth it for the unique experience. I can always go back to B.A., but probably not when the Olympic torch will be passing through it.

We spent today lazing around, giving our feet a break, doing laundry and uploading photos. Speaking of, exciting news! I finally have a way to transfer photos from my camera to my computer, and they are posted on flickr for your viewing pleasure:

The shots date all the way back to my birthday and include my apartment here as well as Santiago and Argetina (plus a bonus shot of my sweet bruise), so be sure to check them out. I am still working on finding photo resizing software, and once I get that settled I'll start posting pictures to the actual blog. Imagine that, more than just me rambling on in text format!

Speaking of photos, Jacob has done an incredible (read: obsessive) job of documenting his trip thus far, so if my photos don't quite satisfy that photo urge, feel free to check out his:

The weather here is still holding out, though today was quite windy. Fall is definitely upon us, which makes me especially jealous that you are all about to enter spring.

I don't have much else to say so I'll make this a (relatively) short post. As always I hope everything back home is well, and I encourage you to post comments on my blog so I know you're reading. Questions, comments, concerns are all welcome!

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