Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Great Continental Divide

Quick reminder - Argentina is the southern most country in South America, below Brazil in the east and bordering Chile to the west and Bolivia and Paraguay to the north and east again. South America, refers to the continent of South America, right? Actually, no... you see, it depends.

After hanging out one night at The Shamrock Pub in Recoleta last week, the continental dividing issue reared its ugly head in casual conversation with a couple of local porteñas asking me where I was from.

Geography Pop Quiz: How many continents are there? But wait... for all of you people up there in North America that just answered SEVEN, we, you're fellow Americans down here in SOUTH America classify Argentina as part of just - America. Argentines are taught that there are FIVE continents NOT including Antarctica.

The online site (Random House Unabridged, 2006) gives this definition of continent - "one of the main landmasses of the globe, usually reckoned as seven in number (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica)."

Several variations and definitions on how to define and count the continents exist. The best resource I've found is this excellent wikipedia article, saying that there are three models, five, six and SEVEN continents in the world.

One of my biggest shifts in perspective after having lived outside of the United States for over a year now is that I'm beginning to feel much more like a citizen of the world as opposed to my country of nationality - USA. Nationality in the 21st century has to be seen globally - perceptively speaking - IMHO.

And what's up with Europe getting classified as a continent when the land mass continues into Asia? Again, it depends on your perspective, whether you're a geographer and see India as a separate continent, a plate tectonics expert looking beyond the visible land mass or grew up in Latin America which considers itself simply as American.

And what does it mean to be an American? Down here in South America, we feel just as American as those who think that being American means people from the United States only, surely a bit limited in perspective, no? Sure, we've all probably thought about this at one point or another on some trip somewhere (ie - is Central America part of North or South America)?

But when it comes up in the context of dividing continents for Argentines, they get very upset when I merely communicate that we in the U.S. learn there are SEVEN continents. They immediately and quite obviously perturbed answer back - "NO, you Yankee's can't go dividing up America. We're the SAME as you!" You see how this gets complicated? Also, in Spanish, the correct term for someone that is from the United States is Estado Unidense, literally a citizen from the United States. And there lies the dichotomy - there is no equivalent word in English - we just say American.

* - the photos above were both taken at the Valle de la Luna National Park in the North of Argentina on a trip with Dave and Mei last year.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yo Tomo

"Tomo para no enamorarme. Me enamoro para no tomar." La Bersuit Vergarabat

IMHO (in my humble opinion) Bersuit is the best band in Argentina. Thanks for that tip Burro.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Sheltering Argentine Sky

Laying on the couch, sweating my ass off from what feels like – from what I’ve read recently – Dengue fever, the afternoon wind lightly rustling the broad leaves of the twin palms out in the center of the courtyard patio, just cracking open David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest for the first time (very self-indulgent at 1,079 pages) and my lovely but sometimes slightly nutty neighbor Natalia nearly startles me to death as she enters the room through the door that has been left open to help cool this fever, standing there backlit and basking in the evening South American sunshine.

“May I store a suitcase in your place for just an hour… till Web gets here? The police may show up at my place any second now,” she adds matter-of-factly, in that lower-class London accent of hers, emphasis on second.

“What’s in the suitcase?” I ask, out of curiosity more than anything.

“Oh… just papers and such from the office, nothing much,” she replies with a devilish school-girl smile.

I chide her about making her whole international lawyer conspiracy drama into much more than it really is and the fact that her apartment won't be searched and she won't be hauled off to jail. She agrees.

Off she waltzs and I go back to the boat-anchor of a book to stave off boredom while sweating off this nasty fever and sore body. I had just finished Graham Greene's The Honorary Consul, set on the scenic shores of Corrientes, Argentina up on the Rió Paraná (1) across from Paraguay - the honorable Dr. Eduardo Plarr and of course the 'honorary' consul himself - Señor Charley Fortnum and his 'shipmasters measures' of whiskey. The first time I tried to read it I had put it down in disgust after 40 or 50 pages, not enjoying the writing style at all. No sense of place - I've been to Corrientes, spent the night there with Sam Slaughter on the way to Paraguay once - but now, the writing seemed too formal, dry... British. But the second time I picked it up I could hardly set it down and thoroughly enjoyed it, my first by Graham Greene.

Mr. Foster Wallace on the other hand, that's my contemporary meta-fiction guy. Two percent of the way into the book and I know I like it, maybe not quite as much if I didn't like tennis but probably still so. Its like a giant never-ending lollie pop as opposed to something not only just long but truly remarkable such as Gravity's Rainbow or even Don Quixote for that matter. I don't know. But I'm gonna make the time.

Natalia comes back in wheeling this enormous, larger than life GIANT roller suitcase, almost as big as herself, and carefully stands it up in the corner, all luggage and ID tags removed.

"So how you feelin' then?" she asks, looking at my pathetic figure sinking deeply into the couch. "Not so hot, eh?" pun probably not intended.

1 - These pictures were taken on a short road trip to Rosário, which is also along the Río Paraná but much closer to Buenos Aires than Corrientes.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Nothing to say, really… and I’ve got no new interesting photos to post either. I can say that I think the worst of the minor aches and pains and scratches from the car crash – more mental than anything I suppose - are over. And supposedly I get to pick up my repaired 17-40 f/4 wide angle zoom lens AND flash today from the authorized Canon service center here in Buenos Aires - $130USD out the door - cheaper than insurance!

Also, Boca Juniors soccer team lost last night during penalty kicks to their famous BA rivals – River. Other than that, I am both very thankful and relieved that these January mishaps are finally over and now its time to move on to February 2007… and happy 74th birthday Pop!