live naked flesh auctions, lasers, smoke machines, a podium, a cage, a dodgy MC, terrible music and of course cows?!?!?!? It must be late night TV Brazilian style

20 April, 2008

Every day we are here, we learn a little bit more about Brazil, late last night for example we switched over to Canal Rural, one of the many local channels (we have four channels solely dedicated to religion alone) to see what looked like a combination of a strip club and a rotary club dinner, a large room was full of tables of blokes dining and drinking, at the front of the room was a large podium, with a cage around it, the room was full of loud music, laser lighting and a lot of smoke and the crowd was pretty excited, of course this had to be something dodgy didn’t it, well it was in fact a live cattle auction. As well as the people there attending, you could also phone in and bid, I was of course tempted, but given the size of our flat I didn’t think that we really had room for family of Brahman cattle beasts. At least it means that Brazilians are going to be among the few other nations in the world that would understand how come “a dog show” could make it onto TV in New Zealand.

So we have been a bit quiet on the blog front for the last couple of weeks, Greg has been focusing on writing his book, which has somewhat taken away the urge to write for fun, but with a long weekend over here and our adventure plans cancelled at the last minute, I now find myself with some time on my hands. So here’s a quick recap of what we have been up to:

Last weekend we headed down to Buenos Aires to watch our friend Robert Lindstedt play in the Davis cup tie between Sweden and Argentina, now we don’t need much excuse to visit BA, it’s one our favourite cities in the world, but we also got the chance this time to celebrate/disrupt the Olympic torch which was a great bonus.
So Greg went and watched the first days play on Friday while Cath worked in the BA office, now the only other time Greg has seen live tennis was watching Robert play in the very civilised atmosphere of Wimbledon, these games turned out to be somewhat different, the Argentines’ hadn’t lost a single match at home in the last five years of Davis Cup, and after spending some time there I think I know why, they have a 15,000 person tennis stadium, and every day there was at least 10,000 argies there, they acted like they were at a soccer match which was great, continually yelling, chanting and screaming, we joined in the very small Swedish supporters group (about 20 of us) but any attempt at a chant or a song was quickly drowned out by the Argentinean supporters, there screaming and yelling was continuous, even the umpires couldn’t shut them up.

So after watching some tennis on Friday I headed down town to try and get amongst the action at the torch relay, now let me explain my politics here, I fully support the Olympic movement, and the right of athletes to compete, but I also think if you are stupid enough to want to host the Olympics, you better make sure you have clean underpants on first, because the whole world is going to be watching. I also think that any non sporting part of the Olympics is fair game for protesting and point raising, so I was glad to get the chance to join in the free Tibet protestors during the torch relay. After watching the “events” in Britain, France and USA, I thought the argies may have clamped down on things when their moment in the spot light came around, but I didn’t expect it to be as heavy handed as it was, it appears that the argentian police don’t focus on the same sort of community policing that we are used to, they more fancied batons and motorbikes as crowd clearing tools. Groups of pro Tibet and Falungong supporters were forcibly dispersed by the police, anyone who waved a Tibet flag or any type of protest was quickly dragged away, and groups of people who congregated to protest were quickly dispersed by groups of police or pro china supporters. As you can see in this shot, by the time the Olympic torch actually arrived, there was no chance of anyone getting through the five lines of protection that the torch had surrounding it.

The great celebration of Olympic spirit (and police brute force)

I have to say though, if China feels a little uncomfortable with people invading it’s parade, imagine how the Tibetans felt when China invaded their country… I did join a group of mainly English backpackers in chanting free Tibet for a brief period of time, but we were again quickly dispersed by a large mob of pro china supporters, these people were a bit of comedy in themselves, nothing says organic community based support like having absolutely everyone wearing matching red jackets now does it?

Pro china supporters – I wonder who funded these smashing jackets?

But it was great to see people making their protests in their own way – something that is just not possible in Tibet:

Libre Tibet!


So after that adventure I caught up with Cath and we headed out for another beautiful feast of Argentinean meat, after this trip there is no doubt, they have the best beef in the world….
Saturday we went to watch Robert play his doubles game with Jonas Bjorkman against the fairly impressive pairing of Guillermo Canas and David Nalbandian and 10,000 of their supporters. Though Robert had a great game, it didn’t go their way, and they went down to the Argies 5-7, 4-6, 4-6. Here are some shots of Robert and Jonas in the game:

Robert Lindstedt

Robert and Jonas

And you think you had a bad day at work, imagine this feeling…

On the Sunday we headed back to SP, where we are now, enjoying a nice quiet long weekend at home in BA, but planning our next set of adventures.
A quick update on work from us both, Caths work continues to go great, she is making a name for herself over here and already delivering some great results in LatAm, I think there is a good chance they will try and adopt her at the end of the 6 months. Gregs book continues to roll along, with 100 of the 350 pages submitted, Greg is realising just how hard it is to write a book, the first chapter was a complete nightmare, but now he is settled into something of a rhythm, so hopefully the chapters will start to flow a bit faster!
That’s all for now. Over and out of here.
Lots of love,
Greg and Cath

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Buenos Aires, a city so cool, even a cheesy Tango show can’t ruin it.

19 March, 2008

Sorry for the delay in posting, we have our first visitors in town, Craig and Janine have come over for Easter from London, so entertaining my real friends has to take priority over my virtual friends!

So on Wednesday last week, we flew from Santiago to Buenos Aires, only 2 and half hours (yay) and we arrived in BA, Argentina. Now everyone who has been to Latin America raves about BA, so I of course went in with low expectations preparing myself for something of a let down, and initially I was lucky I did, our hotel was crap, a very inauspicious start to our time in Argentina. But on the Thursday morning I walked Cath to work, and my impression started to change, the centre of the city is nice, sure its a bit grungy, but on a LA scale, its pretty nice, wide pedestrian streets, beautiful architecture, and lots of cool shops.

Our first meal was greatly anticipated, we were finally going to get to eat the famous Argentine steak in Argentina! So I course opted for the lamb, having growing up in New Zealand I am still of the firm belief that the king of meats is definitely lamb, good lamb being way better than good steak anyday. And I wasn’t disappointed, the lamb racks (yep they like big serves over here) were awesome, massively awesome and tastefully awesome too.

So Cath went off and did some work and I sat in the hotel trying to get on top of my book – without much success. Cath had a meat-fest work dinner that night with some work mates, and I had room service (more super sized serves of meat of course), now an interesting claim to fame for Argentineans is that they eat their evening meal the latest of any culture in the world, even a business dinner is usually scheduled for 10:30 or later, and in the weekends the restaurants don’t even open till 10:00pm.

Friday after work we checked out of our crap hotel into a really nice hotel, and got ready to go watch Tango!!!!!

Now every country has something that’s its world famous for outside the country, but that maybe not so famous in the country for locals, in New Zealand it’s going to watch a sheep shearing show (wow wee how exciting is that), in Australia it’s going to Australia Zoo to feed a kangaroo (never mind the kangaroos are so overfed they struggle to stand up) in England it’s going to Madam Tussauds world of wax (where American tourists go to have their photos taken beside wax figurines of famous Americans – how English is that)?

So in Argentina the thing that every tourist has to do is go and watch a Tango show!!!!! Cath asked her workmates for some local info, not a single one of the people in her office had ever been to a Tango show, but they tried to help out anyway, booking us into a dinner and show evening at Senor Tango – “the biggest and most famous Tango show in the world” their words not mine.

We got picked up in a shuttle bus and shuttled our way across town to the superdome of tango tackiness. We were quickly seated (with a nice couple from Italy and another from Puerto Rico) and the waiter straight away took great pains to explain that we could pay by visa, mastercard, or usd – straight away we got the panic urge, you know you are in for trouble if the first thing they tell you is how to settle the bill – before you even know what it is your getting.

But being brave and adventurous souls we fought the urge to run and settled our nerves with a bottle or three of cheap wine. The show started off well with a couple of horses (that didn’t even try and tango) and what appeared to be a brief interpretive dance version of the history of Argentina, I am amazed that so many of the first settlers and indigenous tribes women had such massive fake breasts, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!!! Then we got some shorts bursts of very good tango dancing interspersed with a flying plastercast of an accordion player, a 20 minute long accordion solo, some of those annoying blokes with pan pipes playing some of Kenny G’s worst hits, some really badly cooked Argentinean steaks, 2 more minutes of tango dancing, identical twins with large noses belting out some classic Argentinean love songs, a 10 minute piece of soft porn which involved a whole lot of g-string clad dancers writhing all over each other, a 20 minute piano solo, another 2 minutes of tango dancing, then to “finish” the evening off the whole troupe got together on stage and murdered “don’t cry for me Argentina” (now there’s not many times in my life that I wished I was at a Madonna concert, but this was one of them). Then finally it was all over, we jumped in another shuttle bus and headed back to our hotel room for a stiff drink or five. Now I have heard that there are some really good Tango shows in BA, and I really don’t doubt it, we saw loads to beautiful tango dancing in the market on Sunday morning, and friends have been to some nice authentic shows, I think we just ended up in the worst of the lot. Lesson learned…

But apart from that experience our weekend in BA was great, we walked around the old town, ate some giant steaks, spent an afternoon shopping (it’s really really cheap and stylish), visited some old buildings, ate some more steak and spent a morning wandering around an antiques market and watching the world go by.

So our summary of BA was that it’s a great city, what Santiago had in nice, orderly and clean, BA had in funky, dynamic and exciting.

So we are back in Sao Paulo now till Friday when we fly to Campo Grande for four nights in the Pantanal, a massive wetland (195,000 square kilometres (75,000 sq mi), thats about the size of England, Scotland and Wales combined where we are going to do some piranha fishing, try and catch the worlds largest guinea pig the Capybara and try and spot a jaguar.

So till after then, see ya’ll later and hope ya’ll have a cracking good Easter wherever in the world you are!!!!