Friday, March 30, 2012

Tango in Montevideo

The city claimed the origin of tango earlier than Buenos Aires. Compared to the prosperous tango scene and several milonga a night, Montevideo lagged behind and milonga were not frequent. Thanks to Mario, he brought us to a small milonga in a wine house. We did not dance much because there were so few people, but we enjoyed the cozy atmosphere and the wine. It was our first time tasting Uruguay wine, typical wine of the new world good for dining but not much on vintage tasting. The second milonga, after we made sweet and sour pork in Mario’s place (he liked Chinese culture and read literature of Lao-tze), was a Sunday milonga by Joven Tango, situated in an old market (Mercado de la Abundacia). Our first impression of the tango there, because of the milonga, was that it was only danced by old people. We were the youngest couple there. Actually we just came at the wrong time, there was another milonga the same night with younger tango population. Back to this one, we were not only the youngest, but also the best dancers there. There was even an old man in suit praising us that he treated us free pizza and beer before we left (as we had to rush for the last bus back to Libertad). The organizer of the milonga, who was a woman, even gave us telephone number and asked if we could perform for them! We were flattered by the invitation but we had other plan on the weekend, so we just took the number for future contact. The floor there was good, but the music there was very bad, the dj had no knowledge about tanda and mixed milonga and neuvo in the same tanda. Even there were only two milonga coming together, the tanda had only these two songs. I had to stand a few second before figuring out what I should dance next. Therefore I did not dance much too.

On Tuesday in the same place there was a free practica by another organizer. It was raining hard on that day and before going we went to another tango place that we searched on internet but it turned out a show-tango dinner placing costing several hundred dollar a person. This time most of the younger dancers come out. I would say the young community here is more welcoming than Buenos Aires. With my observation about good-looking women in Uruguay, on average there were more than Buenos Aires, so were the good looking tanguaras. They even invited men for dance. Although the dj sucked again, at least I enjoyed more dancing on this Tuesday. Maria had more handsome guys dancing with them, but most of them were not good leaders. I hope she enjoyed dancing with handsome guys.

The last milonga we had in Montevideo was one Thursday in a pub on Jose E Rodo street next to the crossing on the main Bvar. Gral. Artigas. Good dj, good floor, beautiful dancers, free wifi, what else can we ask ? We had a good time from 11pm (the BsAs typical start time) to 3am in the morning (still early in BsAs standard but there were not many dancers left at that time). The time schedule of tango of Montevideo matched a 9-5 life better than BsAs. Actually we can go to this Thursday milonga again before we left, but we enjoyed staying in the place of a new host Felipe (also we were short of cash and did not want to change more peso) so much that we did not go.

In all, the tango in Montevideo could still not be compared to Buenos Aires in terms of music and dance level. However, the more friendly community and common higher standard of outlook of the tangueras made her also a good place for me.


觀乎南美各城,Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo,Encarnacion及Asuncion的公園、廣場或行人專用區,小攤販子,售賣手工藝品、手繩、衣物、Mate杯、手繪畫等手信小擺設或來個街頭音樂表演也十分常見;在馬路中央,也久不久會見到街頭雜耍藝人在車前拋拋樽,甚至掉掉火圏。我們在Buenos Aires的地鐵或巴士內亦見過自彈自唱的結他藝人和流動文具售貨員在車上派parker筆、marker或日記本,讓有興趣的乘客看一下實物,轉頭又巡迴一圈收錢或回收貨品。

在巴拉圭,流動販子實在更厲害!不管是長途車或巿區公車,安坐車中,便有人上車賣香口珠、水果、麵包Chipa,甚至冰凍支裝可樂,即時開瓶,倒進膠杯子內,200ml只售G1.000 (約HK$0.5)。(其可樂價比巴西平五倍!)小販上車唱歌叫賣,令我想起兒時的已息微的飛機欖叔叔。他們叫了一圏,下車又上對面馬路的巴士,回去街邊那小攤檔補貨。


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A short stay in Libertad - the town famous of a jail

The name meant freedom, but it had the largest jail in the country and we did not have a chance to visit.

The night we left Pedro in Montevideo, we went to Pablo’s car to go to Libertad, 30km away. It was a quite town and a good break from the city. If our host, Pablo had not planned going to Colonia the next day, we would have stayed a few more days in Montevideo. Colonia was a sailing port and I wanted to visit. It was also a heritage site.

Back to Pablo's place. It was behind a chemical retail shop owned by his parents. It was a studio flat that we stayed on the upper attic. The town was small and pleasant. He always have friends hanging around his house and Diego was there all the time. We shared our chinese cooking including fried rice, noodles and chickens.

Walking around the town, we found a small zoo in a park. There were animals jailed in small cages, including a peacock, two goats, a pig and a poor monkey, who used to be in a zoo near Montevideo. According to Pablo, some stupid politicians proposed a zoo and brought these animals in. We saw the monkey "entertained" himself by rotating in the cage, with shits on the ground. Maria made a dance with the monkey (M: l'll call it 'The Solitary Roundabout') and hopefully this video could get notice of the animal group in the country.

Although Pablo lived by himself in the studio flat, his mother did his laundry. We were surprised and feeling uneasy when his mother did the laundry for us, while we expected to be shown the washing machine and we do that ourselves. The washed clothes were even well-folded and put in a big plastic bag like what a laundry shop does. It was a pity that we did not meet his mother often and thanked her for that. There were also two big dogs. One was in his seven year old (in his teen) but he was so huge that he was taller than Maria when standing up. He was very friendly and eager to get our attention.

We had a good time in his place, watching the boring draw game between Barcelona and Milan, listening to Diego’s guitar and Pablo’s candomble after dinner, with beer and chocolate, till 2 am was a good experience indeed.

Back to the more modern and expensive city - Montevideo

After 19 hour of comfortable bus trip, we reached Montevideo in the morning. It took us some time to find a free internet line in the bus station to get the skype and contact our new CS host Pedro. Not sure about the arrival time I said we would be there at 4pm, we turned out having 4 hours to wait for him back from work. It was kind of the security person who let us put down the backpacks covered and we went out for a walk. His place was near to the bus station and there was a co-operative supermarket, which ran in a special way with cheaper mechandizing so that they can sell product in cheaper price. People in pension and subsidy could join membership for discounted shopping. Certainly it could not compare to farmer’s market, as we later found out, but it was an acceptable choice in this expensive-to-live city (a litre of beer cost U$50 ~USD2.5, compared to Paraguay costing around USD2).

Finally we met Pedro, he just moved to the new place for a few months. As an IT professional, his home had what we mostly want : wifi. We could have stayed at his home for a whole morning updating our blog, contacting friends and family in Hong Kong, finding the next couch-surfing, the cheapest cross-atlantic flight ticket if possible etc. He also had two bikes that we had a good afternoon riding a bike along the coast. But before the coast we had to ride along busy road that was not easy for bike-newbie like Maria. She also gave me a hard time putting the chain back to her bike after doing something which a biker doesn’t do : changing gear and pedal backward while standing. My hands were all black after this, one good thing about the consequence was that I needed to cook that night. It was steak in Pedro’s kitchen which only had a microwave oven with grill function. We did improvise on that the first night to make a dinner for five by making fried rice and chicken (I was still proud of that).

We stayed at Pedro’s place for two more nights, which was a little unexpectedly short in our and his views, but we had another host offering a place in Libertad and we would like to see more people, so we went. Our stay with Pedro was comfortable and happy, with his friendliness and considerateness. Another day when we came out to the downtown and got late after tango, he was willing to let us stay for a night so that we could save some transportation back to the suburb. We wish him a good living in the new place and the home improvement projects (such as the projector, kitchen stove and others) go well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

又是長途車 - 從巴拉圭到烏拉圭

車站歎過壺熱mate,7pm在巴拉圭Encarnacion上車,經過大橋20分鐘即達阿根廷Posadas。今次坐Sol的semi cama,過巴拉圭關只須留在車上。但在阿根廷那邊則要拿著所有行李過境。

到了Posadas,在車廠內的專屬餐廳享用晩餐。雖然無choice,但總算有人serve。頭盆empanadas、餐飽、主菜雞扒通粉、紅酒啤酒任飲、甜品camomile custard,也算豐富。回到巴士,亦有自助水機提供水及熱咖啡 (AT: 熱咖啡加巴拉圭出品威士忌係乜嘢嚟?)。

吃過晚飯,正式出發,播完safety video,居然還有一套英語對白、西語字幕的action movie睇。好像叫Take Five,有靚跑車、有追逐場面、有索女、有大隻男、有爆炸...雖聽不清楚內容也甚有娛樂性。



Monday, March 19, 2012

Stationing in Encarnacion for the visit of Jesuit Guarani Missions - II

With the pretty Bulgarian Tsvetty who was also couchsurfing, we went to San Ignacio Mini, a Jesuit Guarani Mission on Argentine side on the other day. We went to Posadas and took another bus San Ignacio; the whole trip took 2.5 hours and the border crossing was easier than that in Ciudad del Este. The San Ignacio Mini was more established for tourists than the mission site in Paraguay. More establishment also meant high entrance fee, but at least there was English translation of the exhibit description, audio recording of catholic songs modified with Guarani creativity. There were also audio information boxes (with different translations) set up in each important spot of the relic such as church, workshop, plaza etc. With such a good establishment it attracted more tourists and we had a hard time to find solitude.

Then we took a local bus to Loreto another site 10 km away. There were much fewer relics left but trees growing around. Without explanation from a guide, we just saw stones scattered around in a forest. The guide was very patient, first explaining in Spanish and then in English to us. We saw the effort of how the archeologist recovered the site bit by bit from a relics of 3 centuries ago and trees outgrew everything. She also showed us the tree branches used for making hammock. I climbed on it and it was soft but very tough; what an amazing material for the hammock.

Finished the visiting, we just found out that the last bus to Santa Maria, another ruin, passed and we had to wait another hour for the bus back to San Ignacio. While we were in perplex, the group of three who were in the same tour with us offered to take us back to Posadas. I would rather think that a guy in the group was interested in knowing Tsvetty; and he certainly asked for her email address and facebook account. Back to Posadas at 7pm, we called the local CS person who had invited us for meeting but turned out to be far away at that time. We hang around for cheap food and finally took cheap hotdogs. Then we took the bus back to Encarnacion.

Certainly Maria and I were not satisfied with the hotdogs, so we found a nearby parrilla and had a good final dinner in Encarnacion (thanks to the money returned from the immigration with the help of the samurai).

Saturday, March 17, 2012












Finding the lost outer tent

Remember that our outer tent were left in the bus, when we were dumped by it in Ciudad del Este? Thanks to the help of Ela in Assucion calling the bus company when we were still in Ciudad del Este and the bus was on the way to her city, it was kept in the garage there. In the stay in ciudad del este i always had to worry about how it went and made sure our message got across to Ela or how our schedule in Assucion matched the time of finding the tent and not bothering our host so much. When we wanted to burn mosquito coil did we realized that we lost another bag holding it and my old pair of sneakers. I was less upset about losing that because it could be obtained somewhere else, but the outer tent was a must for the rest of the trip, in case we camped anywhere.

Luckily when we went to Asuncion, Eduardo drove us to the garage twice (there was no one in late afternoon of Friday) and on the next visit we could get into the garage. Fabio, a member of staff there who kept that for us, was not there. Eduardo called the his mobile phone and great we found him (calling mobile phone was not easy in south America) and finally we got everything we wanted.

A lot of thanks to Ella, who made the contact the bus company early so that it didn’t throw away our stuff as if they were rubbish; Eduard who drove us to the garage, which was not around the bus terminal or the downtown that transport to there was another hassle; also the member of Pluma staff Fabio who kept the stuff for us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stationing in Encarnacion for the visit of Jesuit Guarani Missions - I

Thanks to Cesar, an English teacher and a welcoming host, we could stay in Encarnacion for one week and visit the major historical sites. All of which were small town set up by the Spanish missionaires coming to the new land to spread the word of God to the aboriginal Guarani people. The sites were scattered around the area covering south-western Brazil, north-eastern Argentina and much of Paraguay. They brought technology, agricultural skill, medicine, literature, music to the local people, who could garantee some food consistency and safety from attack of other tribes, but in return the ethnic identity of these aboriginals faded as generations went on.

We went to the ruins (called reduccion locally) in both Paraguay (Trinadad, Jesus, San Cosme) and Argentina (San Ignacio Mini, Nuestra Senora De Loreto). When I thought back, I did not see much of the point why we visited these ruins so much. In terms of history, this 16 century archeology could not be compared to other ancient culture like Eygpt, India and China; how the missionary diluted local aboriginal was also less interesting to me, who always detests such practice in the name of God. We turned out doing what the tourists mostly did in this area. 

According to the advice from guidebook and tourist information center, we went to Jesus. There was no direct transport but we took a very old taxi from the main road. It was so old that it needed to be push from the back to slide down and start the engine. After one hour and a half we reached the site, which was only the remain of half a church. It was so quiet that there were only us there at some point, also a cat, which we took many pictures of her and the ruin that could make a profile. We were there till late afternoon and found that the expected bus did not show up. Preparing to walk all the way back to the main road (11km, about 2hours), we were lucky that we did the first hitch-hiking in life by having a small working truck taking us back to the main road. Then we turned to Trinidad.

the relic guardian

curious cat

waiting for 1.5 hour and still no bus

It was a larger and more established site. With more remains of the houses of the “Indian”, a larger church with museum showing many sculptures. We were a bit late when we got there and missed the sunset view of the site. It was the night show in mind that we stayed longer. Before that we took pictures of the stars with the ruin by over-exposing the camera, but we must stay away from the night of the nearby residence. I really disliked them being so near to the ruin; it would have been a good stary scene with the ruin but their lights were enough to take away the athestic of the scene. Finally the night show came. Although it was led by a Spanish speaking guide, the mixture of music and light made the whole ruin so transquil that our tireness of the whole day was swept away. In fact I like the stars background more than the artificial light, of which the different colors made the natural color of the wall (commonly redish brown) so unnatural. After the show finished, we went to the road and waited for the night bus back to Encarnacion.

The next day we went to San Cosme, where the ruin was built for astrological purpose too. Due to that purpose a new planetarium was built for the visitors, it introduced basic astrology like eclipes, solar systems etc. Being the only visitors of the day, we were given the one-to-one lesson (in spanish) on basic astrology. At least we learnt how to recognize the stars such as the southern cross and the scorpion. Then we were shown the relic, which was the church still in use for mass and sunday school.

Although we brought lunch, Maria seemed eager to try a local restaurant. We went to Stella’s house next to the relic; only it had a board saying “restaurant” and we were the only customers in there. With a lot of writing and sign language, we ordered a fish soup and a hardly grilled steak with onion and rice, costing 50,000G. Then we walked to the riverside as suggested to a staff in the museum, with Eduardo’s photo (a bikini girl enjoying sunshine on the beach with open sight without another side of the river), in mind. Finally in 20 minutes we walked to side and only saw a very small beach with lots of branches on the coastline; also a military station with a big guy who suspected we were infiltrators and asked us for passport. I just gave him a photocopy and said my passport in hotel, for fear that he took away our passport for money. We were then let go and the mood of finding another beach ceased. Our bubble burst too.

That's our best picture on the coast of San Cosme

Thursday, March 15, 2012