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Monday, February 27, 2012

Reeling from a Real Rail Disaster


 "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name;  you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through fires of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you."
Isaiah 43: 1-2

As I sat on my bed in Canada reading those words from this ancient book, those words jumped off the page and became so much more than just words......they were a revelation. Especially having read them the day after one of Argentina's worst rail disasters.  The day after Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a time for mourning and reflection as Lent commences.  This years particular Ash Wednesday in Buenos Aires would be met not just by mourning but by chaos and tragedy.

 Argentina's railway system has long been under criticism and scrutiny with pressure on the government to create better regulations. I've been on these trains many times and one glance at these trains and I could tell that they definitely did not have the maintenance of  a Disney theme park ride.

It was on a Wednesday morning that started out like any other. This would be the very first run of the day and unfortunately it would be the only run that day.  As the train pulled into the station, it failed to slow down and smashed into the barrier at full speed on the platform, causing the first two carriages to collide and literally mesh into each other.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fun, Foam & Fat Tuesday

*** Just a note that parts of the above video tends to be of a revealing nature.

A spray of foam hit my face at 90 miles an hour and in that instant, the Fat Tuesday celebrations had turned my body into a living target.  What had meant to be a routine trip to the grocery store turned into an all nite fiesta that went into the early hours of the morning as I found that the block had been closed off as a parade of dancers filled the empty streets. Stalls of street vendors selling hamburgers, pop etc. were set up to fill the public's food and drink needs in place of the supermarkets that had closed earlier than usual.

Growing up in North America, I had only heard of Carnival being celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the Samba dancers.  It never occurred to me that Carnival gets celebrated in so many other forms in different parts of latin america. If you've already been to Rio de Janeiro and had your carnival fix, there are still other great options for you to explore in seeing how carnival is celebrated in Latin America. Uruguay is another country that is off the beaten path that hosts fantastic carnival celebrations.

One day I would love to find myself caught in an endless sea of bodies watching Brazil's annual Samba parade. But I gotta admit that there was something sweet and enduring at watching the community in Boedo come together to mark Fat Tuesday. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is something that many people know about and lots of people have seen.

However, local community celebrations (called "Corsos") that take place all over Buenos Aires is something that is precious on a whole different level.  These are things that you'll never watch on TV or read about in a travel brochure or plan a trip to see. But experiences like watching a neighbourhood community celebration are the hidden gems of travel abroad that divide those who are living like a local and those are who are merely passing through the city. What began as a routine 10 min walk from my apartment to the grocery store resulted in a lifetime of memories....

Murga & Foam

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ojos Argentino (Argentine Eyes)

"Don't get it right, just get it written." Author James Thurber

It gives me tremendous pleasure to announce that after over 50 hrs of writing, editing, promoting and going through draft after draft, "Argentine Eyes" is available through major online retailers such as Amazon, Apple ibooks, Barnes & Noble and of course Bookrix.  Seeing as it is a story about friendship and love, it seemed rather fitting that its official publishing date fell on february 14th.........Valentines Day   :D

Thumb through the pages of the novel and you'll discover a treasure trove of stories from my adventures at the end of the world. Like the story of how I stood 10 hrs in a lineup to enter the Casa Rosada to see the coffin of ex-president Néstor Kirchner where he was lying in state. Or there was the time where I passed out while hanging out with a group of friends in Costanera Sur. And let's not forget about my spanish professor who also happened to be a surfer. Read "Argentine Eyes" and you'll discover the two words she said to me in a reply that would change the course of  my relationship with Marisa forever.

In addition to compelling stories, within the pages are revealing insights on travel and the various aspects of Argentine culture whether it would be historical, political, cultural etc. Part of the fun of writing in first and second person narration is that I can take a pause from narrating the story and talk directly to the audience about other topics. The narration was a tremendous opportunity for me to reveal pearls of wisdom and keys that would be useful for planning a trip to Buenos Aires.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Gains in the Mundane

Black pearl and its shellImage via Wikipedia

I can't help but wonder if for Marisa, doing church cell groups every Thursday nite must have been somewhat mundane at times. I gotta respect that woman for the dedication and commitment she made to the church in her willingness to show up week after week faithfully.

If anything can be learned from this woman's life is that some of life's greatest gains comes from the mundane. Because it would be through this cell group that she poured her heart and life into, this would be the means in which God would give her something that she had been longing for............a third child.  And for those of you who are regulars at this blog, you all know that child was me :)  And for those of you who don't know our story, you can read the story in my novel "Argentine Eyes"

All of us have dreams and desires. Society teaches us to "look out for number 1" and our goal in life should be to get to the top of the ladder as fast as possible using as many people as we can. But what happened between me and Marisa is a classic example of how her faithfulness and dedication resulted in her getting one of the deepest desires of her heart.

She showed up her cell group on a thursday just like any other thursday. But this thursday nite there would be  a young woman from Canada who happened to be in Buenos Aires for a life change.  And that one encounter would lead to a chain of events that took off like the way a snowball turns into an avalanche.

Her life is a constant reminder to me to be dedicated to all that I've been given whether it would be writing a blog or teaching english.  More and more I'm coming to realize that my destiny isn't going to get realized sitting and wishing that I could be doing anything other than what I'm doing right now. On the contrary, it is gonna be in the midst of pouring my heart and soul into every person and project God has given me that one day I'll stumble upon the pearl of great price.....

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Monday, February 06, 2012

The Fallacy of Normalcy

Quite number of years ago, I was on a family trip to Miami and we took a tour of one of the neighbourhoods. The tour guide's commentary was that in this neighbourhood, anyone who had bought a house there had to abide by the rules of the council. You had to have your grass cut or you would be fined $100. If you didn't get your grass cut, someone would be sent to your house to cut it for you and you would not only have to pay the fine but you would have to pay $100 to the person as well for cutting it. The paint color of your house had to fit within the certain acceptable colors or you would get a fine.  Also, you car had to be kept within the garage out of sight or you would receive a fine. The tour took us by one house where the people broke all the rules and the guide told us that if these people ever sold their house, they would have nothing left due to the amount of fines.

Latin America may have many struggles economically and politically but the one struggle that they never have had is with the fallacy of normalcy. Latinos are very well of the fact that the fairytale life with the perfect family and white picket fence doesn't exist. As well there is next to no pressure to have your life planned out or to be a certain way. Come to think of it, the opposite is quite true, quirkiness is a welcome is seen as having life and flavor.

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas