Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's been 2 months since my last confession...

What a whirlwind period this has been! Y’all might want to get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, before you settle down to read this… ;-)
What an incredibly full, important, exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, life-altering period.
In the past 2 months and something, this has happened:
1. EVERYONE came to Boracay!!!
First my mom arrived, which was awesome. I loved seeing her fall in love with my adopted home, I loved how independently she went out, made friends with my local friends even without me being around to make introductions, and then in turn became unofficial tour-guide for all the family-members that came afterwards.
After this, I met – and fell completely in love with – D’s whole family from the States: His mom is just INCREDIBLE - an exceptional, amazing, warm, loving woman. His brothers and sisters, sister-in-law and cousin are all good, kind, sweet, beautiful souls. Our families met, clicked, and holidayed together as if they’d all known each other for decades!
Then my brother and my dad arrived, and the 2 of them melted into their island holiday as if they’d been born to be on Boracay Island.
And then – the gang arrived. WHOOP!!! From EVERYWHERE! Our friends flew in from China, Taiwan, CANADA (!), and even my godparents from South Africa made it!!!
And then the festivities ensued.
I think my favourite thing about this whole period was how everyone got along. Never in my life have I witnessed my parents partying with my friends, my brother swept up by the wave of love that is my spectacular group of friends, our moms hung out together, our dads hung out together, everyone dined with everyone, everyone danced and drank and laughed and loved with everyone.
In truth, our wedding was almost incidental. THIS was the most important thing to happen in June: the joining up of all the people we loved. Together. I am almost in tears as I type this, and remember it. BLISS.

I could not have dreamed of a more perfect wedding. No way. From sharing the Bridal Suite with my 3 fabulous bridesmaids (“there were 4 in the bed and the little one said…” ) the night before, to a whirlwind of manicures-pedicures-hairstylists-makeupartists-champagne-wine-delitreats-laughter-excitement-photos-moregirlsdroppingby mayhem in the hours leading up to the ceremony, to an absolute, incomparable fairy tale of a wedding. Everyone laughed, everyone cried, everyone danced, everyone loved. PERFECT. And then we all went out to the biggest club on the island – me still in my wedding dress! – and partied the night away on the beach…

I looooooooooooooooove our new home!!! It’s so perfect!!! It’s a little house on a hill, facing a garden, with a view of tree-tops and even a sliver of sea from the living room windows! Upstairs is a single room (lounge and kitchen area) - the entire front wall is a sliding door, and there are windows EVERYWHERE, so we’re surrounded by nature and GREEN all the time. We keep all the windows and doors open, so there is plenty of light and air moving through, and we have a menagerie sharing the home with us! The neighbour’s cats have adopted us, we have a giant gecko living in the roof, about a hundred little geckos all over, big island spiders, and even little bats flying in and out through the open doors! Downstairs there’s a bathroom and a lovely big bedroom – cozy, warm, lovely. Home, sweet home indeed. <3

D turned 30 in July and I had a small party for him at our new home, and I celebrated my birthday 2 weeks after that. Friends, food, fun, and f-ing hangovers. Whoop!

Big exhale. Having been somewhat thrown into teaching within days of arriving here, and then to have all of the above-mentioned happening simultaneously, this was probably the biggest stress for me in recent times. Everything else was about ME, but being a school-teacher is about THEM. My little beloved babies. Every day I am filled with an incredible sense of importance, and purpose, and responsibility because of the role that I get to play in the lives of my little Grade 1 kids. I really do love them, and want to do right by them. But as I mentioned before in previous blogs – this is a MOUNTAIN of work. And the end of the year meant school reports, parent-teacher meetings, finishing off ALL lessons and science projects and art projects and and and….!
So. That, in a nutshell, sums up the past while. Apart from this, there’s been adjusting to life in a new place, to no longer being a gypsy and living out of a 20 kilogram backpack, to solidifying new friendships, to carving out a niche in my adopted island… Life. Ain’t in grand? <3

Here’s to more regular blogging in the future.
Love and kisses to you all! xoxox

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Day in my (Working) Life

Some of you have asked me what my life is like on the island. Here's a glimpse:

Monday to Friday:
  • I wake up at 7:15, wash up, and put on my teacher's uniform, which consists of a short-sleeved, tailored, button-up blouse in navy blue or cream (alternating), and any skirt or trousers in tan, white or black. And "smart" shoes. Which is anything except flip-flops. So basically, flat sandals. Casual, comfortable.
  • I leave my house and walk 4 steps to the "main road", where I hop into a "tricycle-taxi" to get to work. This is the main form of transportation on Boracay. It consists of a motorbike with a tin carriage attached to the side, which fits 5 people plus a driver.
  • For this 10 minute ride, I pay 15 pesos (30 U.S cents).
  • On the way, we pass little storefronts selling absolutely everything, we pass luxurious tourist resorts, and tiny local houses made of woven palm fronds with chickens in the yard and no glass for the windows.
  • When I arrive at school, I walk into a lovely little building with a big field for playing football on, and a cement lot with basketball hoops, a volleyball net, and boxes full of balls for the kids to partake in a variety of sports and games.
  • The school caters to children from the level of kindergarten through to Grade 6, but it only has about 50 students spread out over these levels! There are 4 foreign teachers: one for the pre-school, I have the Grade 1 class, one teacher has Grade 2 and 3 combined, and one teacher has Grades 4 - 6 in one classroom. There are also 5 Filipino teaching assistants spread out over the levels, who are all soooo nice.
  • My class has 8 students in it, 4 boys and 4 girls. They are 5 years old, and incredibly entertaining! They are quite a mixed group, too. There are 3 students with Filipino parents, 3 students with one British parent and one Filipino parent, one Korean girl, and one Australian girl. They all get along well, and are crazy and funny and loud and boisterous - like all Grade 1's should be! And SO cute. I love them.
  • The day starts with an English lesson, where we practice reading, writing, spelling, phonics. Hangman has become a firm favourite in the games department, as has I Spy... I also start each morning with a chat, I get the kids to tell me about their afternoons, and let the discussion go off in whatever direction it will, just to get them talking and comfortable and relaxed, and excited. Kids love to tell you about the things that make them happy. And they are really amusing too. It also gives me an important insight into each one of them, into where their heads are at, and how they operate.
  • After the first hour, we have our snack-time. Each of the children brings a piece of fruit to school every morning. The school chef collects these, and makes a giant fruit salad for all the kids to enjoy, together with some yogurt and muesli which the school provides.
  • Then we go back to class for another 2 hours, where we have a math lesson, followed by a Science or Geography lesson. The aim is to have fun while learning, so we do a lot of creative things in these lessons - art projects, multi-media learning, anything that is interesting and stimulating.
  • Then it's lunch-time for an hour, another nutritious-delicious meal provided by the school for students and teachers, and then the kids get to play for a while. It's fun supervising them, as the younger kids are SO MUCH FUN! But it's REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hot. Like super-hot. Like tropical island hot. Which the kids don't seem to care about at all, but the teachers melt in the heat somewhat, to be honest...
  • After lunch we have another 2 hours of teaching with a 15 minute break in the middle. By the afternoon, the kids are all a little tired, so this part of the day is used for the "softer" subjects. We do art, dancing, music, civics, social science. Once a week they have a Filipino class, a library class, and P.E on Wednesdays. Last week we went swimming with them at one of the super-swank resorts on the island for their P.E lesson. My life is sooooooo hard... :)
  • Then I finish at 3:30, and that's the end of my working day! FREEEEEEEE! Nice, no?
I love my job. I love what I do. I love being around children all day.

But I won't lie. It IS hard. I always joke about how easy it is, but really it's quite tough. At the moment we don't have textbooks or a syllabus (we will next year though) so I have to come up with all the lesson plans for all of the subjects, create appropriate worksheets and hand-outs and exercises, and make sure that by the end of the year the kids have mastered all the skills as laid out in the U.K curriculum standards guidelines which we follow. And all this while planning a wedding, arranging accommodation for everyone who's coming here for the big day, finding a new house for ourselves... and trying to live life!!!

Also, working with people is always a challenge, even when they are only 5 years old! They each have their own distinct personality, they have highs and lows, good moods and bad. They get tired, they get sad, the get angry, they get out of control. And I find myself always trying to find a balance between being easy-going and fun while at the same time maintaining a sense of control and respect. It's a dance, one that constantly changes.

But I DO love it. I would take this over working with adults ANY day!

Today we've closed for a week's mid-term break. WOOHOO!!! TIME TO GET MARRIED!!!!!!!
I'll keep you all posted. HUGE love!!! xoxox

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taiwan, How I Love Thee...

Let me count the ways:
  1. I love that local people stare at foreigners as if we are aliens. Or celebrities. It never gets old. I had forgotten this phenomenon, after blending in everywhere else in the world. I even had one old man follow me round the subway to see what tickets I bought, what train I got on... bless him.
  2. I love hearing Chinese. It's a language unlike any other I have ever been surrounded by. I loved being able to "speak" it again, even though - to be fair - what came out was a unique brand of Chinspanglish! (Chinese + Spanglish + English)
  3. I love how Taiwan has a endless supply of things that you don't need, but REALLY REALLY want anyway. You can get ANYTHING here. Absolutely anything. It rocks.
  4. I love that Taipei is the most convenient, safest and cheapest city I have ever been to in all of my life. Crime DOES NOT EXIST. You can go anywhere, do anything, get anything and it's all accessible. It is an incredibly easy city to live in. The best I have EVER been to, from this perspective.
  5. HEELS. I miss wearing high heels. I miss living in a city where you can buy high heels that are sexy and flattering and fabulous and CHEAP. Le sigh.
  6. I love the 39 NT stores, the 10NT stores, the 100 NT stores (30NT = 1 US$). You can buy anything and everything and then some. It's a shopaholic's paradise!
  7. I love the food in Taiwan. There are some things there that are SO delicious and SO unique: conveyor-belt sushi, beef-noodle soup, bubble-milk-tea, fried dumplings, crispy fried spicy seaweed, and an assortment of things that I wouldn't even know how to describe because I don't ACTUALLY know what's in them. But they taste SO DAMN GOOD!!!
  8. I love the randomness of Taiwan! I love the noise and the chaos and the bizarre wonderfulness of it all! I love that on my last morning there, we were woken up and kept awake from 9 a.m for about 4 hours by a crazy parade in the streets, consisting of a cacophony of noises and instruments and drums and fireworks and people performing in outfits of gods, which the main road had been cordoned off for! And I also love the fact that - upon questioning - none of my Taiwanese friends had any clue as to the occasion therefore either!!!
Finally, and obviously, my favourite thing about Taiwan are the EXCEPTIONAL friends that I have there. Friends who are my family. From my girlfriends who put money together and paid for my Bachelorette Party weekend in my old home town, to my darling bestie Victoria who came to pick me up at the airport - wine bottle in hand for the bus-ride home, and who put me up in her glorious little apartment (the "Bunny Hutch") which may well be the coziest and warmest and loveliest little place I've ever been in! To my girl Ness, who prepared an AMAZING 12-course dinner for us all - even down to home-made sorbet, TWO different kinds, no less!!! To all of my friends, men and women, who love me and look after me and make me feel so blessed and so lucky... I love you all SO VERY MUCH.

And of course, as per the heading of this entry...

Taiwan... wo ayi ni. xoxox

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back to Work: Day 1

  • I'm lucky I live on this island.
  • I'm also lucky that I have a fabulous fiance, who - when I come home cranky and miserable - takes me out shopping, and then for a fresh seafood dinner afterwards. I love him.
  • And finally: it' a good thing that I waited until after dinner to write this blog. 'cos the tone would have been somewhat different if it hadn't. :)
  • I knew it would be a challenge. New jobs always are. Perfectionist that I am, I like to be on top of things immediately. I like to know what's what from the start.
  • And obviously - that's not possible with children. With children, you need to ease into their space. You need to be likable and open and warm, while at the same time not look like you're trying too hard. You need to allow them to trust you in their own time, and yet keep a comfortable distance until they draw YOU in, or you run the risk of making them feel intimidated and uneasy. It's a complicated dance. It's a very gentle - and a very fragile - balance that needs to be struck. And then maintained. And then built-upon, and shifted accordingly.
  • Add to this the administrative duties of teaching, and that - in a nutshell - will give you an idea of why I came home with a "pounding head and aching feet".
  • My school is fairly new. The premises are lovely, the atmosphere is warm and pleasant, the entire staff very friendly and helpful.
  • But the fact is that I have stepped in to replace a teacher who left all of a sudden, without leaving any lesson plans as to how to complete the last 11 weeks of the year. You see - the school curriculum is not developed out of textbooks. There are certain standards set by the U.K education model which we follow and adhere to, and as long as the children can fulfill the requirement for their specific level, then they are on track.
  • So basically, it is up to the teachers to set an entire schedule of learning. We need to find and design worksheets and lessons and themes and EVERYTHING. And we teach ALL the subjects: English, Math, History, Geography, Science, Art, Design & Technology, Music. And I currently need to make up 11 weeks worth of lessons for each of these subjects. Without any real idea of what level they are at (yet), or what the plan was going to be for the rest of the year, or what they have and haven't done so far. (I received the previous teacher's lessons plans for the stuff that he has already done, today. So that's something.)
  • Also, the job is complicated somewhat by the fact that the kids are very different in terms of their levels already. Some started school long before others, some have both parents speaking English to them at home, some only one, and some come from families where even their parents can barely speak any English at all. I had one student today reading a set of instructions for a chess-game, with vocabulary words that would make some 12 years olds pause for thought, while another student could not spell the word "big" correctly. True story.
  • Still - I'm up to it. This is a very typical situation for an international teacher to be dealing with - in my experience.
  • My focus, really, is to somehow gain control of the class in a way that is firm, yet fun. The kids need to be behaving well and paying attention because they WANT to... because school is SO MUCH FUN, that they can't wait to go back again the next day!
  • Hhhmmm... how to make school fun...
  • Luckily, I am deeply encouraged by the fact that this will not be the situation for next year. When I take over full control of my class at the beginning of the next school year in August, I will actually have lessons and themes prepared for me. The new director of the school has been frantically working on completing this for every class there is. I can't wait! I love to be organised. I foresee myself being VERY happy next (school) year!
  • Basically, all I need to do is keep reminding myself that this phase always takes time. The Entry Phase. I need to ride the wave, roll along, and enjoy. Things ALWAYS fall into place, and before I know it everything's running along at its own smooth and calm pace.
  • I look forward to it.
  • I even went out and bought new shoes today. Wearing flip-flops for a whole year means that the only "proper" shoes that I have hurt so much that they cause my feet to send shooting pains all though my body up to my head, resulting in a blinding headache come afternoon. And now... I'm all set to conquer the world of Elementary School!
  • But at the moment - nose to the grindstone.
  • Ah, who'm I kidding? I LOVE this life. xxx

Friday, April 16, 2010

Settling in to "Reality"...

  • Listen, I won't lie. My reality is infinitely better than even I ever dreamed it would be!
  • But yes - after a week on the island, I am attempting to slip out of Backpacker Mode and into Permanent-Resident-of-a-Tropical-Island-Paradise Mode.
  • I feel like I'm permanently on holiday, and yet this place feels like home in a way that transcends verbal explanation. It must be felt to be understood.
  • Soooooooo... what's new... I GOT A JOB!!!
  • As of Monday, I will be teaching Grade 1 at an International School on the island! I'm really excited! I've missed being around kids all day! The director is lovely (and a friend of mine), the other teachers seem really nice, and kids are just awesomely amazing the world over. And the school uniform consists of brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirts! SO YAY!!!
  • What else?
  • D and I are house-hunting this weekend. At the moment, we live in a room with no windows (but great A/C) in a house on the main road. The other room in the house is vacant for now, and the main reception area is being used as an office space. It's been great for D as he pays no rent here, but during rainy season (which starts in mid-June) it leaks, apparently.
  • And we want something that we can make into a HOME now. It needn't be big, or lavish, or fancy in any way, but I would love to have somewhere that makes me happy after a long day... somewhere warm and inviting and peaceful... My inner Cancerian is most certainly ready to nest.
  • What else? Job, home... oh! Wedding! Erm... that's a tough one. I have no idea what's happening with the wedding. D seems really calm, so I assume everything will fall into place. We don't have a definite venue yet. That's the first question-mark. D's extended family is putting up a hotel on the island, and if it's ready in time, we'll have it there. But it's hard to know whether it'll be ready or not. It was supposed to be done in September 2009. :) I love the elasticity of time in the 3rd World. It makes me happy.
  • Anyway, if not there, then we'll just have it somewhere else. There are plenty of options on the island.
  • I feel like I need to start making lists of all the things that need to be done. Because there actually IS a lot to take care of. But I feel like, between the New and Improved Honi-the-Chilled-Out-Gypsy and D-the-Chilled-Out-Islander, stuff may fall through the cracks. We're both great procrastinators too.
  • The other thing is that the small community of local friends that we have on the island has been so warm and welcoming and AMAZING, that it forces you to relax too! I always feel like I'm surrounded by people who are looking out for me, loving me, helping me. It's really a special place indeed. And everyone is so INTERESTING!!! People here come from all over the world, and all over the Philippines, most have parents from different countries, and have lived in so many places and experienced so many cultures... We are ALL gypsies here! How fabulous. I love.
  • So. Friday afternoon and the weekend sets in. I think I may try to spend as much as time as possible in the sun this weekend seeing as I start work on Monday. And after 3 weeks in South Africa (mainly nocturnal!) I am looking startlingly vampire-esque at the moment.
  • Yesterday I spent the day on Puka beach with 12 of my friends. We swam in the sea, had a delicious picnic on the beach, I played with the kids, and we laughed. And smiled. And reveled in life.
  • I am so happy here. And now. I send out my thanks to the Universe every day.
  • COME AND VISIT ME IN BORACAY, YOU GUYS!!! But I warn you - you may never leave again.. ;-)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coming Home to Paradise...

  • I've arrived!!! I'm home!!! Helloooooooooo Isla de Boracay!!!
  • Just in time for the weekend, as it turned out! Whooooooooooooop!!!
  • On Friday night, our first day back, my divine fiance D had arranged a surprise party for me to welcome me back to the island. There was champagne, and emotional moments, and laughter, and so many wonderful people...
  • It was really special to see some old friends again - people that I had met in 2006 and 2007 on my previous visits here, and also to meet new awesome friends of D's that I didn't know from before.
  • It reinforced for me just why we have chosen to make a life together here. There's a different energy here - warm, embracing, kind. An Island Family, if you will.
  • On Saturday we went to a party on the beach organised by Hey Jude, my favourite fun-place on the island, which just happens to be owned by friends of ours too!
  • It was amazing - dance music, a bubble machine, crazy lights and decor, and even long fancy plastic cocktail glasses in bright primary colours with LED lights on the bottom! Madness! So much of happy!!! :)
  • And last night - Sunday - we ended up at our friends' place, with 2 super-nice couples - one Spaniard, one Norwegian, one Canadian and one Filipino - having sundowners on their terrace, on a hill overlooking the azure sea, eating yummy pizza and laughing at how chewing gum is the reason for the beginning of rap music... :)
  • It feels like home here, for sure. But I suppose home is really anywhere where you are loved, and surrounded by good people, and good energy.
  • "Beuna onda", I learned in Argentina. It applies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Year, in summary.

  • What an absolutely atrocious correspondent I have been!!!
  • So much has happened since I last wrote. Damn.
  • I was supposed to write a blog about being back in Brazil - I had it all planned in my head already! About how warm and earthy and real Brazilian people are, about how being back across the border from Argentina I was already smiling and feeling a different energy in the air...
  • I was supposed to write a blog about Carnaval too! Oh, what an experience that was! In truth, the entire month of February - in the days both preceding and following Carnaval - was thoroughly spectacular. I spent pre-Carnaval weekend in Rio, attending "blocos" (block parties) with a group of local crazy girl friends! We followed trucks spraying water to stave off the 40-degree temperatures, with blaring samba songs coming from the bands perched atop the trucks, dancing in the parades with thousands of locals along the walkways of Ipanema beach...
  • And Carnaval itself, which I spent in Salvador de Bahia - WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! Afro-Brazilian music and energy and vibrancy and electricity!!! SO INCREDIBLE!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! :)
  • And now I have just been home to South Africa - the first time in almost 4 and a half years.
  • What an overwhelming 3 weeks THAT was!
  • Initially, I was delighted. Smiling, warm, friendly African people all around me! Everyone is so nice! So polite! And then I found myself surrounded by white people. Angry, stressed, impatient. How very odd. I have NEVER divided the world racially. And yet, there is such an obvious difference here that it slaps you in the face. HARD.
  • I don't count my friends within the aforementioned generalisations, mind. It would be impossible to be objective about people that I know. As a social scientist (!) I base my observations on random people around me. I watch people interacting - in restaurants, shopping centres, bars, on the roads... It's quite jarring.
  • I'm not sure I could ever live in SA again. It's become such an ANGRY place. People seem to have lost the spark, the hope, the magic that was so tangible in the years before I left. I won't enter into any political discourse here, but suffice to say that the government has NOT provided the kind of major changes which it promised - and could have delivered on - previously. People work hard, live hard, no real unwind time. It's tough.
  • Sooooooo... Africa was difficult for me, but also brilliant. There's nothing quite like touching base again with friends that you haven't seen in years. And I am INCREDIBLY blessed with all the magical beings that I have in my life. This visit was very important for me, for that very reason. And I got to hang out with my mom and my brother again, which was pretty damn special after all these years too... :)
  • And now the year is over. I am in the Philippines, beginning the next phase. I'll be writing in the next few days about the new beginning, but right now I'm trying to close a chapter.
  • ... and I can't. It feels rather superficial, really - this whole "closing" business! It's all part of life! One wave rolls into the next, I've just started to ride the new one, as the old one races to the shore... and it's GOOD. It's SO GOOD.
  • I am so happy. I am so delighted that I have had the opportunity to see the world. I am over-the-moon that I am now living on a beautiful little island where people smile and are chiiiiiiillllllll. My life is vibrant and colourful and magical, and I am LUCKY, LUCKY, LUCKY.
Love you all, and thank you for being a part of the kaleidoscope. xxx

Monday, February 1, 2010

Walking on Water!!!

  • How I loooooooove to travel!
  • There are SO MANY beautiful things in this world to see, and experience, and discover, and enjoy!
  • I often get so lost in meeting people, and in how incredible an experience it is to make friends and share special times with beautiful people from all over the world, that I sometimes forget about all the other wonders there are in this world!
  • But yesterday I was reminded again. And how!
  • I am in El Calafate now, faaaaaaaaaaar down in Southern Argentina, almost at the tip of the world.
  • Yesterday I went to see the Perito Moreno glacier, by far the most spectacular natural phenomenon I have ever seen in my whole life.
  • It's a 257 square kilometre ice-formation (!!!) and stands 74 metres above the surface of the water - the water in question being a milky turquise lake, surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains, as far as the eye can see. AMAZING!!!
  • I can't even put into words just how beautiful and mind-blowing this all is. You arrive at the National Park by bus, then get to walk along a constructed path which has viewing points all along, and just stare and marvel at this giant, turquoise-blue ice wonder.
  • And the best part is, that it's ALIVE! As you stand there watching it, from time to time you hear a LOUD crack - like a rifle shot - and chunks of ice fall of the edge, splashing into the water and creating giant waves in the lake! It's heart-stoppingly beautiful.
  • After this, we got on a boat, and sailed right up to the northern face of the glacier. Our boat was TINY in comparison.
  • Then we get off the boat along the side, at the foot of a mountain, had special clampons (ice spikes) attached to our shoes, and went WALKING ON THE GLACIER!!!
  • SO MUCH FUN!!!
  • We went up a slope, down the other side, drank from the fresh water in some of the crevaces, marvelled at the spectacular turquiose colours and formations and ridges and valleys...
  • And then at the end, after 2 and a half hours of sheer magic - just to make it even MORE awesome - we got over a ridge and came to a wooden table, waiting for us on the glacier, laden with glasses. Our guide proceeded to to use his ice-pick to get chunks of ice from the glacier, and presented us each with a glass of whiskey on the rocks to top off the perfect experience! Too divine.
  • Just before this, I was in a place called Bariloche, which is in the Lake District of Argentina. Here there are deep blue lakes everywhere you look, more majestic mountains, and a a tranquility like no other. There's nothing quite like seeing a full moon over a giant lake, turning the water to silver, clear and beautiful.
  • I promise to put all my pics up as soon as I can. You will NOT be disappointed!
Icy-cold kisses and warm embraces to you all. xoxox

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buenos Aires revisited. And adored.

  • I looooooooooooooooooooooooove Buenos Aires!!!
  • In my original blog about this city, I said I needed time for it to grow on me. Well - it HAS!
  • I could happily live here. (With monthly excursions to the beaches in Uruguay, of course!)
  • So I´ve just spent another two weeks here, and it has been FABULOUS.
  • First of all, it´s much easier to be somewhere when you have friends there. My friend Adam (whom I met in Colombia) arrived when I got back, and we´ll be travelling together for a while now. I also picked up the friendships with people that live here: friendships that have been slowly developing and recently have become really wonderful - after the initial getting-to-know-you dance.
  • Buenos Aires for me is all about MUSIC. And by extension - DANCE.
  • The last two weeks of my life have been coloured by these perfect elements.
  • And we´re talking ALL varieties!
  • I went to see Metallica play live at River Plate Stadium. Thrashing away with 50 000 Argentinian metalheads is an indescribable experience. Goosebumps!
  • I went to a tango club called Candela. This used to be an abandoned warehouse, which has been taken over and decorated and furnished with things found in the streets. All the chairs and tables are mismatched, all the wall paintings eclectic and interesting - what was that thing about one person´s rubbish being another person´s treasure...? There was a 6-piece all woman orchestra, and people of all ages dancing around the floor... Spectacular.
  • I also went to see La Bomba del Tiempo, which I wrote about in my last BsAs blog. Drumming, sweating, dancing, 1 litre plastic cups of beer... Good times!
  • I´ve been pulled into the streets to dance the tango with the professionals putting on a show there, I´ve samba´d and salsa´d on the cobblestones, in the open air, laughing and learning as I spin and move and twirl and waggle my bits...!
  • Then there was also the professional tango shows, gaucho shows and folkloric dances in the streets of La Boca - a beautiful way to spend a lunch... watching... enthralled.
  • And of course, my absolute favourite: the giant candombe drum troupe marching through the streets of San Telmo. Always at dusk going into night, always at least 20 drummers, and as many people dancing both behind them and in front of them, with a giant flag in front being waved over everyone, filling the streets with an energy that is tribal and earthy and raw and real...
  • Then there are the rooftop asados (barbeques) - social, chilled, good-people-good-food-good-wine under the stars
  • I finally get what all the hype is about. BsAs is FABULOUS. You just need to give it a chance.
Love you all. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback. You rock my world! xxx

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adventures in Uruguay! :)

  • Feeling like a backpacker again - and loving it!!!
  • First of all - South American Spanish is the most delicious language I know. I love how it rolls over my tongue, slides across my lips, and fills my mouth with gorgeous sounds. What a sensual language.
  • I've just spent a little over a week in Uruguay - 2 days in the capital city, Montevideo, and then a week on the beach in Punta del Diablo.
  • Montevideo is a small capital city. It has a some interesting and eclectic architecture, and is almost surrounded by the sea - everywhere you look you see waves in the distance. Very welcoming, not overwhelming at all (unlike BsAs!)
  • In all of my experience in Uruguay - and this is actually something that all my Argentinian friends told me before I left - Uruguayanos are simply wonderful: really warm and kind and open, and so friendly!
  • Punta del Diablo, the seaside village that I stayed in, was AMAZING! It's really small and underdeveloped - which I loved. There are no proper roads, only dirt roads, with one main (dirt) road housing some restaurants, two supermarkets and a pharmacy. All the houses are scattered about randomly: little one-room domains painted in bright sunshiney colours, simple and modest.
  • At this time of year, it's mainly students who travel to places like this, after spending Xmas and New Year with their families, and before the new semester begins.
  • I found myself in a hostel filled with Spanish-speaking students - Argentinians, Uruguayanos, Chileans, and some Brazilians (all of whom can speak Spanish too!)
  • And so... I just spent a week speaking ONLY Spanish!!! (Which was no small feat! All I know is the one week of lessons that I took in Colombia. And given the different accents - that's like learning English in Texas and then trying to speak to people in the Australian outback!)
  • It was brilliant! Of course - my Spanish is pretty poor, but at least I make myself understood! And I seem to be able to follow conversations fairly easily. The trick is (as with all languages) to get the accent down. If you SOUND like you know what you're doing, your grammatical errors are much less obvious!
  • I loved it. Everyone was just SO nice. People would wander around the common area, strike up conversations, everyone would talk to everyone else... making friends was so easy, so effortless...
  • I've also become a fan of matè (pronounced "mah-tay"). It's a traditional hot drink in this region of South America, made of herbs, and I think it contains caffeine too. EVERYONE drinks it! Basically, you pour the herbs into a matè cup, top it up with boiling hot water, then dip a special silver straw into the cup and sip away! The herbs are reused, and the cup is refilled until you run out of hot water. It's definitely an acquired taste, but I seem to have acquired it!
  • I love the social aspect of matè. You see people going to the beach - everyone carrying their little matè cups and hot water flasks! In the hostel, in the mornings and evenings after the beach, everyone sits around sipping on their matè, sharing it with others, communicating, relaxing... It`s a lovely tradition.
  • I feel so good after my week at the beach. I needed to get out of the city, and I am fully renewed and refreshed and ready for more adventures.
  • I made a ton of new friends, am that much closer to speaking a new language uninhibited, had my soul nurtured by warm and easy interactions, and had my heart soothed by seawaves once again.
  • Counting my blessings over and over and over again...

Love you all. xoxox