April 12, 2009
Bluntly, there is no other way to express where I have been the past six months besides the words: “I screwed up.”
In a nutshell, I suddenly abandoned my healthy readership, and disappeared into my supposed alibi consisting of sad excuses of overloading homework and events. I took a break, fiddled with a possible culturedecoded.com, and ended up less than I started with. And although I understand that most likely some of you — my readers — may not read my work again, I want to apologize for my naive pause from blogging and come back just as I left Culture Deocded.
An overwhelming amount of events have occurred in the political world as I have left, and I want to discuss them as soon as possible. A President Barack Obama has taken countless actions to bring the free world back to where it once was, some of which I disagree with and some of which I agree with. Iraq has remained a focal point in the middle east, and there is still question in the air over when american troops will really pull out. Somalian pirates have put a fixture in the previously quiet Gulf of Aden, and America is torn over what actions should be taken. The president has purchased a long awaited dog, and Vice President Biden has taken swings at Karl Rove, and the press is taking sides.
As far as the status of the blog, I encourage all of you visiting and returning to leave comments on what you think about the issue at hand. A successful blog is not just written by the author, but by its readers, and if you contribute, there will be very interesting conversations for a long time.
So without further ado, I will continue where I left off, and work as hard as possible to initiate political discussions that will benefit everyone.
September 12, 2008
Recently returned from South America, I checked up on a local news source that I visited in Argentina (I’d link but its all in Spanish), only to alarm myself with the news of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and his threat to America via expelling our ambassador and threatening to shut off oil supply. As an average American, I took it seriously, but was very appalled by the fact that it was not even noticeable in the New York Times or on CNN. In my opinion, this is serious news that should put a halt to the elections, for at least a few hours if not for the day.
August 13, 2008
After two weeks in South America, daily reminders that I’ve been spoiled keep presenting themselves. But I had always thought that the skiing would be different. Trust me, after all that time I spent on vallenevado.com, many assuring thoughts entered my mind. The pictures on the site described not a resort, but a huge central lodge surrounded by mountains on all sides blanketed with powder, much like a volcano inside out (if you remember your 6th grade geometry). But after a rather frightening one and a half hour drive, which had more traverses than the Yankees have pennants, I was getting a bit skeptical. So as far as the actual skiing: I’ll quote Andy Roddick here: “It was horrible, it sucked. Otherwise it was great.”
My point is the skiing here is not an exception to my spoiled points. The snow quality wasn’t great (I ski in Utah so that’s another world in itself), there was only one high speed lift, and to top it off it was extremely overcast which probably got me into a bad mood. But besides that, it was great.
What I mean by this is the resort itself has great potential. First off, let me say Valle Nevado has a lot of terrain. South American ski resorts have a different mentality than the ones in the States and Canada — there are no rope lines. Everything out of the groomed runs are at your own risk, and that’s great. You don’t get your lift passes clipped from you, and most of the non-groomers end up at a lift, plus its a ghost town anywhere away from a groomed slope. But it’s not like you should stay away from the off-piste though, its amazing. Sadly we came too late (3 days after the storm) so we only found patches of the untracked stuff left. Here’s the video — bare with me on the on music…
But if you get bored with all the huge area that Valle Nevado offers, don’t worry — you have access to two other great resorts: La Parva and El Colorado — which border Nevado on both sides. So with a clear day and powder, you can have the day of your life here. And hopefully that’s what I am going to get in a matter of days — the weather man is calling for a meter of fresh snow. By that time I will be skiing in the famous Portillo resort, entirely in another direction. And hopefully then I will be able to see beyond a few feet in front of me. Well, we’re excited — I am writing this in the car smack dab in the center of Santiago our two hour pilgrimage to Portillo.
August 6, 2008
After a full day here in Argentina, you could say I got more of a feel for the city. One of the things I mistaked from the posh hotels and grand avenues is that when you get deep into the city, it gets more and more Western. As I surfed the sidewalk with my family for a SIM card for my dad´s hacked iPhones, I discovered many things about Buenos Aires. During the day, a thick mist smothers the street. Pollution is not new to me (I live in Los Angeles), but I didn´t notice this the night before, and I always imangined Buenos Aires and Santiago to be very clean. And another thing that was new to me is the different cars. The only American car I could find was a rare Chevy, but besides that, they were all very European cars like Fiat. There was also one car that I had never seen before, the logo on the gril looked like this — /// — (picure coming soon).
As far as technology, you can say that South America is part of the Windows kingdom. This became known as soon as soon as I exited the boat, with all the security and airport computers being Windows 98. Then 30 seconds after we left the airport, a Microsoft skyscraper came into view. There is little hope here for die-hards mac geeks like me and faroZ01.
So after one day in Buenos Aires, a lot has changed in my opinion, but all for the better.
August 6, 2008
Although they are only separated by a river, Buenos Aires and Montevideo are like New York and South Africa. Compared to Montevideo, Buenos Aires is much larger and more modern, with a very European feel to it. There are a lot more English speaking people and directions, so that is always a good sign. But even though the city is huge and spacious — and cluttered with gigantic skyscrapers — it still has a very Spanish feel to it. My point? If you took a picture of one of the streets here and gave it to anyone, they would guess it was somewhere in Spain.
We are staying at the Alvear hotel, and I think it means posh in Spanish. I would conclude that this hotel is like the Four Seasons, with diamond studs falling off of it. My room has a bright red floor, two bathrooms (thats intense), posh couches, three high-definition televisions (one above the bathtub), and the most comfortable bed in the universe (besides mine at home). And don’t think we just picked the coolest hotel we could find — on the drive from the airport, I didn’t see one hotel on the way that wasn’t a skyscraper.
We are staying in Buenos Aires for about five days, and we have plenty to do here. My mom (the master scheduler) has set up a lot of cool things to do. These include some tennis for me (I am a tournament player that hasn’t played since I left) on the famous Argentine red clay, a sports event (probably a soccer game) and a few museums, which I can live with if I can bring my computer.
Although I must admit I am most looking forward to Chile because of my love for the Mountains, you could say I am not getting the full Argentine experience because we aren’t exploring outside of Buenos Aires, which is basically on the Eastern edge of Argentina. I will almost be back here when I ski in Portillo, Chile in a week, (it is almost on the border) but besides that I will be missing the “Argentina Andes” experience. I bet the rest of Argentina is awesome and much different that this Barcelona-like city, but I guess you can’t cover South America entirely in two weeks, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
I’m excited to be here in Buenos Aires and I’ll keep posting as long as interesting stuff keeps happening (which it has a habit to do).
August 2, 2008
As soon as I landed in Uruguay, I knew it was different than the rest. Right after you finish immigration customs, you’re forced to walk through a superstore with over 1,000 perfumes, with everything from a car to tennis rackets on sale. The store was gigantic, somehow reminding me of the gold-lined gambling rooms that you must walk through on the way to your hotel room. But besides the store, the airport was anything but massive. The baggage claim room was packed full of Uruguayans, airport employees, soldiers, and hidden cameras, so I dared not take any pictures. One thing I noticed that proved to separate Uruguay from the rest of South America was the influence on technology. I’ve seen many more mobile phones and computers here in Uruguay than Lima and Santiago combined.
Driving to where we are going to stay for the next three days, I really got a feel from the average streets and marketplaces. It is the equivalent to the USA’s February, so it is about 40 to 50 degrees here. The streets look dark and abandoned from the outside, but once inside a flower store, I was given the full warm welcome. I’ve been given the impression that because of the season, more people are staying inside. It was beautiful when we passed a long stretch of abandoned beach (in the gallery above) with towering apartments overhead. This place fits the puzzle piece more on your average South American city during the winter, which I didn’t exactly see in Lima and Santiago. The Spanish and Italian influence here is huge, and because of that, I haven’t seen many Americans around. We are here in Montevideo for another two days until we take a boat to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
August 2, 2008
As far as the airport, tourism is definitely a huge income. Walking down the narrow hallways, you are surrounded by tourist shops with everything from gummy bears to the Easter Island statues advertised. My mom was eventually lured into one, and I had to follow. You can see the pictures above. The entire shop was in English – even the magazines were all American. And the customers – well, you would think you were in California. My mom ended up buying some food and a few tourist items, and I bought a white cap with penguins on it reading: Pinguinos de Chile. Why? After officially becoming a tourist, I had to look the part. And to solidify I was American, I wore it backwards.
August 2, 2008
For the first time in my life it feels weird to be American. As a kid, I’ve always
‘thought of South America as a vast continent scattered with small towns comprised of tents and longhouses, and the cities would be much less than what we have in the states. Why the heck did I think that? Is it because I’m tired after a ten-hour flight, or is it because I’m American, and that’s what we’re supposed to think. I’d guess it’s both. So here I am in the capital of Peru’s airport during a 30-minute refueling break for a plane bound for Santiago, Chile. It’s a strange sensation; I can’t read or understand a word that’s spoken or written, and I’m fascinated by it. This is the first place I have ever been where I am the lone American, surrounded by South American people who don’t give a tomato that I speak English and walk around like a tropical parrot in the North Pole. In fact, everyone around me seems kind of disgusted. They’ve probably been through this drill before, and I can relate to that. Heck, whenever I’m trotting around the Los Angeles Airport, which is my home for the weekends, I’m disgusted to see foreigners speaking other languages and getting completely lost. I just want to shout: “Can’t you see the signs!” Gee, I’m so American.
So here I am, sitting in a Spanish smoking bar, music blaring all around me, my lungs half full with second-hand smoke, sitting in front of a computer that has free internet, but because I forgot almost all my Spanish from second grade, I can’t read a thing on the screen. I knew that was going to come back and haunt me. I’m in somewhere totally foreign to me, thousands of miles away from home, and – as an intense traveler — my worst dream has come true: I, the local, has become the tourist. I have lost the battle with myself to overcome being in such a different place and act like I live here. The only thing I am familiar with here is a Hannah Montana backpack worn by a 10 year old Disney fan sitting to my left. God, Disney’s marketing is genius. So, here I am, surrounded by Peruvian people, in a smoking bar in a South American airport. And it feels tiring, enraging, and good at the same time. I’ve only spent 10 minutes here, and Peru is unique.
Note: Since I ended up being too stupid to even try to get internet, I typed this in Peru, but it will probably be published whenever I get internet, so don’t get freaked out because of the different times. And don’t tell me I’ve overlooked Peru, because I have…I’ve only visited the airport for a refueling stop. If you want a full review of a South American city, try to read my first impressions of Montevideo, Uruguay, which I’ll write when I arrive there later today.