Thursday, November 5, 2009

God is in the small details, #3

- The "game" the 3 gypsy guys were playing in Los Antiguos- you say the name of someone who's famous, then start guessing what country he's from. Hours of fun for the whole family! (Plus, you can't beat drinking boxed wine with Soda water...)
- Having a facial expressions and pantomime "conversation" with an old beggar in Coyhaique. Him making fun of Uri who was reading the guide book (making an eyeglasses motion several times, and mock-reading his hands), me complaining about how heavy the Chilean coins are (seriously, why so heavy? What's the point?), and other random stuff. 4-5 minutes, 0 words.
- The explanation for why the city is called San Carlos de Bariloche in some random tourist brochure in the hostel: San Carlos to commemorate some Carlos dude who did something, and 'Bariloche'. Well, thanks, guys, that helps a lot... I did find out eventually that, like most names in that area, the origin of the name is native- more specifically, mapuche.

Friday, October 9, 2009

FTTN: The trekkers bubble

After a not entirely friendly first conversation with Haim and Itamar, which included a cynical “wow, it sounds like your trip has been really hard” as a reply to our trek stories, and ended with a decisive “we're really not into trekking”, we actually bonded pretty well. Talk in our dorm room flowed really well [sidenote: that's if you ignore the two Ethiopian-born Israeli mochiclubber girls (for the definition of that term, read on), with which we had nothing to talk about, a situation we pretty quickly dubbed the “apartheid”. Isn't that what you're supposed to do with apartheid? Ignore it?]. I guess I knew before that that there were many kinds of travelers and many ways to travel (it would be very dumb not to realise that), and that not everybody that doesn't like treks and the outdoors (not mutually exclusive...) is one of the dreaded “check-markers” (same as above with the definition), that room is the first time in my trip that I had a good time with somebody who wasn't a trekker.

El Bolson- Beginning of March 2008

Next up on the road was El Bolson, a small hippie city on the slopes of the Andes. Reknowned to most people for its handcraft artists' market, the nice views from the mountains surrounding it, and its local microbrewed beer, and to Israelis for the “Hava” (farm in Hebrew), the biggest Israeliada in Argentina, where people go to eat Israeli food, smoke weed and "relax" from the rigors of their trip. From what I've heard, rarely is a non-Hebrew speaker seen yonder. Surprisingly, I passed.
I didn't do much in El Bolson. I visited the market, had some great ice cream and beer (I remember that dark beer very fondly. Through the mists of memory, deceiving as they may be, it seems like it's a candidate for best beer I've ever had. And that's saying something), and went up to a mountain called Piltriquitron to check out the Bosque Tallado: a small patch of burnt down forest that was sculpted by some local artists into about 30 tree sculptures, some still attached by their roots.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My first time in Fenway Park

For those who don't know me, and probably most who do know me, this may come as a surprise: I am a big baseball and Boston Red Sox fan. How I came into that, being Israeli and all, is a story for another day. Today I'm writing about my first trip to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have been playing their home games for almost 100 years. I'm not gonna waste too much time explaining stuff or reporting what happened in the game except my experiences, so if you know nothing about baseball or the Red Sox, or didn't watch this game, this might be confusing or uninteresting. Then again, maybe not. Who knows?

Monday, September 14, 2009

FTTN: Futaleufu- trip economics

The incredible ease with which I spent 120$ on the rafting trip in Futaleufu (especially considering that when I was first told it would be 80$ I said “no way I'm doing that”) is part of the trip economics. You're sometimes frugal on ridiculous things, often foregoing the most basic comforts (easy examples: spending 5 hours sleeping on the floor of Aeroparque airport in Buenos Aires to avoid paying for a hostel before my 6am flight; choosing the bed on the low gallery over the common room in the hostel in El Calafate to save 5 pesos, and losing at least 3 hours of sleep because people were playing cards under me; sleeping in the plaza or in parks several times) and then drop 120$ for a one-time, 3-hour experience. In a sense it's logical- eating, sleeping and transportation are routine, continuous occurences, and represent the bulk of your expenses. Saving small each time ends up being a major swing upwards in your remaining budget. And the one-time expenditures are exactly that: unique and one-time-only. And why are you traveling, if not to have new and unique experiences you wouldn't have had otherwise. It's hard to come to a place that is purportedly “one of the three best places to do something” and not do it, especially when you do have the money. For example, I regretted not spending the 250 pesos for the 8-hour glacier boat tour in Los Glaciares National Park for a long time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Aysen Region- End of Feb. 2008 (2nd part)

The day after we came back from the trek, we continued up the Carretera Austral, into Coyhaique. Coyhaique is a surprisingly big city in the middle of the Aysen Region. It has around 50000 inhabitants, a couple of big-ass supermarkets, traffic lights, a big central plaza, ice cream places. Even after being told "it's a pretty big city. Much bigger than you would expect", we didn't expect it. Especially not after 4 straight towns where you could count the number of families even if you don't know what a hundred means.
I think we were caught off guard, and didn't quite know how to deal with Coyhaique. I'm not really sure what we even did there besides internet, window shopping (jeje) and eating ice cream. We were also staying with an especially apathetic (should I say passive aggressive?) family in the hospedaje (in the Aysen Region there were barely any hostels, it's mostly families who rent out rooms in their house by the night. I should write more about that later...) our first night, so we didn't enjoy it that much. But just the fact that there's a city in that setting, so cut off from the rest of Chile (the only way to get to Coyhaique without a boat/ferry ride is through Argentina) was a cool thing to see.

FTTN: The Cerro Castillo trek- does hard mean good?

Let us begin with this question: do I go trekking for the challenge? The surroundings and views? The fun of being outdoors? I would say the challenge is last on that list. But you have to wonder...
The Cerro Castillo trek, besides being in a beautiful area and the pleasant company I did it with, was also made more fun by the complications and the hardship, not to mention the danger. And I should add to the pot the fact that it's less traveled (I'd like to say that's important only because of the quiet and aloneness and ability to do whatever you want, but let's face it- the desire to be different plays a part) and you've got probably the best trek I've done.
But the complications, the badly marked trails, the places where you just identify the destination and walk there in whatever way seems right to you, Ohad's fall into the river and the rock that rolled down from behind me are all things that added to the trek. Part of that is the solitude, the distance from the “real” world, and the wild and untamed feeling (after all, the tamed quality of the Torres Del Paine National Park bothered me). But a meaningful part of it was that it was hard.
The fact that danger attracts and excites us needs no stating or explaining- it's obvious and probably scientifically proven. But if you ask me, I don't trek to conquer, succeed and prove myself, but quite the opposite: I love the feeling of being small and powerless against nature's great forces. So where does the attraction to hardship come from, if not from competitiveness?
I guess it's another question to open and probably never close...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

FTTN: Rio Tranquilo- Randomness and the single serving friend

Meital and Inbal, the two girls we met in Rio Tranquilo, epitomized the idea of the ‘single serving friend’ (apologies to Palahniuk for the plagiarism). Getting into town, meeting a (fairly grumpy, kinda sick and Peruvian-looking) girl, talking to her a bit about the trip, where she’s been and where she’s heading, meeting her (much nicer) friend, making the boat trip to the marble caves together, getting back into town, trying to hitch, Uri and I north and Meital and Inbal south, failing and giving up simultaneously, finding a hostel together, cooking a very nice dinner together, letting the wine flow (but in moderation), having a great time, developing some fatherly care for the grumpy girl… and the morning after having the two of them leave without even saying goodbye. And it’s strange, but it doesn’t really bother you, because that’s what the trip is like. To stretch the plagiarism: “you meet a beautiful stranger, you dance all night, and then…” (way different context, but it works well here, I think).

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Aysen Region- End of Feb. 2008

After El Chalten (and a 12-hour bus ride on gravel roads up to Los Antiguos, and my second border crossing into Chile) came the Aysen region, commonly known among backpackers as the “carretera austral” (southern road). This is an area in the south of Chile where until the 80s there were no roads, and the only way you could get to the towns was on horseback or boats. Obviously, not too many metropolises grew in this area, and it remains fairly unspoiled (as of a year and a half ago, at least… it’s getting more and more touristic down there, plus there are plenty of industrial dangers looming). The road was completed only in the year 2000, and named the Carretera Austral (road number 7, for those who prefer numbers). It’s around 1200 km long, only 150 or so of them paved. The region is extremely beautiful and wild: in the south there's the huge Lago General Carrera (the 2nd largest lake in South America, and divided between Argentina and Chile. In the Argentinean side it’s called Lago Buenos Aires), and there are many rivers, lagunes, waterfalls, glaciers and springs… basically water in every form and every imaginable shade of blue and green, plus some grey and brown water too... I’ve never seen so much water in my life.
Bus lines in the area are inconsistent and expensive, so most backpackers either rent a car or hitchhike. After some doubts, I opted for the hitchhiking, along with Uri, one of the Israeli guys I was with in El Chalten (fun fact: we went to the same high school in Jerusalem, but he’s 5 years my senior. And we met in Puerto Natales, of all places…), and I don’t regret it for a second. You get to meet some interesting people hitching. We had two rides with Chilean families on vacation, two in the back of trucks, one of them a garbage truck (best ride ever- sitting on top of a big pile of garbage, above the truckbed’s “walls”, facing backwards and looking at the majestic mountainous landscape receding as you climb steadily on a curvy road, not smelling the garbage at all because of the wind hitting against you from all sides… perfect), one with a pair of local horse-ranchers (who were also giving a ride to a marine engineer who was working in the area, and kept talking about how they had only stopped because there were two girls hitching next to us, and they got stuck with us instead), and last but not least, with a local guy who told us all about the ‘proyecto andino’ conspiracy.
I don’t like to generalize, but most people who live in this area gave us the feeling that they’re either afraid of us, don’t like us, or just want our money and nothing else. It’s probably the only place where I can say that I felt a general hostility (never direct, though, Just the feeling) and unfriendliness, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who felt the same way there. I think that the Pinochet years, coupled with the fact that the area used to be pretty much closed off to outsiders, the sudden rush of tourism and the land buying by outside sources cause what can only be called xenophobia. The proyecto andino thing is a great example: in this area, I’d say that about 50% of the tourists are Israeli, 35% Chilean and 15% from the rest of the world (I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all). Take that little fact, add to it the fact that foreign companies had been buying land in the area for good and bad purposes, mix in the much publicized conflict in Israel, and voila! You’ve got a cool conspiracy theory about how all the Israelis in the area are actually scouts, sent by a population that is sick of the war and wants to find a new country, and the Aysen region is being targeted for that. That’s why the US businessmen (who may or may not be Jewish) have been buying land in strategic locations, to divide Chile in two and give the Israelis the Southern half. Nice, eh? I actually had to sit there and deny being an emissary, and swear that I am in fact traveling for fun and the Israeli army is not paying for my trip.
The serious side of this is that foreign companies are taking advantage of the (amazingly not yet completely depleted) natural resources of the area. It’s nothing new, of course. It’s been going on for over five centuries, and continues to happen all over Latin America (and elsewhere, of course). When we were there, there was a lot of protest against several hydroelectric plants that were supposed to be built in the region, amongst them one on the river Baker, third fastest flowing river in the world, which would inundate a huge area, only to then build the longest high-voltage power line in the world all the way to Santiago (remember what I said about the area being unspoiled for now?). If all this is not complicated enough, you can throw Douglas Tompkins, (former?) owner of The North Face, into the picture. From what I heard, he left his businesses to become an environmentalist, bought huge quantities of land in several areas, the biggest one in the northern Aysen region, and turned them into conservation parks. After legally making sure the area would be conserved and has to stay a national park, he “gives back” the land to the country in which it is. From what I heard, it sounds very positive, but he’s pretty controversial in the area and sparks plenty of ideas in the theorists’ heads. The park in Aysen, Pumalin, is the one that “cuts Chile in half”.
Getting back to what I actually did: we spent a day in the tiny town of Rio tranquilo, where we did a nice little speed-boat trip to see some marble caves (which apparently are only made of some marble lookalike rock, but who cares? It looks cool) and then made dinner with two girls in a hostel- chicken in a honey and chili marinade - more about that in the next post.
After that we went on to Villa Cerro Castillo, from where we set out on a 4-day trek on Cerro Castillo, which is a pretty wild trek- the only way to get to the “entrance” is by walking 13 KM on a 4X4 road, and the only way out is climbing over (or under, I guess) several fences and walking back to town through what looks like private fields; but the paths themselves are mostly marked and it is in a national reserve. Some highlights and lowlights: climbing a mountain that looked (to me, at least) very similar to the black and white mountains in the Eilat desert in southern Israel, but when I got to the top there was about 40m of snow that I had to walk and slide on because it’s smack in the middle of the path. Plus, looking back from that point, you could see mountains of five different colours: green, black, white, brown and red; one of the guys I was with slipping while trying to cross a strong flowing river that had no bridge over it and almost getting swept away; a very impressive glaciar perched on a very impressive mountain, with a full wall of waterfalls falling to become a river; sunrise at our campsite the third day; talking for hours about progressive rock bands and permaculture with one of the guys I did the trek with (probably a horrible conversation for the other two guys...); a side trek climb to the top of a mountain that wasn't really on the path, and being rewarded with the incredible panoramic view of the valley below; almost breaking my legs when a basketball sized rock slid from behind me, jumping aside at the last second (the guy behind me, who had initiated the slide, yelled “Ofer, Ofer Ofer!” and, fortunately, my instinct was to jump to the right. Not jumping, or jumping to the left, would’ve probably ended in me having to be carried the next two days); and of course, swimming in and drinking from freezing lagunes, where you can see the glacier and the waterfalls the water originates from.
Back in town, we had a nice campfire barbeque in our campsite in town, with 3.5 Kg of meat for 5 people and lots of red wine (in cardboard boxes… But I must say that Chilean box wine is pretty damn good, and at 4$ for 2 liters, it’s a great deal).
Shit, rereading this and editing it a year and a half later, I’m struck again by how fucking lucky I am that I was able to do these things.
Since this post is way too long already, I’ll leave the rest of the Aysen region stuff for later.

This is probably a good time to invite whoever wants to see my pictures to my Picasa page. There's a link on the right side of the page. The pictures from this area are especially good. As I've said to several people several times, if the pictures are good, it's not because I took good pictures; it's because no matter where I pointed the camera, the picture that would come out would be beautiful.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

God is in the small details, #2

- In the Torres Del Paine trek, there was a man traveling with his son... and three porters (for those who don't know, porters are locals you pay to carry your bags, cook, etc. on trips and treks and such). Their quality of life wouldn't shame mine at home: pancakes, eggs, french toast and fruit shakes for breakfast, steaks and bourbon for dinner. Camping, rich style.
- In Calafate I chose to sleep in a small half-attic over the kitchen in the hostel, to save 5 pesos. Big mistake: a group of backpackers sat there till 3am playing a really dumb card game. The only rule I caught, since it was especially annoying: every time somebody puts a prince down, everybody has to yell "hello, prince".
- In Los Antiguos, walking down the street, we saw a leashed sheep in a house's yard. I wonder if it's a guard sheep?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Point Counterpoint, by Aldous Huxley

Well, I said I might write about books occasionally. Let's give the first one a try:

I just finished reading Point Counterpoint. Huxley has become one of my favorite authors, if not the favorite. Eyeless in Gaza, also by Huxley, was a book I stumbled upon in a used book store (it was one of those classy-but-not-too-much-so 1950s editions, fabric-bound with gold lettering) and bought because I thought "hey, it looks nice, has a cool title and I liked Brave New World". It was an extremely pleasant surprise and would be my answer for "favorite book" if I had a gun against my head. I found Point Counterpoint in the same bookstore, in the same shelf and in the same kind of edition (only faded green instead of faded red), so I had high expectations. And I wasn't disappointed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

FTTN: The funnest day on the trip (so far)

Written after the Fitz Roy trek. The title is the same one I used for this post:

This is the kind of trip I was looking for: to climb the (relatively hard) climb to the lagune and the lookout, just to see the sunrise; to take a side trip on an unbeaten path that goes against our direction in the general trek; the winds at the lagune, hiding behind the boulder, advancing against the wind and flying debris; jumping from boulder to boulder on the way to the Piedras Blancas glacier; all this fit in very well with what I want from my trip. To do things beyond walking on the path marked on the map, taking pictures every time there’s a sign with a drawing of a camera or an eye and counting how many KMs we did today. Instead, we went against the plan, did what we felt like doing, went back to (or stayed for a long while in) a spot we liked. I had some nice experiences today, none of them amazing by itself, but they create a big whole. I felt much freer than I felt in the Torres trek, and a lot more than in Ushuaia and Calafate, obviously. But more than anything, it was just a great feeling to laugh my heart out, from within, in the face of the wind or the splashing water in both lagunes. That doesn't happen to me enough.

El Chalten- Mid Feb. 2008

Next up was El Chalten, the National Capital of Trekking (!!!) of Argentina. It's a pretty cool town about 4 hours (it’s only about 200kms, but the roads are mostly gravel) north of Calafate. The town was built about 25 years ago, entirely for tourism and trekking purposes, and it is actually inside the Los Glaciares National Park. All (all 6…) streets are unpaved mud (at least they were. There was some work being done while I was there, but as far as I could tell it was just re-flattening of the existing mud) and there is no bank. Unsurprisingly, all businesses, and all locals we met, were in the tourism trade. Internet places that charge 10 pesos per hour (for context, in Buenos Aires it's 1.50), restaurants, hostels, travel agencies, the post office, the park’s visiting center, one bar, three campgrounds, and… that’s about it.

DFW on tourism

"I confess that I have never understood why so many people's idea of a fun vacation is to don flip-flops and sunglasses and crawl through maddening traffic to loud hot crowded tourist venues in order to sample a "local flavor" that is by definition ruined by the presence of tourists. This may (…) all be a matter of personality and hardwired taste: the fact that I just do not like tourist venues means that I'll never understand their appeal and so am probably not the one to talk about it (the supposed appeal). But, (…) here goes:
As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it's only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way though, but rather in a grim, steely eyed, let's-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way - hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. (Coming up is the part my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way of spoiling the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of pure ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in times and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing."

This is probably not the best place I could think of to put this, but I guess that right after Calafate is good enough. This is a quoted passage from a footnote to David Foster Wallace's article "Consider The Lobster". DFW's ability to put vague feelings or complex ideas into words in such a precise manner is uncanny. Several times, while reading him, he either pinpointed an idea I had in me but could've never articulated, or gave shape to a feeling I barely knew existed. I should look into reading more of his writing...
In this case, he's writing about tourism. It's meant to be more about tourism inside the US, but most of it applies to the rest of the world, too. I've always felt repelled, and somewhat uneasy, by mainstream, commercial tourism, and my part in it. Try as I might to avoid being part of the tourism machine, I would be lying to myself if I claimed to be outside of it. I will get to several entries I wrote about the whole tourist/traveler/backpacker conundrum, and where I stand on the spectrum, soon enough. Until then, this passage is a good entry point, I think.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Calafate and Glaciar Perito Moreno- Feb. 08

It seems I never wrote anything about Calafate, a town I didn’t enjoy that much. It’s an extreme tourist town, pretty expensive (the most expensive internet café I’ve ever seen was there- 12 pesos (4$) an hour! And it was really slow, to boot), and kinda fake-feeling. I’m weary of writing something like that about a town of a few thousand people after spending less than 48 hours in it, but that’s how I felt. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with preconceptions; they play a huge role while backpacking, and, at least in my Argentina and Chile trip, I very rarely went out of the regular backpacker tracks, so I had preconceptions about almost everywhere.

Friday, July 10, 2009

25 things, supposedly about me

My cousin just reminded me of this list. It's something I wrote on facebook (I know...) a few months ago. Important update: I now have a harmonica, but in 4 months I haven't learnt how to play it. Oh, well. It's reproduced pretty much verbatim:

1. Let's start off big, why don't we: I have recently come to the conclusion (or maybe what I did recently is phrase a thought I've had for a long time) that I am quite in love with my doubt. I find it very hard to be sure of something, to be totally convinced, to not see the other side of a question. As such, I feel hard-pressed to commit to anything of importance, any single ideology, any major "truth". In fact, my one and only solid belief might be that there's no absolute truth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

FTTN: La ley de montaña

In Omar’s hostel, prompted by a few things that happened in the Torres Del Paine trek, I wrote the following:

All the good will between the guests here at Omar’s, the way people go above and beyond to answer any question and recommendation request (and a lot of times asking is completely unnecessary) about your next destinations, the sharing of food and other stuff while trekking, and most of all the tent-burning incident [super long parenthesis:

Monday, July 6, 2009

God is in the small details, #1

- Crazy coincidence on my first day in Argentina: on the way out of the airport, and Israeli couple that was on the flight from Houston with me asked if I wanted to share a cab into the city. We did, and I found out that besides arriving on the same flight, we booked a place in the same hostel and would fly south on the very same flight to Ushuaia three days later. After Ushuaia, I saw them once more in Torres Del Paine, but that was it. They were on a month long honeymoon in Argentina, so they were moving much faster than me.
- The first mate I drank in Argentina was an extremely non-traditional one: it was mate leaves with orange and mint flavouring, and sugar. In the "cebadora"'s (the one who pours the water and passes it around, usually the host) own words: it's mate for people who don't like mate. And it was in a regular cup (!!!), for Christ's sake.
- Abu Ghosh, a big store in both Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. Abu Ghosh is the name of an Arab town very close to my home in Jerusalem, and when I asked Omar at the hostel where I can buy a notebook and he said "Abu Ghosh", I was very confused.
- Watching "The Big Lebowski" with Spanish subtitles in Omar's hostel. For those of you wondering at home, The Dude is translated as "El Fino".

Torres Del Paine- beginning of Feb. 2008

Puerto Natales, like many other towns and cities I would visit later on, is a small, one-dimensional town. Or, I should say, that is the way in which it is perceived. There’s no doubt that the town’s character and economy are highly influenced by the huge tourist attraction near it: the Torres Del Paine National Park. I’ve heard it said that it is the second most visited national park in all of South America (trailing the Macchu Picchu, of course). I’ve looked for some corroborating evidence for this claim, to no avail. The park is really an amazing place, with calm and stunningly coloured lakes, black and violent mountains (they looked a lot the way I had always imagined Mordor, in Lord of the Rings, would look), huge granite towers, waterfalls, and most impressive of all: 6-7 glaciers, part of an enormous ice field.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Public Transportation: intercity buses in Argentina and Chile

One thing that fascinates me while traveling is public transportation. In fact, it really interests me while at home, too. Exhibit A in this case would be the small short story collection I wrote about bus rides in Jerusalem (very originally named "buses"). But I digress. From time to time I will write a bit about the subject: what you use to travel in different places, how it works, who you meet, etc. So first of in this series are the intercity buses in Argentina (and Chile, which are very similar), that are, in my own humble opinion, shaped by visiting about 3% of the world (that number is completely and entirely made up...) the best in the world.

Ushuaia, end of Jan. 2008

Ushuaia is a very nice city: built on the slopes of beautiful snow-peaked mountains (snow-peaked in summer, snow-filled in winter) that descend into the Beagle Channel, with wooden, colourful, steep-roofed houses, The whole city sits on the land diagonally, with the main streets running straight across the slope and the connecting streets going up (or down… a glass half full/empty thing, I guess) in very steep angles. But a tourist that comes to Ushuaia, sleeps in a hostel (or a hotel… gotta remember that not everybody travels the way I do) in the city center and doesn’t wander off of the main drag, will barely notice the 30+ degree angles the connecting streets take from it.

Buenos Aires, 21-24.1.08

My plan to go on a long backpacking trip in South America surprised me, in a way. Seven months before I arrived in Buenos Aires, in the end of January 2008 (for the first time since living there from ’89 to’95), I was thinking I don’t want to do it. The “big trip” has become a standard of the post-army Israeli, a rite of passage, almost on par with the army and university as life-stages which most Israelis go through. I used to think that I had been out of the country enough, that it was wasteful in money and time, that I didn’t need it or it didn’t attract me, that I preferred starting school and gaining knowledge (what I thought really attracted me… and I might have been right). Aside from that, it is quite obvious to me that not going on a trip was a way of being different, an attempt at being anti-mainstream, a sentiment that’s been part of me for as long as I remember myself, whether it was in movie and music choices, opinions, behaviour, etc.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An introduction of sorts

Well, to my theoretical readers, a small introduction: this blog was mostly conceived as a travel blog, I guess, a place where I would write about stories, places, events and thoughts that occurred during my travels. To start, most of the travel writing will be either translations and expansions of my Hebrew thoughts & impressions notebook, or expansions of the emails I sent my family and friends during the trips. I will probably not restrict myself to writing about traveling, though, and may impose upon you (theoretical beings that you are) posts about music, books, philosophy, random thoughts, or anything else. I will probably not write any sentimental/moody stuff… not really my style.

In my notebook, I kept a small list I called “god is in the little details”, where I wrote small stuff that was interesting, amusing, different, or just noteworthy. Once in a while I’ll add in one of those, probably with an explanation (in my notebook they’re all one-liners). Also, I might note if a post is an ex-email or a notebook entry, just for the hell of it.

In my own very humble opinion, my writing tends to be long-winded, over-parenthesised, often convoluted and way too self-conscious and hermeneutic. I regularly write sentences that are too long and too complex (not the ideas, but the structure), and use words that nobody should use (I guess it makes me feel smart). I also like to self-mock and –criticize (to keep my own intellectual hubris in check, probably). Shit, this sounds pompous as hell. Oh, well… consider yourself warned. I think this paragraph gives a good example of what reading my stuff will be like.

All this, again, is assuming anybody ever reads this. But hey, fuck it, let’s just do this shit. I’m mostly writing for myself anyway. If anybody reads it, cool.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I guess the first instinct (reflex...?) is to explain, expound, reason and generally write, write, write. Instead, I decided to start with a thousand words' worth: maybe my favorite of all the photos I've taken, from Puyuhuapi, in Chile.