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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Manifestacion by my favorite Argentine painter, Antonio Berni

I forget so much all the time-- and more now than I used to-- that I figure I´ll jot down a few simple obervations on Buenos Aires whie they´re still fresh in my mind. The people seem friendly and prosperous. They look a lot better than Americans overall, especially in terms of physical fitness. You definately don´t see lots of obese people around, although I see lots of fast food joints so there may be an obesity-explosion in the future. The folks look like Europeans... Italians, Germans, Brits, Spaniards... People dress really well. I think a lot of men think they have to wear suits and ties to show status.

I never saw so many hair salons in my life. There must be one on every block. There´s also a policeman on every block. These guys look different... less "European" and I have a strong feeling they may be poor provincials.

Prices are incredibly good. I just had dinner at Oviedo, the best seafood restaurant in town, totally fancy and DELICIOUS. In NY or L.A. it would have easily been a $60 or $70 meal. It came to $25.

Everyone is so helpful and friendy-- except the Bush-haters at the Brazilian consulate. This is definately a city I could live in. I walk miles and miles everyday and it feels completely safe, day or night.

I think I lost track of what relaxed was after the whole election thing. I have nothing pressing bothering me whatsoever and that feels incredibly good. I need to involve myself more in that when I get home.


PorteƱos-- residents of Buenos Aires-- live in apartment buildings. They are everywhere and they all have a porter/doorman/security guard. The city gives the feeling that it has been a giant contest among architects for the creation of something unique and pleasing. Like with so much I have found in Argentina so far, outward appearances are very important. The residential architecture is very much alive and exciting and gives the city a vibrant sophistication.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I rented an apartment in Recoleta, an upscale Buenos Aires neighborhood. The apartment is great-- kitchen, bedroom, combo living room/dining room. I´ll do all the details for anyone interested in renting when I get back. I just wanted to share some thoughts today.

I spent most of my day trying to get a Brazilian visa for my 2 day stay on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. Originally I had no intention of staying in Brazil but the only hotel on the Argentine side (IN the park) was solidly booked and there was a room available in the one Brazilian hotel in the park. If you don't stay in one of those two hotels you stay about 15 miles from the park. After I became aware how much Brazil discourages American tourists I would have put up with the 15 miles, but by that time I realized that there is NO WAY to travel from Iguazu into Paraguay without crossing into Brazil (visa).

I found all this out in L.A. when I got my easy, friendly Paraguayan visa. The consul told me I also need a Brazilian visa and that that takes between 8 days and 2 weeks. I was leaving in 5 days. I rushed to the Brazilian consulate immediately. They only answer questions between 9 and 1 and it was 1:15 so I´d have to come back the next day just to ask a question.

Eventually I tricked their Kafkaesque phone system into letting me speak to a person who pretty much admitted what I was coming to understand: Brazilians are friendly and like everyone-- except Bush. They hate him, like most people in the world. Unlike most people in the world, however, their government takes it out on Americans.

At least I'll know not to take anything personally! Long story shorter, I decided to get the visa here in Buenos Aires. Easier said than done. So many lines; I hate lines. But I waited in front of the building and then in front on a computer terminal where I had to fill out documents, all intructions being in Portuguese and Spanish naturally. Then I had to wait on a really long line for an hour or so where a lady told me I had to show a ticket in and a ticket out and needed the address and phone number of the hotel, etc. When I told her I was entering Brazil by taxi from the Argentine airport and leaving for Asuncion by bus, she said if I didn´t show a ticket I couldn't have a visa. No exceptions.

The concierge at the 4 Seasons-- the hotel is across the street from my apartment and I've adopted the concierge station there-- had a great idea. She called the hotel's travel agent who issued me a refundable ticket from Iguazo to Sao Paulo to Asuncion. Meanwhile I got Aerolinas Argentinas to send me an e-ticket. Back to the Brazilian lines. It takes 3 days to get the visa once they say OK. I had to make it by 1PM. I made it with nearly 5 minutes to spare. Of course then I had to go to a bank half a mile away to pay the $100 fee. Thursday at 4PM I can pick up my passport with the visa (unless they think of another reason to deny me access).

Europeans and Latin Americans don't need visas, by the way, just the people who allowed Bush to grab the White House (twice); it's hard to fault them.

Friday, November 24, 2006


It's 5:17 AM and my plane takes off just after noon for Buenos Aires (via Dallas). I decided to go to the end of the world (Tierra del Fuego, that island off the tip of South America). I'm half packed and pretty much ready to go. I'll be writing about Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil-- well, about the Iguazu Falls part of Brazil I'll be visiting for a couple days-- and in I figure out how to get into Chilean Patagonia, there too. But I figured I'd get some preliminaries over with even before leaving.

I'm flying on American. Needless to say, even with my 100% flexible schedule, there was no possibility of trading advantage miles for a ticket (single person/first class). So I bought a ticket and upgraded. You probably know the way that works: the less expensive tickets are not upgradable so you have to buy a pretty expensive ticket and then you have to spend another $500 for the honor of using your miles. I had never heard of that before but the AA operator assured me it had been standard practice "for years." And there were other little charges. Still, after checking everywhere and wasting lots of time talking to other airlines, it still looked like the best deal.

Did you know there isn't a single English language tourist guide to Paraguay? [UPDATE: I found one after all!] There used to be one that covered Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay but it's out of print. But what really shocked me is that several guide books on South America don't even mention Paraguay. They have chapters on every other country, even Ecuador and Guyana, but no Paraguay. When I finally located one that did include Paraguay-- in a travel bookstore-- I also found out that I needed a visa in advance. But then luck broke my way. There's a Paraguayan consulate in L.A. and, it turned out, the visa process was as non-onerous as could be. You just fill out some simple papers, hand over 2 photos and some money and off you go. The consul also told me Brazil requires a visa for Americans, who they don't like, and it takes 2 weeks. Panic.

I drove right to the Brazilian consulate. Onerous was the keyword and he was right about them being decidedly anti-American (or at least anti-American tourist). I arrived at 1:15. They stop answering questions at 1. No exceptions. Come back tomorrow. It didn't matter that I was leaving in a week and that they would be closed for Thanksgiving and that I live an hour away. And that I was there. No exceptions. There are only two hotels inside the Iguazu parks, one in Argentina (sold out) and one, a much better one from what I've read, in Brazil. I'm booked in the Brazilian one. What to do, what to do.

I decided to try my luck getting the visa in Buenos Aires. I rented an apartment for my first week in Buenos Aires in the Recoleta district and it's a block from the Brazilian consulate. If I can't get the visa in a week, I'll just cancel Brazil I guess. I mean it's hardly Brazil anyway. It's just the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.

OK, I'm off to finish packing and to eat breakfast and to go for a dawn swim before heading off to the airport, Dallas and Buenos Aires (where I should arrive at 9AM tomorrow morning).


I always marvel at the ability of my friend Jane to blog and chew gum at the same time-- and to do it so elegantly. She travels everywhere all the time and blogs up a storm and runs firedoglake, one of the most admired and smoothly-functioning community blogs in the entire world. She keeps trying to get me to do learn to blog on the go. She did teach me html so I guess she could teach me bloggin' on the road too. I suspect I'll screw it up. I mean it's hard to even conceive of blogging without my ergonomic chair and wrist-rest and all my physical backup and research apparatus. And my Macs.

But here I am, in the Admiral's Club in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. It was a nicely uneventful flight, short and uncrowded. And here in the lounge: free computer usage. Ah... at least they give you something for stealing the $500 just to use "your" miles! They just called the flight. I just blogged on the road. Jane will be proud.