Hablar, blah, blah Espanol?
Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
30Trip End Dec 14, 2008
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Where I stayed
You find me writing this update on a coach heading into the Andes mountain ranges, leaving Mendoza towards Santiago de Chile. A clear blue sky is punctuated only by jagged snow capped peaks stretching as far as the eye can see, and the sound of the gentle whirr of the coach is punctuated only by some ridiculous Spanish film being played at full blast without subtitles. Still it's a good time to reflect on our time in Mendoza, where I'd argue that I avoided the dunce cap award in our Spanish class thanks only to an Irish guy who probably could speak Spanish better than me but his accent made it impossible for anyone to understand him - even English was a struggle. Jenny was predictably top of the class, but we can now both successfully buy bus tickets, have some vegetable banter in a Verdularia (grocer) and buy a range of bread in the local (Pan Pepe).
The hostel was a world away from the hectic, 24/7 party hostel in Buenos Aires and having the music down to acceptable levels (for my aging ears) allowed us to actually talk and meet some great people. Still as the week headed towards the weekend, the free wine at 8 (following the free cake and tea at 5) meant that there was plenty of banter and although we never managed to make it out of the hostel at night the asado (Argie BBQ) on Friday was a big night. Too big for some as it turned out, but my lesson shall be learnt - even 2 BBQ's in the same day doesn't mean I can drink my body weight in vino tinto and get away with it! Still it was very hot and I was having a thirst as they say in Argentina (Tengo sed). Actually on that point it's quite remiss of me to have got thus far without detailed updates on the weather situation; suffice to say pretty much every day, with the notable exception of the Argentina - Paraguay match, it's been absolutely stunning, most days getting well above 20 degrees....long may that continue.
Our Spanish school had ended on Friday with a barbeque followed by some traditional Argentinean folk music, as entertaining as it was and as good as the musician, I can't say I'm a huge fan of this particular brand of folk. It's enough to make the likes of Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake and Bob Dylan sound positively chirpy. The same can be said of the Tango, I managed to persuade Jen to come with me to a Tango night including lessons which turned out to be excellent people watching and it's fair to say everyone in the room was astounded at our particular interpretation of the dance. The concentration involved though meant everyone had a fixed stare/grimace so you didn't get struck with any sense of enjoyment - actually reminded me of going to a line dancing club in Dallas where the men seemed to apply a particularly hard headlock to their partner and parade around the dance floor.
So highlights of our week in Mendoza were definitely the hostel, the crazy dogs helped with the atmosphere and German (pronounced her-man) was a star - turning from mild-mannered receptionist by day into a fully fledged crazy bundle of energy by night. The Spanish school was good too, sound bunch in the class and the teachers were amusing in their own different way, particularly Dario who would refuse to speak English for any explanation so most of the morning was spent engaged in a strange game of charades.
Lowlights was probably the wine tour, to be honest we didn't pick the best option - the free tour with the Spanish school, as such we were herded around an excuse for a wine museum rather than going to the more picturesque vineyards that apparently did exist. Also I wanted to catch another football match, thanks to my stadium obsession I seem to have developed, I forced Jen into the Estadio de Malvinas (don't mention the war, we did once but I think we got away with it) where brilliantly a few kids had sneaked on (over a moat-esque gap between stand and pitch) and were kicking the ball about in what I guess was a 60,000+ seater stadium. Turned out the following night Independiente were playing Los Andes in a div 2 game, wih the local team containing a certain Ariel Ortega, a former legend of Argentine football who thanks to his Maradone-esque love of alcohol and drugs finds himself at a rubbish club. However despite some folks from the Spanish school agreeing to come with me, they all bottled due to the cold, so I never got to see this Ortega play. Oh well maybe I should let it go!
Santiago promises to be smoggy and uninteresting (according to reviews we've heard, so expectations are set sufficiently low). As for future plans Bolivia, like Cambodia and Indonesia before it has decided to coincide civil unrest with our planned visit - so we're on BBC watch for the situation there!
Anyway I must leave you now as we attempt to eat a couple of bagfuls of lunch - we have just been told Chile operates a NZ style MAF mafia where bags are rigorously searched for fruit, nuts and veg.
Until next time...Action, Urgency and Excellence....
And from Jen...
Hola chicos! Well predictably I loved Spanish school and thanks to my French and bit of Italian, found it all pretty straightforward, and at times wished I'd joined the next level class who learnt exciting things like the past tense! The people working at the school were all lovely and really encouraged us to make the most of our time there by organizing activities every afternoon - my absolute favourite was a salsa class on Wed with a really cute guy who smiled constantly and taught the 6 of us to wiggle our hips and turn with the best of them. Unfortunately Nige opted out due to an overdose of dancing at the tango the night before, so I had to dance with Armgard, a Namibian friend from our hostel, but luckily she didn't mind being the 'man' and was a great dancer, so it was only Nige who missed out! So now we can hablar espanol and bailar Tango y Salsa - not a bad set of new skills for 1 week!