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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Spanglish.....the event where two world collide. I first heard about the Spanglish Exchange when I saw an ad while surfing on LandingPad BA during my last trip. And the moment I saw it, I knew my day would come to have my Spanglish experience. So what exactly is Spanglish?

It is an event that happens 3 times a week in 3 different places here in the city. How it works is that you check into the location where Spanglish is being held that nite. It cost 25 pesos which includes your very first drink. You get assigned to a table with someone where you will converse with them for about 10 mins. 5 mins in english and 5 mins in spanish. After that you will switch to another table and do the same thing with another person. The event lasts about 90 mins with a 10 min break known as "Happy Hour".

Having the first drink included as well as "Happy Hour" really gave a nice touch to the evening. It was really fun to be able to bond with others over drinks before the whole event started. 25 pesos = new friends, new vocabulary and a drink for good measure. There is no doubt in my mind that I got more than twice my money's worth that Weds nite down at the Indie Bar in San Telmo.

I must say that in a city where hardly anyone speaks english, it was quite refreshing to see that there are quite a number of Argentines from different walks of life that are quite eager to improve their english speaking skills. Not only that, I found Spanglish to be a fantastic way to meet people and make friends. In one nite, I found myself talking to a medical school student, a musician who promotes & produces rock & roll events as well as a whole host of quirky characters. Kinda of like the game of "Clue" except that nobody is getting killed. And if somebody is, it certainly wasn't me Miss Scarlet with the revolver in the billards room.....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Andy Spandy's Journey

Andy Spandy reflects back on his journey.....


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bohemian Boedo

If you go on the internet and google "San Telmo", you'll probably come up with hundreds of result. Being one of Buenos Aires trendiest and popular neighbourhoods for tourists and locals alike, there is instant recognition at the mere mention of "San Telmo". On the other hand, if you googled "Boedo", you would end up with signficantly less results. You won't find glowing reviews of the barrio Boedo in many travel guides to Buenos Aires. And if you ask a tourist about the barrio of Boedo, you are most likely to see questions marks appear on top of that person's head.

Boedo at this point is what I would probably call "Buenos Aire's best kept secret". It is a bohemian barrio with historic buildings, restaurants, cafes, parks and so much more. The barrio has an authentic argentine feel and is almost completely unspoiled by tourism. I'm also finding that there are several advantages to choosing to live in a barrio that is off the beaten path. The prices for services and utilities are slightly less than when I had stayed in the city centre the last time. There is plenty of space and privacy without the noise that often accompanied living in the downtown area. And when I do need a little bit of action, the city centre is a subway ride away. Not only that, Boedo boasts it's own little mini strip full of shops, cafes, restaurants and museums.

Tango is very much part of the history of Boedo and living here, I get a real sense that the local residents are proud to call this barrio their home. I even walked out of my building one day to discover that the neighbours had organized a block party to repaint some of the walls and structures around the neighbourhood. Also there have been quite a number of events put on by locals to promote and celebrate tango as part of it's roots historically. Probably my most memorable moment was seeing a 6 yr old sing tango songs with a voice like Carlos Gardel. It's really hard to believe that God doesn't exist when you are sitting there listening to a 6 yr old sing with the voice of a god.....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dial "M" for Maternal

As all of you who read this blog know by now, one of the subplots of this story is that I am dealing with a relationship in which there is a strong connection between me and that person but I wasn't quite sure how to define our relationship or what exactly connection was. To make things even more complicated, Marisa is from a culture that teaches her next to nothing about energy and connection. It's so obvious to me that forces unseen do influence her behavior and mine as well but at times I felt at loss at how we were going to get good understanding on this connection between us.

For months now since my last trip, I have been trying to find out what exactly this connection is. During season 1, you could easily see that she is being drawn to me. Everytime in her cellgroup, she would sit specifically by me. She always wanted to give me hugs and kisses, more than what is the norm for Argentine culture. Everytime I walk into the room, I can feel a reaction from her. Did I also mention at least 4 or 5 moments where she would look at me with complete love and adoration in her eyes?

 I began to wonder alot about our relationship and was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery to what exactly this connection was. I know from reading the description above, you're probably thinking what I first thought having an adult female who wants to hug me, kiss me, and be with me all the time. Through trial and error (I'm not going to say what kind of trials or what kind of errors!) I found out that my our relationship wasn't exactly what I was thinking :) So I had to go back to the drawing board. There is still a connection between us but what was is it?

 Dial "M" for maternal, that's all I can say.  She has a deep motherly affection for me, so deep that her actions and her behavior could easily be mistaken for something else. It seems to me that her behavior towards me is alot closer to what goes on in the animal kingdom between a mother and baby. In the animal kingdom, after a baby is born the mother will sit very closely with the baby and allow it to stay close to the mother's body to help it bond. Sometimes the bonding process can go on for weeks or even months.

 A very interesting thing here is that the verb for "bond" as in when people or animals are sitting closely together and creating a connection actually does not exist in spanish. So it added a layer of complexity that something was happening between her and I that there is no word in her language for. But this to me explains her behavior and wanting to sit with me all the time or be near me, we were going through a bonding process like animals in the wild. She was making me her own even if she didn't know it consciously.

 Sometimes when animals in the wild encounter another animal that has been lost or orphaned, they will take them as their own. This behavior has been documented several times and on some occasions, the mother is a different species from the baby and there have been cases that the species of the baby is actually a species of animal that the mother normally hunts and kills! The power of the maternal instinct is still one of science's greatest mysteries.

 Thinking back to Rock & Vida last year, it somehow worked out that I ended up at her side following her while she walked through the crowd selling sandwiches on a tray to the attendees. I collected the money and while she sold the sandwiches. Come to think of it now, the sight of us does look abit like a mother sheep with her little lamb skipping merrily along beside her. Hmmm.....

Spare Rooms BA

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Andy Spandy Shows Humility.....

Quiz time! When is the last time you've ever seen a candidate dress up in blue and dance a Bollywood routine in the streets of New Zealand just to gain your vote? Watch as Andy Spandy shows humility.....


Leaving the Land of Legalism

Promo R&V 09 from Video CCNV on Vimeo.

This is going to be a very brief post but i just want to share that I had a really neat moment with the leader of my cell group on Friday nite. As all of you know, I am in a new cell group and I am just getting to know people. And coming from North America, it's really hard for me to trust other Christians for fear of judgement or being preached to. But the leader of the cell group and I were talking about how in this church, their idea is that they are here to change the world and bring justice and things like people's personal lifestyle is people's own business.

The cell group leader actually told me that she came to the church 6 years ago, has been a cell group leader for 5 years and has been married for 4 years. Before that she and here husband here living together and they already had kids when they joined the church. When they first joined the church, the church never insisted that they get married. Instead they just felt that their marriage would happen at the right time.

I thought that was pretty incredible that they joined the church and the church let them be and even put them in a place of leadership. One thing's for certain, this church is all about leaving the land of legalism....


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surfing the Waves of Life

Two people surfing on a beach in Brazil.Image via Wikipedia

The new spanish teacher sat in front of me. She had straight blond hair and eyes that sparkled with life and curiousity. And in that instant I knew that there was something different about her that seperated her from other Argentineans. She had us introduce ourselves as well and in the midst of the introductions, I found out that she was passionate about surfing. Her eyes would just light up as she talked about the sport and how it was unique in the world and there was nothing like it.

We ended up having a good discussion in class about, surfing, energy, connectivity and the Argentine's relationship to energy and those forces unseen. And I was very pleased to find out that I was right in what I wrote in my other blog "Energy Star Award". Argentines do not talk on the subject of energy nor is it something that they really think about or are aware of. But in this culture they just go with the flow and allow those forces to play a role in their lives and influence them.

I cannot tell you what a pleasure this discussion was. Talking with her only served to fuel in me a greater desire to learn to surf. The Vamos Spanish Academy actually has several different types of excursions that students can go on. One of those excursions is a surfing excursion where the school can arrange for surfing lessons and transportation to some good surf spots. Surfing is both an amazing sport and an experience. It's been said that surfing is the only sport in the world where right there on top of the waves, you are in both the past in and the present. It's a moment in eternity that can never be replicated or recreated.

But the chat with her gave me even more valuable insight. As you know, I have a friend named Marisa who I feel in our friendship that energy, connection and unseen forces are an influential factor. Her being Argentinean, it's a concept that is difficult for her to grasp when I try to talk to her about how I think that there is a strong connection between us and this is something we need to take into consideration. Now that I've had a talk with this teacher as well as Diana, I now have people who understand both side. They understand the way Argentineans would think or view things and they understand my point of view and experience as well when I am talking about energy and connectivity.

Marisa and I are absolutely hell bent on making our relationship work. It really isn't easy at times and sometimes some complicated factors come into play that there is just no easy answer to. But once again, just when I wasn't sure how to reconcile our two cultures, the resources are being made available for us to help bridge the gap between our two worlds.

Surfing the waves of life or relationships is never easy. We cannot control the kind of challenges that crash against the shore. But at the end of the day there is no wave that she or I cannot conquer together with God as our guide and our "surf instructor". One of my greatest comfort is in knowing that no matter what kind of waves crash against the shores of our friendship, she'll be right there by my side, ready to grab her surf board and paddle beside me all the way....

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show"

Was sitting here preparing for a full day that included teaching english and learning spanish all in the same afternoon when I unexpectedly caught some inspiration for this next blog while watching TV. Sometimes I like to have the TV on in the background as I am going about my day and making preparations. This morning the show "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" came on. For those of you who don't know, Japan has got a reputation for having probably the most humiliating game shows in the world. Contestants who participate often have to do stunts like dress up as giant babies with diapers and run obstacle courses that look like a nursery room...

On the show, there were two teams that are competing against each other. During each round, the winning team would get a reward (like a shopping spree or a day cruise) while the losing team would be sent to do menial tasks such as cutting bamboo for hours upon hours to make it into chopsticks. On this one episode that I was watching, two members of the losing team who were up for elimination were sent to a secluded temple near a forest with a group of monks.

The monks proceeded to make the two contestants participate in some ancient rituals. The first bit began when they got the contestants outfitted like the monks and had the sit in a circle and do deep breathing exercises and chanting. Next the monks had the two contestants run laps 100 times in circles on this concrete while chanting out loud. The contestants said later in an interview that their feet were burning and worn out because the cement was hot and hard and they had to run laps 100 times each.

Next the monks took the contestants down to a river here the water was freezing cold and had them go deeper and deeper bit by bit while chanting things like "Megan will always be the winner!" When this one contestant Megan went into the river, there she was freezing cold and being made to chant this mantra. The other guy that was with her had to do it too and he thought it was a stupid and ridiculous as well as humiliating.

Megan on the other hand had a very different experience. She said that there, in the water stripped of everything she was, she felt this incredibly calm peace and oneness and this strength. There would be no words that could describe this powerful, intense experience that she described as purifying. The Monks knew what they were doing the whole time. What was striking to me is that there were two people there that day that went through the exact same rituals and one came out thinking that it was stupid and the other came out forever changed.

Later they met the other team who had won and had gotten to go to one of a premier arcade in Tokyo. They met the two contestants who had been sent to the "punishment" and the two groups caught up with each other. Of course the guy told them that it was just ridiculous, stupid, exhausting, and humiliating. But when they asked Megan, she just started to cry and talking about what a deep spiritual cleansing it was.

I think this is such a great analogy for life. God sometimes allows us to go through rough patches that are tough and even humiliating. Life throws curveballs. Although we can't help or change that, we can decide how that experience is going to shape us. Watching that episode and seeing one group sent to a reward and the other sent to a punishment, I wonder if Megan's "punishment" really ended up being a "reward" after all.....

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Energy Star Award

Energy Star

The more time that I spend here, the more I'm beginning to see differences in the behavior and the makeup of people from different parts of Latin America. For example, my friend Diana is Peruvian and like me has grown up near the ocean in a very similar environment. So if you talk to her about things like energy, spirituality and connection she can converse with you on subjects like that. She has that kind of a sensitivity to the spiritual realm and the things unseen. It's interesting talking to her because she has only been living here in Buenos Aires since 2006 and since she's not Argentinean, there are cultural huge differences between people who grew up in a background that is similar to her and I and people who are native porteños or porteñas. What is even more interesting is watching how people from this culture deal with the realm of the spiritual or unseen.

The only time you'll every really hear Argentines talk about energy or connectivity is when you are taking a tango class or maybe in a milonga. Outside of that, it daily life Argentines are very literal and this is a culture where they do not talk about feeling, sensing, or intuition or energy. It is not a culture where they have a fascination with paranormal activity nor are they accustomed to it. But it doesn't mean that those things don't affect them or aren't part of their lives. And this is where things start to get REALLY fascinating!

You see, although Argentines don't discuss or intellectualize on the subject of energy and spirituality, it seems to me that when they feel a pull towards something or someone, they just go with it and they don't even realize it. Marisa is a prime example of this. If you try talking to her about energy and connection, she has no clue what I am trying to tell her. Given that we've only been friends about a year and we are from different cultures, it will take her awhile to understand my background and where I am coming from.

But when she first met me, I could feel like there was some kind of reaction from her. I remember having my very first cell group with her and I felt that something about me caught her attention. Then almost every cell group after that, she made sure that she would sit specifically beside me. And even when we weren't in a cell group, I really felt that when I entered the room there was some kind of emotional response from this woman.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hugs & HIV

The other day I introduced to you the filmmaking genius of Andrew Strugnell. Today I will be introducing to you a filmmaking genius of another kind. These are spots created by my church to create awareness about the causes and misconceptions in our society about AIDS & HIV. The first video is a terrific ad that is put out to make people aware that sharing maté, a kiss or a hug does not spread HIV. The second video features different people sharing statistics on HIV & AIDS in Argentina.

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas