Sunday, October 14, 2012

Some quotes from Conrad's Lord Jim

Two that have to do with traveling:
'An outward-bound mail-boat had come in that afternoon, and the big dining-room of the hotel was more than half full of people with a-hundred-pounds-round-the-world tickets in their pockets. There were married couples looking domesticated and bored with each other in the midst of their travels; there were small parties and large parties, and lone individuals dining solemnly or feasting boisterously, but all thinking, conversing, joking, or scowling as was their wont at home; and just as intelligently receptive of new impressions as their trunks upstairs. Henceforth they would be labelled as having passed through this and that place, and so would be their luggage. They would cherish this distinction of their persons, and preserve the gummed tickets on their portmanteaus as documentary evidence, as the only permanent trace of their improving enterprise.'

'We wander in our thousands over the face of the earth, the illustrious and the obscure, earning beyond the seas our fame, our money, or only a crust of bread; but it seems to me that for each of us going home must be like going to render an account. We return to face our superiors, our kindred, our friends—those whom we obey, and those whom we love; but even they who have neither, the most free, lonely, irresponsible and bereft of ties,—even those for whom home holds no dear face, no familiar voice,—even they have to meet the spirit that dwells within the land, under its sky, in its air, in its valleys, and on its rises, in its fields, in its waters and its trees—a mute friend, judge, and inspirer.'

And two that are more about the general condition of man:
' "Mon Dieu! how the time passes!" Nothing could have been more commonplace than this remark; but its utterance coincided for me with a moment of vision. It's extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it's just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome. Nevertheless, there can be but few of us who had never known one of these rare moments of awakening when we see, hear, understand ever so much—everything—in a flash—before we fall back again into our agreeable somnolence.'

' "Marvellous!"[Talking about a butterfly] he repeated, looking up at me. "Look! The beauty—but that is nothing—look at the accuracy, the harmony. And so fragile! And so strong! And so exact! This is Nature—the balance of colossal forces. Every star is so—and every blade of grass stands so—and the mighty Kosmos in perfect equilibrium produces—this. This wonder; this masterpiece of Nature—the great artist."
' "Never heard an entomologist go on like this," I observed cheerfully. "Masterpiece! And what of man?"
' "Man is amazing, but he is not a masterpiece," he said, keeping his eyes fixed on the glass case. "Perhaps the artist was a little mad. Eh? What do you think? Sometimes it seems to me that man is come where he is not wanted, where there is no place for him; for if not, why should he want all the place? Why should he run about here and there making a great noise about himself, talking about the stars, disturbing the blades of grass? . . ." '

Thursday, June 21, 2012

God is in the small details, #5

- People selling "artesanias" absolutely everywhere in Salta. And the winner of most unlikely place goes to the Amphitheater, a small, natural canyon about an hour away from any town, where there were several vendors.
- Redundant names you keep running into in different areas: Laguna Azul/Verde, Garganta del Diablo, etc.
- An old woman in Salta, who told me (with a smile) about how Ushuaia is not for people like her, but for tourists like me, that don't need to work too much for their money (she was quite right, I'd say).
- The story of the musicians in the restaurant in Purmamarca. "It's so touching to see two Bolivians play the Argentinean national anthem with such feeling" (they musicians were Argentinean, but from the far north).
- The cute soldier/policeman on the drive back to Salta, who started a whole spiel about the law regarding seatbelts, which apparently would've been pretty long, and exclaimed "Gracias a Dios" when we told him we don't speak Spanish.
- The hair salon in Salta with the inviting sign outside of it: "Compro Cabello" (I buy hair). Why didn't I sell them some? I had an obvious surplus at that point in time...

FTTN: Mercedes and Ibera- Authenticity

Authentic. How many times do you hear that word during the trip? But is what we, the visitors, call autenthic, really so? And if not, is there anything that is actually authentic? Is there any way to recognize it as such?
An attempt at definition is probably a good start.

FTTN: Puerto Iguazu- Tourist towns

I saw it in many places: a town (or village) whose very existence is linked in steel cables to its tourist attraction. Puerto Natales and Puerto Iguazu are great examples, I think. And they feel right for me as examples, being at opposite edges (of the countries and of my trip), so they somehow encase or include all the others, at least figuratively. The tourist attraction that is next to both these towns casts a very large shadow on anything and everything in them. This includes the names of restaurants, hostels, shops and even streets, photos of the attraction everywhere, many services linked to it, the majority of the townspeople working in something that has to do with it, and last but not least, a sense of local pride (or small-scale patriotism) that you get when talking to locals about the attraction.
I would love to know how residents of Puerto Iguazu really feel about the waterfalls.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Iguazu and Esteros Del Ibera- end of April 2008

When I finally got to Iguazu, after the 24-hour bus, I went to the hostel I had booked. Yeah, I know I've said I never book hostels, but this was a special case. Everybody talks about the amazing Iguazu HI, and I was told it was the only hostel in town and that you have to book in advance. All three claims turned out to be either wrong or semi-true. It's a huge and pretty impressive hostel, probably the biggest I've been in, with a capacity for 220 people, a big pool, ping pong and pool tables, and buffet and BBQ nights. Quite good, but not really my cup of tea. I prefer the smaller places, where you actually get to meet people, instead of kinda swirling around in the general confusion. And it was a bit outside the town, so it was a little difficult to get food, which makes most people take their famous all-you-can-eat meals. Which were not bad, but relatively expensive. 
Anyway, I went to Iguazu for the falls and not the hostel, so... the falls were spectacular. I was expecting spectacular, so it kind of took the edge out of it, but it was still great- the force of it is just... it's hard to describe.

Friday, May 25, 2012

FTTN: Salta and Jujuy- culture and tradition as tourist attractions

You see it in a lot of places, but I guess it was most obvious to me in Salta and Jujuy: the attempt to package and sell the local culture and past to tourists. Whether it's the handcrafts (artesanias), whether native or pseudo-native, in museums, in hostel and restaurant names, in local (or "local") music and dance, etc. I always ask myself how much of it is honest and real, and if it actually conserves the culture or does the exact opposite.
I think that it's generally positive, and I have learnt a lot about the area and the people that live and used to live there, both before and after the Europeans came. But you can't avoid a certain feeling of fakeness, especially when you have all those colourful and highly designed brochures and posters printed on chromo paper and exalting the "real people" or the "autenthic tradition".

FTTN: San Juan-La Rioja- tourism vs. traveling

I assume that if I wrote about this subject right after the visit to Valle de la luna, it would have come out quite different. Lots of negativity about the whole guided tour thing, trying to distance myself and what I usually do from that kind of tourism, etc. But after the tour in Talampaya, only one day later, in which I enjoyed myself quite a bit, I changed my mind. It goes to show how much strong opinions are sometimes fluid and quick to change.
Does the distinction between a tourist and a traveler really exist? Is there even such a thing as a “traveler”? And if there is, which one am I?

Salta & Jujuy- mid-April 2008

Salta, to my, my sister's and probably my dad's surprise, is more than a city full of Bolivian Argentinians (by the way, it's apparently legitimate to say that, since I've heard salteños joke about it themselves). It's quite a big and busy city - which surprised me - and a pretty one too. In fact, the nickname for the city is Salta La Linda, which means Pretty Salta, more or less. It has a big colonial architecture thing going, and they even have a law there that says that in some streets in the center buildings must have colonial facades (similar to the Jerusalem stone law, I guess). Most impressive, as is often the case, are the churches. It seems it's quite popular in Salta to paint the churches in strange combinations of pastel colours, usually using two main colours. There is also a nice pub & nightclub area a bit outside the center, although it's a designated night life area, so there's nothing there besides the clubs and bars. I find that a bit strange, and much prefer places to be interspersed into the "daylife" city. Other notable features are a great succession of plazas (my favorite one had a small lake with ducks and pedal boats), two pedestrian streets which are the commercial center of the town, some good museums and a nice handcraft market on Sunday.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Recipes for Middle Eastern food

One more post of the 'uploading it to link to in the future' variety.

As a rule, I treat every recipe as a recommendation and a place to start from, and not a plan set in stone. Food making is all about improvisation, if you ask me. That being said, this is the general outline of how I make these things- if you think you have a better recipe for any of them, feel free to send it to me. I'm always glad to learn something new.



Tips for Jerusalem and the Dead Sea

These are some generic tips I usually send to Couchsurfers when they're coming to the area. I decided to stop copy-pasting it into CS msgs each time, and just uploading it here instead. This is mostly a travel-blog, after all. If you're not a CSer and you're not in the area, this doesn't concern you much. But of course, you're still welcome to read it...

God is in the small details, #4

Wow, haven't done one of these in a while. So this one will be an extended one.

- Ivana's Tshirt in a hostel in Bariloche, with "es lo que hay" (that's all there is, a common expression in Argentina) printed on the chest.
- Getting into a very deep conversation with three Cordobesas, about all the men that have cheated on them. I had heard that Argentinean men are known for being unfaithful, but man, was that a tough conversation to have ended up in.

FTTN: Fictional email from Jerusalem / A plan / Reduction

[While in Mendoza, my mind was still very much occupied with the issue of tourism, how I perceive the places I visit, and how traveling means constantly having to reduce them into the "main attractions". The next three fragments in the tattered notebook reflect that. In the email I took the liberty to invent some mistakes based on what I think can be common misconceptions. I hope I don't make such blatant mistakes about the places I visit...]

A fictional Email from a tourist visiting Jerusalem

Hey Everybody,
Well, you don't have to worry, I haven't been blown to pieces yet J (I'm just kidding, calm down… it actually feels pretty safe here).