As my charred red skin turns to brown nearly 48 hours after last exposing my bare body to the South American sun, my thoughts of Monte Hermoso remain rosier than ever. Along with all of my Frisbee friends, I had been looking forward to this weekend for ages, and why not? For a reasonable price, we were to spend a long weekend on the beach playing Frisbee, swimming, and enjoying a delicious asado with more than 30 people all looking to have a great time. Throw in a the prospect of a German Beer Festival taking place in Monte Hermoso this same weekend and it's not wonder everyone was overflowing with giddyness as we boarded the double decker bus we rented for the near 9-hour bus ride.
Not unlike Chinatown bus rides between DC and New York, we were well equipped with libations, diversions, and enough sustenance to get us through a long voyage. But very much unlike those trips on I-95 and Jersey Turnpike was the bus itself, which featured spacious seating and leg rests that folded down from the seat in front of you, creating a make-shift bed that proved to be reasonably comfortable for sleeping once the music died down and our party slowly sputtered to a stop. And from what I've been told, this type of bus is at the bottom of the bus totem pole, which makes the prospect of 20+ hour bus rides in my future less ominous.
In reference to the aforementioned sustenance, Julia and I brought along some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as well as a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter since we were not sure if we would have a refrigerator for jelly but still wanted to avoid paying for some meals when possible (little did we know that our apartments would come with fully equipped kitchens, so our jar of jelly would have been safe and sound and perfect for eating). In the end, this plan failed miserably, but for all the better since it resulted in the consumption of peanut butter by just about all, and in many cases the introduction to it. For the North Americans who had suffered without peanut butter while they've been abroad, it was a joyful reunion and preview of what is waiting for them when they return home in the next few weeks (tear drops). But for many South Americans, it was their first taste of this delectable spread - some were very surprised that it was salty, not sweet, yet all enjoyed it's savory goodness, especially when combined with jelly. With so much intake of Argentinian and South American culture, it felt good to provide those who have offered us so much something of our own, however small it may be. And as the title of this post may suggest, we shared a bit more of our culture over the weekend...but that will come later.
We arrived in Monte Hermoso on Saturday morning at around 8:30 to find a cute beach community still asleep. We got settled into our apartment, which was in a complex of five apartments all occupied by our Frisbee cohorts and just a few hundred yards from the water. We shared ours with the Nicks from GW (Stulck and Hadsel-Mares) and our new friend Andrew, who is also an intelligent and rabid Michigan football fan from Chicago. Julia and I got to share the large bed in the room by itself (or, as Diego sheepishly put it, we had to "sacrifice" sleeping seperately in small beds and had to sleep together in a giant bed for the good of the team...I thanked him for making it sound so noble), while the three guys being transported back to summer camp, bunk bed and all, and sleeping in one room. We quickly found the market in town and cooked some breakfast before heading down to the beach to start warming up for our games. The powers that be arranged the teams as fairly as they could on the bus ride, and I was fortunate enough to be placed on a truly international team of great players and even better personalities: the Nicks from GW, with Nick S. as an incredibly knowledgable and skilled player who plays Ultimate at GW and has taught me a lot about the game and Nick H.M. as a versatile and highly capable, fleet footed big body who was our vocal leader (not to mention the person who introduced us to Ultimate in the first place, so he deserves a huge round of applause for that); an Argentinian guy named Dani who I had never met before but knew was an excellent player and who turned out to be an even better teammate and leader (not to mention the father of quite possibly the cutest child I've ever laid eyes on, but I digress); Betty, a German medical student working at a hospital in Buenos Aires who is an extraordinary player and whose favorite word (or maybe the word I most like to hear her say) is "sweet", which she usually utters after seeing or making a "sweet" throw; Jessica, a cheerful student from England in her last year of studies who was definitely one of our most consistent players and a joy to be around; Dana, whose quiet demeanor hid a vibrant character and genuine enthusiasm for Ultimate who would flash a brilliant smile after scoring a point; and last but certainly not least, Andrés, a Colombian art student studying in Buenos Aires who Nick H.M. and I liken to a dog, in that he is so care free and always brings positive energy anywhere he goes - I hereby dub him the ambassador of "buena onda", or good times - and who made a living in the end zone.
Nick H.M. came up with the name Superhands for our team, a prophetic moniker since we were "super" in winning our first two games. It had been some time since I ran around in the sand and it was so much tougher than I remember so after two games my body was quite sore and ready for some relaxation before venturing out into the town for the beer festival. We had no idea what to expect, and quite honestly, were somewhat disappointed at first. Even though the organizers (who were incredible - as Nick S. put it, there were never any moments when we had to think about what we were doing, it was all set up for us) had reserved a table for 50, we were still confronted by long lines and general mayhem in trying to get food and drink. Nick H.M. and Julia bowed out before even getting anything to eat, but many of us stuck it out and waited through the painful reality of Argentinian lines. However, as is often true, your company is more important than your location, so once we all got some food and drink in our stomachs, we could concentrate on dancing and general merriment, and did we ever. We must have danced like crazy people for nearly two hours, first to the singers on stage, and later to the dance music blaring over the loud speakers. We eventually made it to the stage itself, and continued jumping and dancing around with our fellow players and the local patrons of the festival. We encountered two adorable little girls (Ana and Milagros), who were holding their noise makers up as microphones and singing along to the music while dancing, and Juliana, Austin and I joined them. A few songs later, Juliana and I thought it would be fun to teach the dance for Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)" (which I will from now on refer to as simple "Soulja Boy"), which they actually picked up on pretty quickly, but not as quickly as the little boy who wanted to learn after the girls left. He "supermanned" with such gusto.
All told, we had a pretty good time at the festival, and I stayed up far later than I should have given the fact we were supposed to start playing Frisbee at 9:00am the next day. Luckily, we are in Argentina, so nothing starts on time so we probably didn't start playing until 10:45, only after conducting a traditional opening ceremony a day late (see what I'm talking about?) in which everyone sang their country's national anthem. The contingencies (in a few cases of 1) from Argentina, Colombia, USA, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, and Japan all stood in front of the group and proudly (or comically, in the case of Randall the Canadian) sang their country's anthem. Most notable was Katsu, our Japanese friend who gave a subdued yet stirring rendition of the Japanese national anthem, which everyone watched in silence and erupted in applause after he finished.
After these festivities we were in the first game. It was a hotly contested match, and I'm proud to say I caught the winning point on an epic over the shoulder layout in the endzone which I'm still paying for with whip-lash like symptoms, but hey, you leave it all on the field (or in this case, sand). We finished Sunday 2-1, with a 4-1 overall record and a spot in the championship, but for much of the day the heat was the big story. Everyone was getting sunburnt, and shade was at a premium. Moreover, the sand was unbearably hot at times, causing many people to turn to socks or some footwear to combat the burning beach. We did have a hose at our disposal, but often times the sand dried so quickly that the water was rendered useless. Standing in one spot for too long or having to retrieve the frisbee outside the field were both inevitable and extremely painful, which made some of the games almost unbearable. But we pushed through, altered our watering techniques, and waited until the sun started to set so the sand cooled off. By the time the championship came around, the sand was much more friendly to the feet and helped propell us to victory (although Nick H.M. nearly mangled a little girl who was walking through the endzone, she and her family seemingly unaware of the game going on despite the fact we'd been playing for two days straight. This incident is worth noting since our friend Emiliano, one of the most polite and genuinely nice people we've met, somehow found himself confronted by the girl's angry father/grandfather, pole in hand, even though he had respectfully explained the situation to the girl's mother/grandmother). We were all pretty excited after winning, but the greater victory was in the weekend and the spirit everyone brought to the games. Another ritual practice was the "redondo", or circle, that followed every game. It provided the opportunity for the two teams to get together in embrace and have a representative from each squad to share some words about the match on behalf of their team, after which the teams would often participate in some group dance or game, my favorite being a variation of Rock-Paper-Scissors called "Superfan", in which everybody starts by playing a single match of Rock-Paper-Scissors, but the loser must follow around the winner as they continue to play and be their biggest fan. If your horse loses, you both must join in rooting for the winner. As you win, your fan base grows, until it's down to two contestants with everyone else cheering for one or the other. Either way, the redondos, the games, and the previously mentioned recognition of each country in attendance contributed to the already palpable sense of respect and positive spirit in the air. There was little to no bickering during the games, and tons of high fives between teammates and opponents alike. At random points a round of cheers would erupt for one team, followed by just a passionate cheer for the other side. A good play elicited cheers from all sections, including the opposition. Everyone gave their all, and everyone recognized and appreciated the effort. And in this last redondo, everyone on the two teams in the finals provided some parting words to sum up their time at the tournament. There were multiple mentions of good spirit, great energy, strong effort and unforgettable experiences. But for me, as I told the group, it was simply extraordinary: two months before I had never played organized Frisbee, and now I was on the beach, playing this amazing game with such amazing people, and for that I was very lucky.
With all these lovey-dovey feelings we returned back to our apartments to get ready for the big event of the weekend: the asado. We were all feeling great after a long day of Frisbee and ready to spend the night eating delicious meat, drinking, and dancing the night away, and we were not disappointed. Our dinner included as much beer, wine, soda, and water that we could drink, so naturally after drinking my fair share of Quilmes, I convinced our new friend Daniel (Argentinian mother, Spanish father, raised in England - I told you this was an international community) to join me in some calimocho, which is a Spanish drink composed of cheap red wine and cola - usually Coke, but we only had Pepsi so we made due - that tastes like an incredibly crude sangria...or cherry coke...it's not for everyone, but when we would botellón (drink in the streets) of Madrid, we frequently did so with calimocho. Once dinner was over, the DJ started playing all types of dance music, and the moving and shaking began. Julianna and I, inspired by our lessons the previous night, decided to teach everyone the "Soulja Boy" dance. Annie had her iPod with the song on it, so we figured we would hook it up to the speakers and give everyone a lesson in popular North American dance. Again, at all the parties we'd been to the South Americans insisted on learning to dance, so we figured we'd return the favor, however absurd this example of our culture may be. Julianna and I moved to the outdoor deck to get on the same page and provide the united front of dance for the masses, and in the process I put my foot through the deck (it wasn't strong enough for my cranking). I felt pretty bad, but as Maxi, the tournament's lead organizer said, it wasn't as bad as the person who broke the glass casing in the main room. With this positive reinforcement, and undeterred by the cut on my right ankle, Julianna and I got a large group of tournament participants from all over the world to Crank That (Soulja Boy). It was a huge hit, and we got a big round of applause, after which we continued on dancing into the night.
By the time we got home, many were ready to go to sleep. In fact, Nick S. passed out in the living room of the apartment with his bandanna over his eyes, a closed jar of peanut butter in one hand, and a spoon in the other - and this is after both Nick and I passed out on the five minute busride back to the apartments. I was also ready to hit the sack, but was convinced by the Ambassador of Buena Onda, aka Andrés, and his friends (the Sebastians, because, that's right, they're both named Sebastian) to go down to the beach because we weren't going to be near it again for a long time so we needed to go watch the sunrise (because on this beach, you could see both the sunrise and the sunset). I was in no mood to argue with this logic, so a group of us all went down to the beach to see the beautiful sight. Unfortunately, we didn't make it that long after some police officers came and asked us for our identification (which all but one did not have) and advised us to get off the beach since there had been reports of crime in the town (it's worth noting that Sleepy Nick had fallen asleep on Julia's lap some time before and only woke up after she poked him a few minutes into the police incident, so he had no idea what was going on until it was almost over...clearly, the boy was tired). It wasn't too hard to persuade us to get off the beach, seeing as it was both cold and windy, and most of us were running on very little sleep from the night before, so we all made our way back to the apartments and eventually collapsed into bed.
Monday was pretty uneventful. Of course, we didn't leave until 3:45 even though we were scheduled to leave around 2, so we didn't get into Buenos Aires until around 2:00. The bus ride was painless, and we slept most of the trip. Our friend Dave, the sole member of the Australian contingent who is traveling across South America and just happened to be in Buenos Aires for the weekend of the tournament and decided to come along, crashed on our couch since he didn't have anywhere to stay. It was fitting that we got to continue the positive spirit of the weekend by hosting a near stranger in our home, all because we had one thing in common: we play Frisbee.
Sorry for the lack of pictures, but for those of you on the Facebook, more than enough pictures will be posted over the next week, so you can check them out there. Otherwise, I'll try and rip some off the web and post them as they become available. Until then, Julia's pictures and those created by my words will have do be enough. Or, as I always say, you could just come down here and see for yourself.