Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Casual Goings on in Casa Cochobamba

Things are always changing here. People come, people leave, we do fun things, we sit around and do nothing, we watch the sun set, we miss the sun set, and we don't sleep that much. Here's an update (con fotos, claro por las madres) on what's been happening here of late.

Jess and I have been trying to take advantage of all the outdoor free things that seemingly happen here all the time. This one was called Ciu Danza: a name that indicated dancing in the city. That sounded cool, so we checked the billboard outside our apartment and went to the last show. I only got photos of the first group before my camera died, but they were using the park and its structures to dance and it was awesome. Next there was beautiful Electro Tango, and then two really weird acts (the last of which we were pretty sure all the dancers were on drugs). My only complaint: very difficult to see a lot of the dancing.

Next order of business. Jessica finally got boots! No more flip flops for her and now we don't have to hear her complain about how cold her feet are, and I won't ever have to give her my socks again!
Why don't I own this dress?

Ted came back from his travels and left again, but not before one big dinner where we all drank a lot of cerveza. Here's a classic:
Yes we have a pan flute thanks to Alex!!

Magical things happen when Santi steals my camera...we miss you Ted, and you're not a loser!

I got my hair cut by Uli:

And our new roommate Brian is growing his. Lucky for him he has Uli to to the dying and styling:

Oh wait, that's a hair extension piece, and it looks better on Dan (soon to be other new roomie):

But really it looks best on its owner:

More free events! We went to the festival Buen Dia at the Planetarium. The sound quality was appalling, but the shops were great and the empanada I bought wasn't bad either.

Its a flying saucer...

No! Its the Planetarium at night with a weird Argentine band playing in front of it!

We are very skeptical

Everyone else continued the night at Pascha, one of the biggest and best night clubs in BA, except for Nick, Josh and I. So I wasn't even present for the above photo, but it was so epic I had to add it. I love my housemates. Don't leave Jessica! (not that you ever look at out blog :(

So that's all for now, more big news ahead when I go to my first retreat on Tuesday, but until then there are a few fun things happening. There is yet ANOTHER Federale, or holiday, tomorrow and no work. There were two last month, two this month, its no wonder the sound quality sucked at the festival. This city has no money because there are holiday's every other week. I mean, hey, you don't see me complaining...
Also, Josh and I are going to our first Shabbat dinner at an Argentine's house. I'm...super excited. For now though I will rest my back, and fight the urge to make a grilled cheese sandwich that I know no Lactaid pills will help. I think its a losing battle.

The German Hospital

For about six months now I've been experiencing back pains on and off again. Almost always on the right side, and the pain has the tendency to shoot down my leg and even too my foot. Its gotten worse recently, and while Megan was here she gave me a curing massage. Prior to that though, I was almost unable to walk after we spend the night on the bus to Iguazu. Well, Meg's not here anymore, and Josh has been generous with the massages, but after another excruciating night of disturbed sleep and a painful morning I decided to take action. I did some research with my pal Nick and he recommended the German Hospita; if it was English speaking doctors I was looking for. And there began my first adventures into the land of health care in Argentina.
I'll keep it short and simple because it was short and simple. The most complicated part was finding the right wing with the directions being given in Spanish. I paid my 100 pesos (Mom and Dad I hope the insurance company can reimburse us for this!) and waited for not a very long time. I was seen by a male doctor whose English wasn't amazing but not to bad either, and after prodding me for about 2 minutes he told me I probably had a muscle constriction, or contraction, well, basically a muscle clump that was pulling on the nerves that end at my foot. BUT! (there is always a but) he wanted me to have an ex ray just to make sure.
So I followed his directions and found the x-ray room, paid 98 more pesos (finally a place modern enough to take credit cards came my way and I took full advantage), took a number, and waited another bit (its a good thing I always have a book on me here). Finally number 140 popped up on the board, and I went to a small room, was instructed to put on a very large white sheet with a hole for my head, and after a minute more I entered the room, told her I wasn't pregnant, dropped trow, and was ex rayed from the front and from the side.
After a quick buttoning of the pants I went back to the original room where I was seen and I was seen right away by the same doctor. For all of you who were holding you breath, you can stop. I'm fine. Just muscle clumping, or whatever. I was given a prescription for some pain killers with muscle relaxants, and instructions to heat my back as often as possible. As I write this post I am sitting in bed with a large water bottle full of hot water since I am too cheap to by an electric blanket, but really this works fine. Soon I hope to be in a muscle relaxed stupor as I bath in our newly cleaned tub. Only problem is if that tub is to me newly cleaned I'm going to have to be the one to do it. And if you are one of the few privileged readers to have seen our tub lately you would know that anyone who is going to scrub that will end up with back problems anyway, so might as well be me!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Going Back to Camp!

I have some exciting new to share, hope you get excited to! I have a new job opportunity, and it does not involve an institute. I've been invited to attend a session with a Language Camp called CII International Exchange program. Its a company that puts on what we might call a retreat with a theme for young porteños. They last for three days, and the whole thing is conducted in English. I will be attending my first camp from the 5th till the 7th. Oh, and the whole thing happens in the Campo, a few hours outside the city.
The theme is Spy Camp! and I'm excited. I'm thinking James Bond, Pussy Galore..oh wait, I got carried away. This is a camp for 12 year olds after all. So today I attended a meeting about the camp. I met some of the other counselors and found out I'll be working with many Irish people (always a plus) and some other people from the UK and the US. We made up some mission activities for the kids, and discussed what we could wear to Casino night. So far good times, even though I was not ready to use so much creative brain power after six hours of sleep.
So the idea of this camp is kind of my try out, and I think that if I prove to them that I'm not too crazy, but just crazy enough to spend three days in a row being a camp counselor once a week than I think I might have a new full time job - with a salary. Not to count my chickens before they hatch or anything, but this could be how Josh and I are able to stay here independently of our dwindling US dollars. Also, I always wanted to be a camp counselor, but could never commit to the whole summer. Now's my chance!!! I'll keep you posted...hehe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hump Day

I started off my Wednesday with some cleaning and then I was ready to go for a light jog. This only reminded me of a very sad fact I have recently had to acknowledge. Josh and my ipods (mine is just a little shuffle) have been mysteriously disappeared from our living room. Somewhere along the line they were they, and then one day when we went to look for them they weren't. At first, seeing as my flatmates get the urges to clean and rip through the apartment like the Tazmanian Devil with soap and a broom, I assumed someone had put them somewhere. After asking around, it was clear that they were no where to be found, and no one had seen them.
The real thing that gets my goat is that it had to be an inside job. Anyone breaking into our house could make out with hundred's of dollars in electonics. Our computers are often left lieing around, camera's left out after a party, or cell phones forgotten before bed. No, this was clearly someone who had been let into our house, taken advantage of our hospitality and then slying slipped an mp3 player into their pocket while no one was watching. The other disconserting thing is that in the time from when Josh returened to when the ipods when missing we had no parties, and no large get togethers. Only small asados. There is only one direction the case can point in, and it makes me very sad to think it. Andrés, the previously denoted bringer of buena hona has, in my mind, been dubed the bringer of mal honda. He showed up at our house at all times of the day or night, with or with out an enterage of anywhere from 1 to 5 people. They come and they want to party. I often need to leave or want to go to bed. While I love Andres, and know he would never take anything from us, I don't know his friends. These people are the only unknowns to come to our house during the window of time when the ipods were taken, and so the blame is easy to place on them. I have no proof, but it makes sense, doesn't it?
Thinking about getting robbed in my own house and talking it over with my flatmates made me upset, and so I left the house to go for a quick jog. It felt good to get out into the beautiful day and give my abs a spanking they deserved. After that I had two good classes, and my second class actually spoke a lot of English which is very unusual for them. Even though they are paying to learn they are still reluctant to try, but my new game where I reward for English and take away points for Spanish totally works. No one likes when they gets points taken away.
On my walk home I realized I totally knew which direction to go in without looking at my GuiaT for the first time since I started teaching this class over a month ago. In my ellation I noticed a delivery man on roller blades. My life was loooking pretty good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Day Sunshine

Rise up this mornin', smiled with the risin' sun, and headed to Puerto Madero for my Tuesday 8 am class. The sky was lit up with orange and pink. Man, it was somethin'. As I headed down towards the polluted Paseo Colon, I pulled my orange scarf. almost matching the sky perfectly, over my nose so as not to breath in such harmful fumes that early in the morning and enjoyed waking to the sun rise instead of going to bed with it. The port was beautiful, the water sparkling, and I almost forgot my terrible night's sleep and my luke warm shower that morning. I arrived twenty minutes early and settled down to wait with Saturday, by Ian McKewn. And wait I did. That boludo never showed. At 8:40 I packed myself up, and headed home somewhat pissed, but glad to have gotten out of work early with the whole morning ahead of me. I get paid in the end anyway!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Real World: Buenos Aires

Unfortunately, this past week we had to stop being polite and start getting real in Casa Cochabamba. Written and photo evidence shows that Ted has indeed departed our lovely home (que lastima - what a shame), leaving an empty room on our terrace. We knew finding a suitable replacement would be a tall order, but we were confident we'd be able to find one before paying April's rent on the 12th. Sure enough, a number of potential flatmates responded to our ad on Craigslist and we proceeded to hold two getting to know you sessions: the first a French painter/sculptor/tango dancer and the other an Austrian who had returned to Buenos Aires after spending a year here during high school. Our other roommates met the French lad before Julia and I did, since he came by while we were at work, but he dropped by again in the late afternoon, which made us think he really wanted to live here. He later expressed his interest in staying for many months, an ideal position since we loathed the prospect continuing to look for new roommates so often, and raved about how the room was perfect for his artwork. He seemed nice enough, and we even happened to know some similar people who vouched for him, so we all decided that unless the Austrian guy really made a really strong impression on us that we would go with the French guy. The Austrian fellow arrived nearly an hour late, and although he was alright, he didn't surpass the Frenchmen, so we called him the next day to invite him to come live with us. He happily accepted and moved in but a few hours later.

I have never had to incorporate a new roommate into a preexisting situation and knew that it would not be easy, especially since the five of us that remain are pretty close. We generally hang out in our living room on our computers, watching television together, playing cards or boardgames, reading, drinking mate, or just talking. While not all the time, we often cook together, go out together, and of course Julia, Jessica and I all play Frisbee together. To boot, we all had such high expectations after living with Ted for 2 months, but we were ready and willing to welcome a new person into the mix. Actually, we were excited because the Frenchmen wanted to only speak Spanish, something we should be trying to do anyways but sometimes need to be nudged into doing. I fully understood that it could be intimidating to a new roommate to enter into a house with already established relationships, and imagined it wouldn't be an instantaneous transition from newbie to roomie, but felt confident that open-minded, fun loving people such as ourselves would be able to integrate our new friend into our lives, even if we weren't best friends.

As predicted, our new roommate was somewhat reclusive at first. It is easier to stay to yourself when you live upstairs, which was actually one reason why I didn't want to live up there in the first place (that and having to traverse the narrow stairs at night if I had to go to the bathroom, especially when it's raining). It didn't bother us that much that he stayed upstairs a lot and didn't socialize very much - he is an artist after all, and was often times sketching or painting. But it started to seem strange when he would come and go while some of us would be doing something in the living room without so much as a word. We would try and invite him downstairs to hang out or to eat, and he only accepted once. Otherwise he would only come downstairs if he needed to get a drink of water or take a shower (with one of the various lady friends he brought back). As Ulises put it, he treated the house like a hostel and us like strangers. We had an encouraging evening when he joined us for a homemade pasta dinner and some conversation after wards, but all was back to normal the next day.

Two days later, he dropped the bomb on us that he would be moving out at the end of the month and refused to pay the full month's rent, which we should have made him do the moment he moved in. He and Julia got into a bit of a discussion that consisted of the following: Julia told him there was no way he could move out and not pay his rent and then he could find someone to pay him back, which is the normal procedure for anyone who ducks out early on a commitment they've made. He stated that if he wanted he could leave without ever seeing us again, so we were lucky he was giving us any money. He thought he could only pay a little chunk of his obligation and not find anyone to replace him. Julia told him this wasn't how it worked. Julia left for work, and he started moving his things out a few hours later. He decided that it was better if he just moved out that day, still refusing to pay his share of the rent, still refusing to find someone to replace him. Did I mention that our property manager, Elizabeth, was coming that night to collect our rent for the month? He says he wants to talk to her and that's that. Even better, our friend Andrés, the Embassador of Buena Onda himself, shows up in between classes and is witness to these proceedings. Elizabeth arrives, we all sit down, and she tries to tell him that he cannot do what he's doing. She tries to get him to at least pay half the rent for the month. He refuses, acknowledges that what he's doing is wrong, unfair, and straight up sh***y, but stands pat on his refusal to pay anything more than a third of the rent without finding a replacement. I'm at my wit's end by this point, completely dumbfounded and frustrated by his persistent defiance. Eventually he makes his final offer, which is the same offer that he's been making the whole time, and we have no choice but to accept it and let him go. In the end, our property manager was ok with us not having all of the rent and the money that he left gave us some time to find a new roommate without losing any money, but in the end, this guy was also a jerk and we were happy to move on without him.

Fast forward to Friday night. We are setting up for our asado in Megan's honor, which was a truly wonderful affair with delicious meat and great company. Whenever we have a get together we set up the speakers on the roof to provide an obviously cool and hip soundtrack. Ted always kept the speakers in his room, and I was sure they were in the room when we cleaned it before the Frenchmen's arrival. Now they were gone. We looked all over the house, waiting until all the roommates were back just to make sure, and finally came to the one undeniable conclusion: this guy had stolen our speakers! We were enraged, Santi and Ulises were even ready to comb through every milonga in the city in search of our tango dancing thief, Julia, Jessica and I were looking forward to talking to the people who vouched for him so we could find out what happened. Luckily enough, Santi spotted him on his way out of the house that night hanging outside the milonga next door. He admitted that he took the speakers, claimed it was by mistake and that he thought the person before him had left them so they were fair game (excellent logic, I might add), and the girl he was with - a different one from the others, I assume - diffused the situation by telling Santi that he would bring the speakers back tomorrow. Santi promised that if he got home from work and our house remained sans blue-speakers, he would be sorry, for we knew where he danced. Sure enough, he brought them back the next day, and I think it's safe to say we won't be hanging out with him anytime soon.

But do not fret my friends, we have found a new roommate! Nick, who came over the night that Mr. Frenchmen moved out, told us he had a friend of a friend who was looking for immediate housing and that he would be here for a while. His name is Brian and he's a recent graduate of University of Colorado, Boulder Law School and member of the Colorado Bar. We invited him to said asado, really enjoyed his company, and the rest is history. He moved his stuff in yesterday, has a set of keys, and has begun scoping out new furniture for his room. And already, it's evident he is more likely to fit in with us than our failed experiment. Last night, his very first night in Casa Cochabamba, he hanging out with us in the living room, listening to music, playing boardgames, and talking. While he could never replicate Ted, it looks as though he will be a good replacement. But that doesn't mean we're not going to collect his rent right away.

Megan's Visit

I'm BACK!!!!!!!
Sorry I've been absent, I know Josh's posting frequency this week has been shocking, but hold on to your pants, and I hope you didn't miss me too much. Forgive me, I've been busy!
It only took six months, but finally a friend came to visit. Don't get me wrong family! Your visits were equally as amazing, equally as appreciated, but it meant a lot to have a friend come all the way from the States and taking a whole week off from work to boot!
Megan arrived two Friday's ago after a two hour delay in Miami. After she took a very fast shower and I shoved some empanadas down her throat we headed over to Retiro (my favorite barrio...not) to meet up with Dan Cowel at the Estastion de Omnibus. After a brief encounter with our friends Mike and Kyla (totally convincing Meg that we are popular enough to run into people, maybe a little misleading) we boarded our bus and began the long journey to Puerto Iguazu. 17 hours is a long time to spend on a bus, and even longer if you've just traveled from DC, but as the bus rolled out we treated Meg to her first taste of the Yerba, and gave her a lesson in Maté. Even better was the snack of Alfahores that was passed out a few hours into our trip. I love Via Bariloche!

Pretending I'm really good at preparing the Maté

Very good initial reaction, even if a bit faked for our sakes
(my Mom and Mia's actual reaction to Maté looked...exactly like this and they weren't faking!)

She's a natural...she loves it!

So I know Josh wrote an epic blog post that took him three days so I won't review the details of our trip, but here are a few of my photos from the short time we remained in Missiones:

Warning sign for dangerous animals!!

That's a lot of water

A sign made just for me!

Megan, a rainbow, and some kick ass water falls

Wandering the lovely paths of Missiones

Josh at the Devil's Throat!!! (Sounds cooler is Spanish, I promise)

In which I figure out how to use my camera

Josh and Dan

Meg and me!

Josh and me...I think you all recognize us by now though...

Parilla with the best Asado Tirado EVER!! and also where I swear I won't over eat and then proceeded to over eat to the point of being sick...It goes without saying that we danced all night, and then I ate ice cream and a hamburger. Yes, I am on a small diet that started today, after I stuffed myself with Choripan at Diego's last night. I swear my heart was crying after. But for real this time...I'm going to eat healthy starting today!

Tres Fronteres from the left: Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Unfortunately the US has a silly policy where they charge people from South America extraordinary amounts of money to enter our country if they let them at all, so countries like Brazil have fought back...I don't think I'll ever be paying the US$130 you need to shell out to get this might be as close as we'll come to Rio for a long time.

We arrived in Buenos Aires late on Monday, and finally got back to our house around 2. Megan was incredulous as to how the bus terminal can schedule a million buses to come back at the same time. Amazing that in just six months I've come to accept things like this as common place and expect them. Oh Argentina...sigh.
Anyway, so we proceeded to have a relaxed week where we saw some nice stuff all over the city, enjoyed beautiful weather, and ate like cows were going extinct.
We saw the Buddy Bears in their last week in BA. These bears are traveling around the world to promote peace. There is one from every country, and for some reason Einstein gets his own bear...random:

Ours was disappointingly boring compared to say...Egypt:

And way boring compared to this guy:

We also hit up the Recoleta Cemetary, and of course had a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. Mmm, milanesa and Quilmes, a match made in heaven.

Sharing the life force (Quilmes) with Meg and half liter bottles, so classy!

So those are all the photos I have, when Meg sends me some of hers I will post them as well, but we certainly had a good time. We hosted our best Asado yet on Friday night in honor of her despedida, and then hit up a few bars. The only thing to disappoint was that we stayed up all night on Friday only to emerge from the club into the poring rain at 6 am. Needless to say, there was no sunrise. Que lastima (I'm totally quizzing you, who remembers this phrase from Josh's last post?). Anyway, I was very sad to see her go, and after she left I consoled myself by eating even more meat that night at Jeremy's asado. Having Meg here made me miss my friends from home, and made me miss being with people who've known me for longer than six months. I love my friends here, and can't wait till we get to that point, but it was so refreshing to reminisce with her as we created new memories. At the same time it was some what strange to hear all about her life and the lives of my friends at home. I felt so disconnected from that world of 9-5, happy hour, dating, and 401Ks, and farther away from my friends than ever before. At the same time though, I was relived to know that this disconnect doesn't have the same affect on friendships, and came away from the week very happy that our friendship has remained stronger than ever even after all this time and physical distance. We joked and planned for the future. Moving to California together may not be as likely to happen as me visiting her in DC this winter (or your summer), but its fun to dream. To all my friends at home who I haven't kept in touch with very well, know that I'm thinking about you too!!!
But now its back to real life, but more importantly back to recovery. I am still exhausted from her visit, as I imagine she is. I plan on spending the rest of the week attempting to catch up on sleep, and of course watch lots of The Wire.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Land Before Time XIX: The Adventure at Iguazú Falls

The titles may not match, but the scenery looks quite similar

I pose you all a question: what would inspire you to travel from St. Louis to Boston, by bus, only to return just one and a half days later, no matter how nice the bus may be? 19 hours, each way, for a less than 36 hours of fun? We answered that question for ourselves before we departed Buenos Aires for Puerto Iguazú last Friday, confident that our bus-residency would pay off in a wealth of incredible experiences. Before I even arrived in Buenos Aires, one of my friends from home advised me that I could not leave Argentina without seeing Iguazú Falls, so I had been looking forward to this opportunity for almost a year. Julia, as I'm guessing she will mention in the second half our this two part coverage, had also been excited at the prospect of sitting for nearly one day to see some waterfalls. We were joined by two other characters: Dan, who we met here but knows our previous guest and steadfast blog follower, Alex, from Chicago; and Megan from GW, who had arrived but a few hours earlier after traveling umpteen hours from Washington DC. Megan provided the impetus for making the trek up north and Dan jumped at the opportunity to see the mammoth falls that straddle the Argentina-Brazil border, so the four of us embarked on an epic journey with a thermos of hot water, a tin of yerba de maté, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (gracias a Megan for the PB), plenty of sunscreen (or, as Julia now calls it after hangi ng around Jessica so much, suncream), and a whole lot of excitement.

Besides giving me time to get to know Dan better, eat some wondefully mediocre bus food (which, along with plane food, is an admitted guilty pleasure of Dan and myself - what can I say, I'm a sucker for mystery meat cubes, lasagna filled with highly processed cheese, and miniature apple tarts), and catch up on podcasts, the bus also gave me the opportunity to catch up on some spectacular international cinema: The Transporter 3. You can see from the trailer that this movie has everything: an unattractive female lead who is supposed to be smoking hot, a car that can balance on two wheels while speeding between tractor-trailer trucks, glib retorts to equally glib ultimatums, and Jason Statham with his shirt off. All signs pointed towards this being a must miss, and it most definitely didn't disappoint. Yet, like bus and plane food, it was strangely entertaining and I watched the whole thing, even though I had just watched a really good movie in The Green Mile beforehand. All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon and early evening of movies, and I fell asleep with the assurance that I would wake up to the reincarnation of Eden, just with tourists.

Multiple stops and 7 hours later, I woke up in the meat cooler known as a Via Bariloche bus just outside of Puerto Iguazú, the nearest city to the park. As advertised, our hostel was within blocks of the bus station and many restaurants and boliches. In fact, it was just 50 meters or so from the very boliche in which Nick suggested we dance the night away, Cuba Libre. For those of you who don't know, Cuba Libre has two meanings: the literal meaning is "Cuba Free", which was represented by an illustrated Cuban flag dissipating as it reached it's end. Cuba Libre is also the name of a popular cocktail known as a "Rum and Coke" in English speaking countries. I love clubs whose names are double entendres. Forgive me, I digress. So we got into the city at 8am and got to the park by 10am, ready to spend a day walking in wonder, pulling along our jaws dragging along the ground behind us. Our lovely hostel conci erage Richard helped arrange a Nautical Adventure (see picture to the left), which consisted of getting in a boat and subjecting ourselves to hundreds of gallons of cascading water, which was a welcome repose after walking around for a few hours with the subtropical sun bearing down on us. After tackling the entire upper circuit, a system of paths and platforms that exposed us to the falls from a higher vantage point, and most of the lower circuit, which included smaller falls, plenty of walking along the river and through the woods, and views from below some of the bigger falls, a massive shower of cool water sounded great. We got dumped on be some pretty magnificent falls, one of them being the gigantic San Martín Falls (see picture below left) that dominates of side of the park. Our boat did not go directly under this fall as it did with a smaller one, but we definitely felt strong gusts of water-saturated air from where the falling water met the river. Three times. By the end of the boat ride we were all thoroughly soaked and clapping in appreciation of our noble, raingear wearing conductor, annou ncer, and cameraman. The maze-like portion of our adventure ended with an incredible view of the Bossetti Falls, which sported a permanent rainbow thanks to the mist spraying off it, and a bagged lunch in at the outdoor food vendor.

By now, we are all too used to pigeons harassing us whenever we eat outside. The pigeons in this city are unusually dirty and cheeky, showing less fear than any city pigeon that I've ever known. We've actually bumped into the on several occasions without intending to. At the National Park, we encountered an entirely different yet equally annoying monster: the coati. These raccoon, aardvark, squirrel, rat like creatures initially made me saw "aww" when we witnessed a clan of coatíes crossing the railroad tracks for the train that brings you to La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's Thr oat - much more on that later). They are quite furry and awkward looking, which obviously tugs at the heart strings. To boot, many of them looked like babies, another endearing trait of
animals (I mean seriously, who hates puppies? Kittens? Baby pandas?). More than anything, I thought that we were observing a wild creatures interacting with the man made world imposed up them, a romantic notion influenced by our jungle like surroundings. It didn't take me very long to tell myself I should have known better - these cute, cuddly coatíes were merely furry, earthbound pigeons unfazed by humans. They would approach people eating their lunches outside looking for morsels to munch on, never appearing to be threatening, just very annoying. In spite of the many signs advising otherwise, people continued to feed these beggars their scraps of food, probably thanks to the novelty of having a "wild" animal eat from their hands. Fortunately for us, we were in a less than desirable position (directly in the sun) so they refrained from badgering us too much.

We emerged from our lunch break dried, full of PB & J, rested, and sick of coatíes and proceeded to head back up the path towards the mini-train that would bring us to the grand finale of our day: La Garganta del Diablo. We disembarked the train and walked a kilometer of elevated steel walkways that passed over part of the river that feeds into the mighty falls. After baking on the unshaded metal, we began to hear the thunderous rush of water plunging into the gorge just ahead of us. The first glimpse we got was the initial cascades from the riverbed to the final descent, with a thick mist extending to its left. Slowly but surely, the sound level increased as the temperature cooled, building the kind of true suspense and excitement Jerry Bruckheimer only dreams could. We finally reached the viewing platform that resided just above the right extreme of La Garganta and we were speechless. A concave wall of water nearly a football field-tall and even more wide lay before us, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per second plummeting to the river below. Certain portions looked more green than blue or white before falling, surely thanks to the vegetation suffering the pulverizing force of the water's rage. To it's side were smaller yet still impressive falls, also reflecting the green surface beneath them but eventually turning to a frothy white as they fell towards the river. Not to sound cliche (and for what it's worth, my editor [read: I] decided to cut out a whole tangent about cliches and how we use them and their worth, or lack there of, in communication. So you're welcome for not wasting a few minutes of your prescious time), but to be in the presence of such natural power and beauty is a humbling experience, one that makes you feel even more diminutive than you may be. An equally cliched sentiment commonly expressed is that such majestic sights inspire a sense of surreality, that you cannot believe that you are where you are, seeing what you're seeing, and I had the exact opposite experience. It was one of those times when I really felt in the moment, taking in every detail in case I never got the experience again. Unlike other impressive beauties, La Garganta del Diablo is a mulit-sensory experience. As I took in the massive falls with my eyes, focusing in on a single drop and trying to follow it on its rapid descent, I could taste the fresh water since my mouth was open in amazement, goosebumps rose on my bronzing skin thanks to the steady, cool mist bombarding me, even though the sun shone down with great intensity, and the churning of the water impeded conversation at a normal volume. The view of the falls is what I will remember most, for sure, but I'll never forget the full body experience of it. This sight, and the whole park in general, definitely ranks in the top 10, maybe even top 5, of my lifetime experiences, and I only hope that I can continue to make each spot in those lists at competitive as possible by being witness to and taking part in such magnificent wonders.

An hour later we were back in our hostel, napping in a dark room with 8 beds, completely exhausted from our day of walking and previous night of non-horizontal sleep. Dan and I went on a mini excursion for empanadas and a possible spot for dinner that night, and we found a splendid outdoor parilla that served up some delicious asado de tira and vacío, which we devoured without hesistation. (Note: As I write this last section, I am mentally preparing myself for an asado on our roof this evening. We are spoiling Megan, as future blog posts will surely indicate.) It was a fine first example of Argentinian beef for Megan, and we followed one good first with another by hitting up Cuba Libre until 5:00 AM or so. Thanks to Dan for keeping up our Saturday night custom of drinking sweet, bubbly wine at bars, we really appreciated it, even if the tradition will die tomorrow night. We ended our evening at the ice cream shop across the street which sold cones at an unheard of price of 2 pesos for one scoop (Puerto Iguazú, I love you) and the hamburger stand close by. I did not indulge in one, but as pictures will show, Julia did so without shame.

We woke up the next morning and headed out to the Tres Fronteras, or corner of the city where you find yourself at the crux of three borders: Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil (see picture below: Argentina in the foreground, Paraguay to the left, Brazil to the right). It was pleasant and relaxing, even if our tereré did not work out as well as we could have hoped on such a hot day. The aforementioned Richard suggested we take the scenic route along the river back to the hostel, and it was the one time it may have been wise to not listen to him. Besides some mildly interesting wall art at one point of our walk, we basically saw a lot of the same side of Brazil (so many trees), had little shade to walk in, and ended up having to ascend a steep hill to make our way back into the town. It was definitely more physical activity than I was ready for, but kept going because in the back of my mind I knew I would soon have the luxury of sleeping on our Super Cama bus back home. One of the selling points of traveling so long for so little time was the prospect of riding back to Buenos Aires in style, well rested and revived from our tiring weekend. Even better, since we were sitting on the bottom of the bus, we paid 30 pesos less than the top of the bus! All around, it seemed like a stellar deal and we couldn't wait to lay back and relax...for 20 hours. We patiently waiting at the bus station as 2 other Via Bariloche buses pulled in and subsequently left (there were buses at 3:05, 3:12, and 3:20...very strange), and finally hopped on the last one. We were correct in that our discount was definitely because we were sitting on the bottom floor. What we didn't expect was that the bottom floor would NOT be Super Cama, but regular Cama instead. Granted, the seats were slightly bigger than our trip to Iguazú, but they were not the fully reclining, plush seats we had hoped for. We were genuinely disappointed with our bad fortune, but quickly got over it and settled into a deep sleep until early evening. And after inhaling another deliciously bad bus-dinner, we had both sleeping pills and one of Robin Williams' finest to put us to sleep and we awoke the next morning back in Buenos Aires, albeit 2 and a half hours late.

So looking back, especially after our failed bus expectations, was it worth it? Was it all it was cracked up to be, worthy of being one of the New 7 Wonders of the World? Without a doubt. It did not look markedly different than in pictures, but seeing it in person was an absolute thrill, and I urge anyone who has the chance or ganas (will) to get there to do so, you will not regret it, I assure you. I'm not saying I would do the same trip under the same time restraints next weekend, but I would love to get back up there at some point, time and money permitting. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by other tourists doing the same thing as I was, I still felt I had a very unique, personal experience with the falls, and my senses are still tingling from it.

Here are some additional pictures that I could not skillfully integrate into the text of the post. Feast your eyes on these beauties and try not to drool all over your keyboard. Double click on the photos if you want a larger view, I accidentally imported the pictures on Julia's computer since mine (bless her soul) no longer uploads pictures or supports attachments.
Have a great weekend!

One especially fat Coatié.

At the "Dos Hermanas" Falls, or Two Sisters. Julia just wondering where her's is...

San Martín Falls

The first waterfall that we went under and got us all wet.

First views of Garganta

A view from the Garganta platform into the gorge.

Julia at Garganta

La Garganta del Diablo from the other side of the park.

Our brave travelers on their way to the boat.

Add butterflies and rainbows to the list of things everyone loves.

The majority of the Argentinian side during our
boat adventure - another Land Before Time shot.