Monday, February 21, 2011

BYE BYE SOUTH AMERICA !!!.... and thank you for teaching me so much...

Today is the last day of my one-year and 3 weeks South American adventure; this afternoon I am boarding a plane to London. I will change twice: in Bogota' and in Madrid, and I will arrive in Heathrow on Tuesday, 22nd of February 2011. Total time of the trip: 20 hours, approximate distance: 9287 km, cost: 644 pounds. 
How do I feel about it? I feel very sad. Sad because the trip was such a big life lesson for me that I am not sure if I get a chance to have another one like this in the future. I am thinking a lot about my return to Europe, preparing my mind and body to my London life. Am I going to be happy or unhappy when I am back??... this question bothers me every day. I am determined to be happy, no matter what.

In the picture: my host family in Santa Marta (without father and one son).
My last set of pictures from South America:
Santa Marta

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Some very honest conclusions of my trip

Places of natural beauty I loved in my trip:
The Amazon river and jungle on the Brazilian side and the Uyuni desert in Bolivia (both incredible and magic places).

Cities I liked the most on the continent:
Caracas in Venezuela, Medellin in Colombia (they are very similar, both located in a valley and surrounded by mountains) and Buenos Aires (very beautiful and spacious, with many things to do).

Places of sentimental value for me (mainly because I was dancing a lot in there):
Porto Seguro in Brazil (the world capital of lambada zouk), Cali in Colombia (the world capital of a very particular style of salsa), Buenos Aires in Argentina (the South American capital of everything :)).

Places I didn't like the most: some cities in Brazil. I felt very lonely and excluded from groups of people because I don't drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or go to disco clubs. For this reason I wasn't able to make friends (but at other times in other countries my social life was blooming).

One thing that shocked me right from the beginning of my trip: the level of violence and crime in South America, something I have never seen or experienced before in my life, and level of poverty.

Feeling I hated in my trip: being treated by local people like a millionaire just because I live in Europe, and being used for this reason.

Something that surprised me a lot: very many excellent doctors, dentists and plastic surgeons. Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia are masters in plastic surgery and beauty procedures, the level of it is much higher than in Europe. There is a big emphasis on esthestics in these countries and many  people look good for this reason.

Another thing is that it's not only difficult for South Americans to visit Europe due to visa and immigration problems. It's also sometimes difficult for the people from Europe or North America to cross borders or stay in one country for a long time. I had "interviews" at few borders, I think it was caused by their concern that I was involved in a cocaine trade or prostitution (but do I really look that suspicious??...). I know foreigners who married locals to stay in South America. Before I thought that this business was happening only in well developed countries.

The past year was extraordinary for me. Before I handled my resignation letter at work I couldn't sleep for a week. Quitting job helped me to understand one important thing: if you quit, the world is not going to end and you are not going to die, as I thought before. Therefore, I feel stronger because I made this huge step.
I put all my stuff in plastic boxes, sold my car, said goodbye to all my friends, and I left. Now, a day before my return, I have to say that I don't regret my decision at all. I learnt so much about life, people, places... it's something you will never learn by reading books or watching TV. I was almost killed several times but I survived and I hope that this experience will change my life for the better too.
Initially I thought about calculating how much money I have spent in the whole trip. Well, I always put an amount I spent in my blog when I was leaving a country. Now I think that my trip has been PRICELESS and it doesn't matter how much I have spent. You can make this trip "cheap" if you stay with Couch Surfers as I did and if you are very careful how you spend your money.

Little records of my trip:
I spent only 8 nights in hotels in a year and 3 weeks, all the rest were houses of local Couch Surfing people
In 9 months, after visiting 9 Spanish speaking countries, my Spanish advanced from non-existent to fluent
I wore 1 pair of jeans and 1 swimming costume all year round :)
I was very close to death several times, and once... I died. (see Cusco in Peru section).

Why I am happy about coming back home:
I will see my wonderful friends
I will dance lambada zouk again
I will wear my beautiful dresses, shoes and handbags :)

Why I am not happy about coming back home:
well... the weather in England...
hunting for a new job
leaving people behind, for example: Orlando and others from Cali, Renato from Rio de Janeiro, Adriana from Fortaleza, Hernan from Caracas, Nehomar and his wonderful family from Maracaibo, Marco from Maracaibo, Carmen and Claudia from Santa Marta, Silvia from Medellin, Christian from Guayaquil, Marco from Lima, Rosalia from La Paz, Familia Encalada from Calama, Carlos from Santiago de Chile, José from Mendoza, Crisitan from Córdoba, Hernan from Buenos Aires, Daniela from Buenos Aires, Rafael from Montevideo, Nicolas from Maldonado, Diana from Asunción and many others.... Thank you my angels for helping me feel good in this trip.
I have been hosted by so many people that I can't list them all here. I am sorry for this.... but I will always remember ALL of you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yesterday we didn't go out. I was tired after swimming in the sea all day and then buying presents in a huge shopping centre. José and Arturo showed me a video and a TV programme they made about modern music people listen to in Colombia. It was very interesting as I thought that apart from salsa, vallenato, Pacific and Andean music (and other traditional music) people don't listen to anything else. The brothers are very talented and creative, I hope that one day they will be successful.
This morning we went to another beach, situated 30 minutes by bus from Santa Marta. The beach is called Pleno Mar. It's wonderful, it's my favourite beach near Santa Marta so far, with few people on it (in the picture), because tourists don't know about the place.
In the evening we met my Colombian friend Rocio. We went to Toto salsa bar, one of two salsa places in the town. The music was good although the sound system was really bad (Cali would never accept such a low quality of sound). The place was nice and very traditional, and beer was cheap.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I had an interesting conversation with Jose' about my favourite subject: guerrilla. He and Arturo made a short film about it, about a young man who joined the Colombian army. Soldiers get paid if they kill a guerrilla member so they kill innocent people, put gerrilla's clothes on them and claim it to get money. Of course you can't talk about it openly; in the film mother of the young man asks him to give up the army. The message is hidden but everyone knows why she does it as there is blood on her son's uniform. I am happy I can talk about things like this with the brothers, there are many people in the country who deny the reality.

Last night we went to a district called Citadela to find a salsa club. It wasn't possible because there was only vallenato music in all the clubs and bars. This part of the country listens mostly to this kind of music, which I like too.
Today I spent all day at the sea again. First I went to the Rodadero Aquarium which was great, I saw a lot of species of fish and sea animals (in the picture: dolphins show). Then I went quickly to a famous White Beach (Playa Blanca) and then I spent some time on the beautiful Rodadero beach. The Caribbean Sea is just amazing... water is transparent and it's so peaceful....
Here is a next set of my pictures:
My last weeks in Cali

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I went to Taganga beach yesterday and today (in the picture). I noticed that something changed about me, something I like. I have always been a beach lover, frying my body whenever I could without any sun blocker, to get brown quicker. The hotter a country was, the longer I stayed in the sun. So here I am - on the wonderful Taganga beach and I don't care at all if I am going to suntan or not. I just don't care... and I can't believe it. I still love the sea and swimming, I am glad it hasn't changed.

Yesterday I visited my ex-hosts Carmen and Claudia. I stayed with them for two weeks in May. I had a lot of fun with the girls as they were determined to find me a boyfriend. As soon as I arrived in Santa Marta in May, their male friends started calling me and inviting out, ha ha ha... unfortunately I didn't like any of them. It looks like the girls haven't changed a bit since my last visit. What has changed is that now that I can have a normal conversation with them as I speak Spanish.
Regarding my host family, their dog is dying and I am so sad witnessing this. He is 15 years old, blind and deaf. He can hardly walk and seems to be in pain, and he walks around the house bumping into objects.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Santa Marta

Santa Marta is my last stop before flying back home on Monday. Cali - Santa Marta: 1170 km, 2.5 hours on 2 planes, cost: 60 pounds. I changed in Bogota'. The airport in the capital is the worst one I have seen in my life. The last time they lost my luggage, this time we were waiting 2 hours to board the plane. Yeimmy who is a stewardess and flies a lot in the country, confirmed that. I think it will have to change soon as Bogota' is the centre of economic activity in the country and the airport should represent it.
It's amazing that in Colombia you have so many altitudes. In Cali the temperature is perfect, in Bogota' it was cold and now in Santa Marta it's hot.
Anyway... I luckily arrived in the town and I took a taxi to the family house of my hosts Jose' and his brother Arturo. Jose' studies journalism and he works for the local television. Arturo studies cinematography and he wants to make a film or to do something to develop Colombian cinema, little known in the world at the moment.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I organised Valentine's Day party on 14th of February. I was surprised that so many people came as they don't celebrate it here, and it was also raining. When it rains in Cali, the social life stops. I was told that people don't like going out in the rain. Hmmm... if we were like this in London, we would never go out... :)
Colombia celebrates Day of Love and Friendship on the third Saturday of September and it's much more important for them than 14th of February. I asked people to wear red clothes at the Valentine's Day party and we did bbq on Alejandro's roof. I had a great time and it was my last opportunity to see my friends in Cali and to say goodbye to them.
This afternoon I am flying to Santa Marta.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It was Wilber's birthday yesterday. Wilber was my first host in Cali six months ago and then we were renting rooms in the same family house in Loma La Cruz. He is one of the people who do things for you and they never expect anything in return. He helped me a lot at the beginning of my stay in the city and for this reason I I had to go to his party, which was a lot of fun anyway.
Today I have been relaxing all day. I washed Argus the dog and had crabs for dinner, they were huge and beautifuly blue (in the picture). However eating crabs was a nightmare as usual.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I am writing down the last conclusions of my trip to South America. So many things are coming to my mind... and so many memories.
Yesterday we went to El Farro bar as it was birthday of Diego from Couch Surfing (us in the picture). After that we went to Tin Tin Deo, it was my last time in the club as the next week I am going to Santa Marta in the north of Colombia. I want to spend my last days in South America on the beach. Yes, I am sad because leaving places and people behind is something I am not good at. I have been doing it for the last 12 months, I have been sad and feeling emotional too many times.
My dental treatment has also finished today after 6 weeks of constant dentist visits. All my teeth are fixed now and their appearance improved a lot.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yesterday Yeimmy invited me to a hairdresser. I wanted to go anyway at the end of my trip so she did it right on time. The hairdresser was expensive but very good. He looked at me for a few seconds and then cut my fringe on the other side of my forehead than all my hairdressers in the past did. Was this the secret to make me look beautiful? ha ha ha...
At night I met Orlando but this meeting was not a success again. There was a lower-class lady in the street who offended me verbally and I couldn't stay quiet. I had to tell her that you don't offend people you don't know in the street. He was very upset because of my reaction, he prefered that I stayed quiet and carried on our conversation as if nothing happened. Unfortunately I couldn't do this and what's more, I expected him to defend me and in the first place to say something to this lady before I did. His behaviour hurt me a lot.

This morning I had my permanent makeup done (cost: 50 pounds). I had it done in London before but it was semi-permanent, with use of an anaesthetic cream which didn't ease the pain much and it cost 250 pounds. Today it wasn't painful at all because they injected me anaesthetic in the eyelids and under eyes which made half of my head loose feeling. The procedure lasted 40 minutes only (comparing to London: 3 sessions, 3 hours each session). However, the impact of the injections was so big that I came back home and I slept for three hours without my earplugs, in the noise coming through the widow - something I could never do otherwise.
I can't stop admiring how all the beauty procedures are developed here and how many good specialists the South American countries have (especially Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia). Cosmetitians, dentists, hairdressers - they all can easily transform you. Especially dentists were a surprise for me, in Europe they just fix the problem. Here they also focus on how to make your face look better. For example Yeimmy had an operation three years ago. Her teeth are small so her dentist said that with longer teeth she would look better, and he pulled the gums away. After the operation she looks amazing.
In the picture with my wonderful dentist Diana, last but one visit in her dental studio. My red under eye circle is a result of the makeup aneasthetic injection.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I have finally booked my flight to London. It was very expensive, and what I found out after days of searching is that flights from London to South America are cheaper than flights from SA to London. Hmmm... So I am going back, it's hard to believe that my trip is about to finish.
On Friday we went to La Fuente bar and on Saturday to a birthday party of Orlando friend's friend. The salsa party was organised in a huge house and there were many guests. They were dancing in the house and outside in the street too. We were dancing a lot of choke. I love the dance and I am going to teach it to my friends in London because I am sure you won't find a club where you can find it in Europe, not yet.
On Sunday we were supposed to go to Jarmundi to a friend's cottage for bbq but unfortunately Orlando didn't wake me up on time and we missed it. I spent all day with Orlando talking about our habits and trying to find out why we can't understand each other's behaviour.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I am planning my return to London on the 21st of February, when my Colombian visa expires. I don't want to travel any more, I am tired now. I also need a mental challange which is difficult to find in Colombia. What I mean by this is a productive conversation, about good and bad things in life (here people avoid talking about bad things).

Yesterday Orlando's nephew (who is two years younger than him) organised a farewell party. He lives in Italy and he is going back this evening. We went to a salsa club called Nuvo. I liked the place but I didn't like the music, it was too slow for me. I was told that this kind of music people dance to in Buenaventura on the coast, and they dance very closely. This is how Orlando and his brothers (who were born in Buenaventura) dance. In the picture: his cousins.
95 per cent of people in the club were black. I have been to clubs in Cali where almost everyone was black or where I was the only white person, which was an unusual experience.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yeimmy sleeps by the window, and her flat is situated on the first floor. Three times in the past she woke up in the middle of night because there was a hand sticking in through the window and searching for something valuable. Luckily there are metal bars in the window so the man couldn't enter the flat, he could only believe in being lucky to grab something profitable. But it was sleeping Yeimmy who got the hand on her head and as soon as she realised what was happening, she shouted loudly. The person immediately run away. Can you imagine this happening to you??? Yeimmy didn't report it to the police because this is kind of normal thing in Colombia...
Yesterday I met my friend DJ Ara. He opened a hotel two months ago. The hotel is very nice, with many pictures of famous salsa singers on the walls. We talked for ages and then he invited me home for a dinner cooked by his wife. We talked a lot about subject which interests me very much at the moment - where I want to live in the future. Ara lived in London for 5 years, he hates the city. He also lived in Rio de Janeiro, and now in Cali. He and his wife are planning to come back to Rio, city they love. Well, I was reflecting on this. I think I love London, just that I need to organise my life better when I am back. However, I don't want to live in London forever. I love sea and I want to live by a beach. I love Buenos Aires however it takes one hour to get to the seaside, like from London to Brighton. Living happily is what I want when I am back. I wasn't happy in my last year in London, there is why I began my South American adventure, to change something. I ask myself every day now: has something changed through my trip?????

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1 year has gone....

I left London on the 1st of February 2010.... exactly a year ago. How is it possible that the whole year is gone????.....
I am preparing myself for the comeback although it's a little bit difficult and stressful. Returnig to the other world, world of activities I repeat every week, of stress and unbearable traffic in the streets. World..... which I prefer than the world here, mainly because of security. I will be able to walk safely in the streets again!!

To celebrate 1 year in South America, for the first time in my life I experienced an earthquake :) A very strong one, of 4.5 in Richter's scale. Colombia is situated on the same platform that Chile and San Francisco so I was told that quite many earthquakes occur here, of which I didn't know before. I found out on Sunday night, when I woke up because the bed Javier was sleeping on was shaking and jumping, making a lot of noise. It all lasted for about 5 seconds but it was enough time to get scared and to end many lives. Luckily, nobody died. Javier lives on the 12th floor so the impact of the earthquake is bigger than when you live on the ground floor.

Yesterday in the evening I met Alejandro, the guy who came to my Pijama Party and who organised the Terraza Party. We went for a drink to a nice bar with a great view. We had sweet red beer (in the picture, it was lovely...) and we talked about many things in life.
Later at night I moved into Yeimmy's house in San Antonio. I left her flat at the beginning of January because she was going on holiday.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On Saturday we were invited to a house party organised by a nice couple: Gaya from Italy and Julian from Cali. They moved in together and organised the party to celebrate it. They live in a nice part of Cali; as much as I don't like the city, this part is my favourite although it's not the poshest one (situated between San Antonio and San Fernando districts). The view from their flat is amazing.
All Sunday I spent in Orlando's house, sleeping, making sweets (Brazilian brigaderos), washing Argus (in the picture) and relaxing.
Here is a next set of my pictures:
Cali and Juanchaco

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Thursday we went to Tin Tin Deo, as every Thursday, but this time there were very few people in the place. It's probably because people don't have money after Feria de Cali and they go out only on Saturdays in January.
Yesterday we went to a rock bar called El Faro, in south part of the city. The place was very nice but I couldn't sit down without dancing for more than a couple of hours and listen to rock. Luckily, most of the people felt the same, so we moved to Terraza Party organised by Alejandro, a guy I met at my Pijama Party. We danced a lot on a beautiful terrace of his house.
In the picture: The Polish Team of Cali at the Terraza Party.
And some more pictures from the party:
My next photo set:
Carnival of Negros y Blancos in Pasto, Jan 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Monday I went to Las Brisas, a famous salsa club in Jarmundi, 24 kilometers from Cali. I went there with Javier but he was tired after work so he came back home soon. I was dancing with friends I had met in the club months ago. The music and passion of people in the place are unbelievable, as well as people's simplicity, a lot of plastic (meaning: women's breasts and bottoms sticking out in a very unnatural way) and a lot of mafia men. Incredible place.
My friend offered me a lift home but five minutes after we took off, his car stopped as it had no petrol. We were waiting on this quiet at night road for half an hour until an angel on a motorbike stopped and helped us. He brought some petrol in a plastic bag, from the nearest petrol station.
Yesterday I had my second teeth whitening session. The pain I experienced after that is difficult to describe. I went to Orlando's house and cried in his arms, he tried to distract me from the pain by talking to me all the time and singing. I didn't sleep most of the night. I took a lot of painkillers but they didn't help. Never again the same torture.
In the picture: the view point in Dapa where we went on Sunday.
Another set of my pictures:
Cali Christmas and New Year's Eve 2011
And video: Concert of Los Van Van

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Saturday we went to La Matraca bar, a tango place. I don't like tango but I wanted to see the place of which I heard a lot before. It was beautiful, with many colourful pictures on the walls. However, I couldn't bear the music and others seemed to be bored too so we went to a salsa place called El Ricón de Heberth (in the picture: Dominika from Poland and her Colombian boyfriend in the middle). It's a new bar, small but you can dance outside in the street, like in La Fuente bar.
Yesterday I was invited to a trip to Dapa. It's a place in the mountains from which you can admire a wonderful view over Valle del Cauca (Cauca Valley where Cali is situated). We went to a restaurant called Racamandapa, sat at a table with the great view, had some typical food (bowl of hot chocolate with cheese) and talked for hours. There are also two discos, one with salsa music and another with electronic music. It was very quiet though as few people come to the place on Sundays.
After the trip we went to a cinema to see "Hereafter", a great film called in Spanish "Mas Allá de la Vida".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I moved out of Orlando's house and I live with Javier now, in a nice part of Cali. Orlando's family was great and helped me when I needed accommodation, and his mum was wonderful.
Yesterday I organised Cali's first ever Pijama Party in La Fuente bar. Unfortunately most of the people in Cali didn't understand the purpose of the party, which was a lot of fun and laugh. These people were scared of gossips and they keep appearances so they wouldn't go out in pijamas. I was a little bit sad because Orlando was one of them.
Fortunately there was a small group of brave ones, about 8 people, who made it. We were dancing salsa in pijamas in the street but not many men asked me for a dance because of my look (in my picture), which I partly understand. So I was asking them: would you like to dance with a crazy girl? And they did, and after that they relaxed and talked to me. Many people thought that we were completely insane but we didn't care, we had a great fun. We were also dancing with my sleeping mask on, it's so difficult to dance when you can't see anything!!
Here is a link to Andrey's pictures (a Russian guy who came to the party in pijama):

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yesterday I had laser teeth whitening done. Ufff... that's painful... Just like having my tattoo done, it was kind of a torture. My dentist Diana put bleaching gel on my teeth and soon after the excruciating pain started. Imagine having a very very sensitive tooth (big pain when you have a cold drink or inhale cold air) and multiply the pain by 16 (only the front teeth are bleached).
When I woke up this morning the pain disappeared which means that you suffer just one day. Now I look in the mirror and I can't believe how beautiful my teeth are. The result is worth every single minute of suffering.
At night we went to Tin Tin Deo to celebrate Natalia's birthday. It was also Severin's farewell party (a guy from Switzerland who spent a year in Cali). He is going back to Europe in a couple of weeks, after visiting Bogota'.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We were supposed to go to the seaside on Sunday but we woke up very late (after coming back home at 6 am from a birthday party) so we quickly, half-asleep, postponed our trip until Monday.
On Monday we woke up early but I got fed up because Orlando spent almost an hour in the bathroom taking shower and doing his hair, so at the end we left home at 10 am. We took a bus to Buenaventura on the coast and then a boat to Juanchaco. It takes an hour to get to the village by boat. This time the sea was stormy so our bottoms got really sore because of jumping up and down on the benches. When we arrived, we found two guys with motorbikes who took us to Ladrillieros village, it was exactly the same way I did it four months ago.
We stayed at the same hotel I stayed previously. I really liked it, it was clean and nobody was there apart from us. It was like having the whole appartment for ourselves, not only a room. We spent Tuesday on the beach, the waves were huge and strong. After few hours in the water we got very tired because of the constant fight with the waves (but we got very happy for this reason too). At night we met a friend from Belgium who we previously had met in Pasto at the carnival of Negros y Blancos. We had a drink in a nice wooden bar, it was pouring with rain. It rains heavily in this part of the country but it's hot at the same time. I like a lot this typical tropical climate.
The following day we went to the beach again, the waves were smaller but as strong as a day before so we had a lot of fun again. At 4 pm we took a boat to Buenaventura where we had dinner in Galleria, dirty and smelly food market. We ate typical Colombian soup called san cocho which was fantastic, very thick with a big piece of fish in the soup.
We took a bus to Cali and we arrived home late at night.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Friday we went to La Fuente, a tiny salsa club next to a fountain (thus the name, I used to go there every Friday during my last stay in Cali). The music was great and I met some friends.
Yesterday we went to a birthday party of Orlando's friend from University (in the picture with his friends at the party). All of the people were very young, from 18 to 24 years old. The salsa music was fantastic and of course everyone was dancing a lot. However, they were drinking so much aguardiente and ron that there was a moment when I got very worried about their health, especially about the birthday boy who was pouring a lot of aguardiente into himself. Such a self-distruction at the age of 23....
Tomorrow I am going with Orlando to the seaside for a couple of days. We want to be alone, relax, swim and sunbath.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I don't do much during the day but the time is flying which is very scary. I am having a hell of rest in Orlando's house, I feel very relaxed and I sleep a lot. It is a great way to finish my trip, instead of taking buses every three days and rushing from one place to another.
We also party a lot, we go out dancing and come back home at 5 am. Then I sleep until late. I don't like sleeping during the day but I need energy for the next night.
On Wednesday we went to Menga (a district in the north part of Cali with a lot of good quality salsa clubs) to a club called La Mariachi, with Orlando's brothers and friends. When I go out with them, I can't complaint about lack of men to dance with :) All of Orlando's brothers love dancing, they are excellent dancers and they are tall, big and good looking.
Yesterday we went to Tin Tin Deo and then to Menga again with a big group of Couch Surfers, to Cafe Mi Tierra club (in the picture with Javier and his two friends).
I go to the dentist every 3 days and I stay there for about 3 hours each time. I am having a dental bridge fixed, two fillings, cleaning and whitening done (all this for 470 pounds). The dentist is the most important mission of my stay in Cali as to have a bridge fixed you have to stay in one place for at least two weeks. Unfortunately I don't trust dentists in England and I don't want to go to Poland for two weeks.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yesterday it was Orlando nephew's birthday and it was Saturday. This day of the week always feels more important than others. All the family and I went to visit the nephew in a district called Marroquin, and I met a lot of neighbours' children (in the picture). Everyone knows each other in the street and they are kind of a big family. However, the district is very dangerous, I was told that I absolutely could not walk there on my own. Orlando and his family used to live there before they moved closer to the city centre, to Nueva Floresta district.
At night we went to a great salsa club called Bronx, in La Quinta (fifth street), one of the main streets in Cali where I used to live last year.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I loved the second day of the carnival. Jorge's aunt woke us up before 11 am and we went to the city centre with all Jorge's family, buying cariocas and flour on the way. I couldn't sleep at night because of the cold - in Colombia nobody hits up the houses so the cold gets in your bones.
That day of the carnival was a "flour day" - everyone buys it and throws at each other. It was a real flour war. The weather was beautiful, it was warm and we were fighting like children (in the picture with our enemy team). Sunglasses were a must on that day.
We stayed all day out and at night we met some people from Couch Surfing Cali. We went to a great salsa club where we did a lot of dancing, still covered in flour.
Yesterday in the morning we took a comfortable bus back to Cali. There was a Cuy festival in Pasto on Friday ("cuy" are guinea pigs, they eat them in this part of the country, like in Ecuador) but we didn't stay.
We arrived home late at night.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In San Juan de Pasto

Pasto is a nice small city, surrounded by low mountains. We arrived on Wednesday morning, I couldn't sleep all the night because the minibus was very uncomfortable and the road very bad. However, Orlando could sleep regardless, despite his head jumping in all the directions. The journey took 8 hours (570 km) and the return ticket cost 28 pounds.
When we arrived, Orlando phoned his University friend Jorge who was going to put us up. Unfortunately there was no space in his house any more as a lot of family members came to the carnival, so his aunt kindly agreed to host us.
On the same day we met Jorge's family and we visited the city. It's not overpopulated as Cali and there were not too many people at the carnival so I sighed with relief.
At night we went to the main square. That day was a "painting day", everyone had to paint their faces and arm themselves with "carioca" - a big bottle with white spread foam. Everyone was shooting the foam in everyone's faces to the point that people got wet and dirty, and the temperature is quite low in Pasto all year round due to the city's altitude. After being bombarded with paints and foam (in the picture), we went dancing to Andean music, very popular in this part of Colombia and in Ecuador.
Pasto is situated very close to the Ecuadorian border and there is a big influence from Ecuador in the city. Dancing was a lot of fun and afterwards we went to a pub where we met Jorge's friends. Everyone was very drunk to the point that some men were falling off the stools. There was more dancing going on which I enjoyed but I really didn't like that everyone was so drunk. They were buying a very sweet and strong "wine" which tasted exactly like gripex to me. I drank it previously in Quito and I hated it as much as I hate gripex :) This is what the people drink to get wasted quickly and cheap.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yesterday I accompanied Orlando to the place where he practises karate. I met his friends and we went for a drink after the training. I had a good time. Sometimes people from South America are scared of me or they feel so uncomfortable that they don't even look in my eyes, and for this reason I feel ignored many times. Luckily yesterday it wasn't the case.
This afternoon I went to a dentist and I had a long conversation with her. I will have many things done, it's going to be cheaper than in London and I also feel that she is a good dentist.
This night we are going to Pasto to the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos.'_Carnival
I want to visit the city but I am not really keen on the festival (my usual issue: crowd). It's also cold in Pasto and it often rains as it's situated on 2527 meters above the sea level.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year came quietly. I only noticed that it was coming because Orlando's mum put plates and glasses for wine on the table. In Colombia on the 24th of December and new year's eve they eat at midnight, in Europe we have dinner much earlier. For example in Poland everyone is looking out for the first star on the sky, which in winter is usually at 4 - 5 pm. If you see the star, you can start eating the Christmas dinner. I think it is a very beautiful tradition. In the picture right after midnight.
I like that they make a dummy called Old Year, they put explosives inside it and at midnight they burn it causing a lot of explosions. This way they say goodby to the last 12 months.
Yesterday we didn't do much during the day. On the 1st of January the city seems to be dead. All the families sit outside the houses doing nothing and waiting for the time to pass. It is hilarious to see it but well, the same happens in Europe just that people sit inside the houses and watch TV.
At night we went to Tin Tin Deo, the first time since I arrived in Cali I felt I was in Cali.... La Feria de Cali is nice, there are good concerts but waiting in the crowd for ages and queuing for hours is not for me. I prefer going to clubs and dancing, instead of wasting my precious lifetime on waiting.
I moved out of Yeimmy's flat as her family is coming over this night and she is going on holiday to US. I moved in with Orlando and his family. It's great that his mother allows me to stay in the family house and I think unusual here as many families are traditional. It's all nice but I feel I want to have my own (well, rented but own) place again. I am fed up with moving from one house to another as I did last year and I am doing now. I miss so much having my own room, own wardrobe, own bed and own laptop.

Friday, December 31, 2010

On Wednesday we went to a Pacific music concert. I don't like the music but I went to see friends who enjoyed it a lot, and it was great to see them happy. The main group everyone was waiting for was called Chocquitown.
Yesterday we went to another concert of Los Van Van from Cuba. We got there very early and waited 8 hours for the group to arrive, they were 2 hours late. Waiting for such a long time made everyone tired. We couldn't go to the toilet or to buy food as there were too many people and they wouldn't let you get back to your place. So we waited, thirsty and hungry. I was thinking: I would never do it in Europe, I would never ever spend so much time waiting and doing nothing but here is Cali, you do it because the group is good and the concert is free. In the picture: waiting in the crowd with Yeimmy.
Today I am in Orlando's house, with his family, waiting patiently for the New Year. My friends in Europe  already celebrated it, we are still waiting as there is 5 hours time difference. We don't do much, we are just waiting and trying to talk from time to time but.... the salsa music is so loud that you would never believe it can be so loud in somebody's house. But this is Colombia :) The music will be loud all night long and I suppose tomorrow as well, as it was at Christmas.
To all my wonderful friends all over the world: HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope it will be happy for all of us and that in 2011 I will be able to meet up with friends I haven't seen for a long time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yesterday I saw "the other side" of Cali. Side I haven't known before and to be honest I was a little bit disappointed to see. Eduardo, my tattooist, invited me to a party in a gay club in a district called Granada. It was a famous gay club but everyone could come to this big party. When I arrived Eduardo was still working in a hurry, he had to paint bodies of all the staff. Then the party began. There was no salsa at all and there were many gays, something you will never see in salsa clubs here. Just a big modern, techno, electronic and pop music party. I had fun as I met friends I haven't seen for more than 3 months. Eduardo works in the club from time to time doing some art jobs so all the drinks were free for his "team", including myself. It was interesting to experience this "other side" but I won't come back to this kind of party, and I don't want to remember it too clearly :) For me Cali is the salsa kingdom, and I want it to stay this way in my heart.
In the picture with Eduardo on the right and his friends on the left.
Here is an interesting story about Jovita (symbol of Cali), unfortunately I couldn't find an English version.
And pictures of the waterfalls and from Paraguay:
Iguazu waterfalls and Asunción

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Monday we went to see "cabalgata" (horses parade). Horse owners gather on one street and they show off their beautiful horses and the way they walk (for example the "paso fino" steps). It was nothing special to be honest, just horses walking down the street and owners chatting to each other, as if there was no crowd watching them all the time (cabalgata in the picture). Well, at least it was a great way to spend an afternoon with family or friends. Orlando said that before they used to ride horses and drink alcohol at the same time, and then maltreating the animals (and felling down the horses I would imagine). For this reason cabalgata was suspended for one year. They started organising it again however alcohol has been prohibited.
In the evening we went to melomanos meeting. At the beginning they played very old salsa music and then there was a concert of a very good orchestra called Willie Rosario (it's name of the singer and name of his orchestra). The concert was great and all the local people knew words of all the songs by heart.
Yesterday the Couch Surfing people met in Plaza de Toros to dance salsa. There was also stand up comedy and some funny competitions.
This morning I had a long conversation with Yeimmy, my wonderful friend I live with. I admire her so much. She works as a stewardess for Avianka airlanes, one of the best South American airlines. She also sells clothes and cosmetics which she buys in New York, where everything is cheaper than in Colombia. She also works on a project, she asked me not to say what it is until it is finalised but I am sure she will be successfull and her business will go very well. She is doing this on her own. She has a great help from her aunt who lives in US and from few friends but all decisions are taken by Yeimmy. She told me a story of her childhood, it wasn't all roses (just like my life). In fact, her life was very hard until she got independent, found a good job and she understood that she had to cut off all the past to be happy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yesterday we went to salsodromo, it's the first event (salsa parade) of the 5-day festival "Feria de Cali". The parade is 1 km long, lasts 5 hours and takes 6 months to prepare. There are 25 salsa schools showing off their skills. Unfortunately, it wasn't a nice experience due to the crowd pushing us all the time as everyone wanted to see the parade and the organisation of the event was bad. The parade itself was very nice but we didn't stay long. We moved to a concert which officialy opened the festival. I liked the concert and I met a lot of friends but I was so tired after my trip through the continent that I came back home early.
In the picture with Orlando and Karen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Cali, Colombia again

My trip up the continent was pretty horrible. It took the whole day to travel (well, I did almost 4000 km) and my luggage didn't arrive in Cali. But... I was happy. Orlando and Javier picked me up from the airport, it was wonderful to see them again. We went to Tin Tin Deo, the famous salsa club, where I met other friends.
Then I came to Yeimmy's flat. She invited me to stay with her as long as I like but at one point I would like to rent a room somewhere as Yeimmy's place is really small. It is fantastic to see her too.

Yesterday, on the 24th of December, I spent the evening and night with Orlando and his family (in the picture with Orlando's mum and niece). I enjoyed myself a lot, we had nice food and ron of course :) The street where they live is decorated with many lights. When I arrived in Cali I could see no lights and I couldn't believe it because it's Christmas. But then I saw Orlando's street and some other streets in the city, and they were all illuminated.
In Colombia 24th is the most important day of Christmas, you spend it with family. 25th and 26th is just salsa party, salsa party and salsa party (called Feria de Cali). In Cali you will never hear Christmas carols, all you hear is salsa music in houses, streets, supermarkets and buses.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last night I went out with Diana. I really enjoyed her company, she is kind of a person you must see in your life again so I promised to come back to Asunción one day, for her wedding :)
I stayed just one day in the city however this day was very long. Diana took me on an intensive cultural ride and I heard a lot of interesting stories about Paraguay. I visited many places, ate typical Paraguayan food and drunk terere (ha ha ha... sorry, the name is so funny). Apparently Paraguay is the hottest country in South America... it was really hot.
Early in the morning I boarded a plane to Cali, Colombia.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PARAGUAY, In Asunción

The bus was 45 minutes late. Too many tickets were sold so as a result people didn't have seats, the bus was overcrowded. The conditions were unhuman as the temperature outside was 40 degrees. We stopped at the Argentinian border and an hour later at the Paraguayan border (it is a big distance between these two custom offices). We arrived in Ciudad del Este and from there I took a bus to Asunción, it was another horrible and tiring trip. When I finally arrived in Asuncion at 1 am, I took a very expensive taxi to Diana's flat. She works as a music teacher in a college, before that she used to play violin in an orchestra. She travelled to many South American countries with the group, playing concerts, until she stopped few years ago and started teaching. She is a great person.
We visited the city centre this morning and afternoon (it's small) then we got caught in the rain so we went to a bar. I tried the typical Paraguayan food, for example the only in the world solid soup. I couldn't believe it was soup!! I tried "terere" (ha ha ha... what a name) - it's tea or "mate" but drunk cold, with ice.
In Asunción people carry thermoses with them too, like in Argentina and Uruguay. However, here the thermoses are big and heavy (but also very beautiful - in the picture Diana and her monster thermos). I really admire the people, I would never ever in a million years carry such a heavy thing all day round, every day.
In Paraguay they speak Spanish and Guarani (and in Asunción also Jopara). Not many people speak Spanish but all of them speak Guarani which was the main language until recently, when they added Spanish as an official language. In Paraguay you can pay with American dollars except from some small shops.
There is a huge hydroelectric dam in Itaipu in Paraguay:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Porto Iguazu is a nice small town. For the first time I felt the atmosphere of Christmas because many houses and bars are decorated with lights, which looks lovely at night.
This morning, very early, we took a bus to the waterfalls. We spent 6 hours in the Iguazu Park, walking, walking and walking. Walking from one fall to another, walking up and down stairs to see them from the top and from the bottom. The falls are absolutely fantastic, they are another proof of how powerful the nature is. Many people were visiting the place which I didn't like but well, I was one of them. The waterfalls are great so no wonder the park is crowded all year round.
We also took a boat which gets to the bottom of two waterfalls. I couldn't breathe several times because of the water and I got completely wet. It was a great fun.
Later in the afternoon I am taking a bus to Paraquay.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Porto Iguazu, Argentina again

Yes, the driver was going to our destination but he had to stop at night and sleep. We decided to carry on by bus to get to the town quicker but as it was getting late, we were feeling more and more tired. The driver proposed that we sleep in his truck which was big and comfortable, so we did. When we woke up on Monday morning the rain disappeared. It was sunny and extremely hot. We felt great because we had a good rest at night.
The vegetation in the north part of Argentina is fantastic, the colour of trees and bushes is light green, so optimistic! We were very close to Brazil, about 6 km from the border. We could see very skinny and sick dogs near the road - unnourished people and animals on the road are a sign that you are in or near Brazil...
Our destination was Foz de Iguazu in Brazil but we changed our minds and we got off in Porto Iguazu, an Argentinian town. We found a hostel, had a walk in the town and wanted to take a bus to the waterfalls on the Brazilian side (they are very close to Porto Iguazu). However, we forgot that it's one hour ahead in Brazil and they let people in to the Iguazu Park until 4 pm. We were late. We got upset for this reason but only for a moment. Tomorrow we will visit the falls on the Argentinian side, the area is much bigger than the Brazilian side (in the picture). Of course, everything is expensive here as many tourists come to this part of South America to see the waterfalls.
My pictures from Uruguay:
Montevideo and Maldonado
I arrived in Salto at 6.30 am. I asked different companies if there was a bus to Concordia, on the Argentinian side (you have to go there first to get to Brazil). There wasn't. I noticed an European girl with a big rucksack in the bus station. I asked her if she was going to Concordia by chance. She was. So I  hitch-hiked with Francesca from Germany. It was a great fun although not easy to hitch-hike at 7 am on Sunday, in a violent storm.... (in the picture: before the storm).
But... nothing is impossible. A man gave us a lift to the Argentinian border and another one, a custom officer, to Concordia (all the distance: 29 km). It appeared that all the buses were leaving from Concordia to Iguazu late at night. We couldn't bear waiting in the sad bus station all day, so we decided to.... hitch-hike more, in the rain.
There were two dogs I was "talking to" at the bus station. They walked us to the road where we started stopping cars, quite a long way. They were barking at some cars and at some not, like telling us: these are good people and these are not. Interesting.
Somebody gave us a lift to the highway and he spoke to the patrolling police officers. The police stopped a truck for us and asked the man to take us to another city. 5 hours later the driver spoke to another truck driver and we changed at a petrol station. The second truck was going straight to our final destination!! - we did about 1000 km in total, hitch-hiking in South America (cost: 0 pounds!..). I would never ever did it in the north part of the continent. I used to hitch-hike a lot on my own in Europe years ago, and I loved it. But in some South American countries doing it means robbery, rape or death.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In the late afternoon I left Maldonado for Montevideo (in the picture with Nicolas' parents). I had to come back to the capital because you get all the bus connections from the city, all roads lead to Montevideo in this country :)
When I arrived, I bought a ticket to Salto, near Argentinian border. My destination is Foz de Iguazu in Brazil, a town with the famous in the world waterfalls. They are situated on the border of three countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay but only accessible from Brazil and Argentina. First I am heading to Foz.
It looks like the whole trip from Maldonado to Foz will be a nightmare as I will change buses 4 times and I will travel for 20 hours. I was also told that tomorrow there are no buses going from Salto to the Argentinian border (Sunday, the only day with no bus service) so.... well.... tomorrow... I will be hitch-hiking for the first time in South America.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nicolas' parents are wonderful. The mother wasched our clothes and dried them, she also makes breakfast for us every day. The father always watches us, ready to help with anything. They are treating us as they would like somebody to treat their son. I hope that Nicolas will always find such caring Couch Surfing hosts as his parents are (and himself too).
This morning we went to a nudist beach called Chihuahua. Well, I was the only nudist in the group but the beach was beautiful and everyone wanted to see it. I have visited a lot of nudist beaches in Europe but this was the first one in South America. I don't think there are many on the continent, apart from Brazil maybe which is a quite liberated country.
In the late afternoon I went to the famous Punta del Este town with Nicolas. He does a contract work in the town so I had a walk around on my own. Punta is a popular touristic spot, beautiful and clean, with many rich people living there. I saw a lot of tourists, too many to my taste, I prefer the wild beaches of Maldonado.
It's so funny watching people in the streets in Uruguay. Every second man holds a thermos with hot water and drinks mate (mentioned in my blog before in section Cordoba) which is incredible, such a great national habit. I like Uruguay, there is something very charming about the country and the people are lovely. I am definitely going to come back here one day to explore the whole east coast of the country.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Maldonado

This morning I took a bus from Montevideo to Maldonado. Distance: 134 km, 2 hours on the bus, cost: 5 pounds. I need to relax on a beach for few days and to be lazy for a change. Not much walking and visiting! - I promised myself during a long walk back home from the beach.
My host Nicolas picked me up from the bus station with Dee from Ireland who arrived in his house 2 hours before me. In the house I met his parents, a girl from Peru and Poland, and a guy from Medellin in Colombia. We have had a lot of fun on the beach and we were swimming a lot in the cold sea today (in the picture).
Maldonado is a small town, there is just a main square, many shops and streets. But... it's great, I need a change after visiting several big cities.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When I was visiting the city again today, I couldn't see any tourists. I suppose Montevideo is not a touristic destination as there is not much to see. Uruguay is famous for its amazing beaches, I am travelling to a seaside town tomorrow to find out if the beaches are really so great :)
I've seen so many abandoned buildings today!!... so many of them... some really big and beautiful, like the one in my picture. I will always remember Montevideo for the abandoned buildings, it is so unusual.
Uruguay is not as cheap as you would think it is (or as you would hope...). I had a look in few shops in a shopping centre, the prices were higher than in London. So far the cheapest shops I found were in Chile and Argentina, the richest countries of South America.
People use a lot the word "barbaro" which I didn't hear in other countries. It means "cool, great".
My pictures from the capital of Argentina:
Buenos Aires
And a video:
Aga and Cristian dancing Lambada Zouk in Buenos Aires, 10 Dec 2010
I had a walk around in the city centre yesterday (in the picture the main square). The centre is really nice but some streets outside of the central zone look isolated and unwelcoming. I don't feel as safe as I felt in Buenos Aires, I wouldn't walk here on my own at night. It's probably because there are many people in the centre of Buenos Aires during the day and night, and here not. Apart from numerous beautiful buildings, there are many old and rough ones, and a lot of them are abandoned. Such a pity, if they renovated them the city would look much nicer. Montevideo is a port city. There weren't many people in the port so I just had 5 minute walk along the empty beach and I came back to places with more people. Generally, I feel a good vibe in the city.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

URUGUAY, In Montevideo

In the evening I went for the last time to Güerrin, the best pizza place in Buenos Aires. They serve excellent cakes too, I had my favourite flan with dulce de leche and a lot of caramel sauce.
Then I went dancing to get rid of the extra calories :) I forgot to mention before that I met Romina who lives in Buenos Aires. She is a famous lambada zouk teacher and also a very energetic person with beautiful personality. I was watching many videos of her dancing with my teacher from London; I arrived in BA and I met her personally (with Romina in the picture).

The next morning I said goodby to Daniela and I went to Porto Madero to buy a ferry ticket to Montevideo (well, the ferry left us in a town called Colonia where a bus was waiting for us). All the trip cost 34 pounds and it took 4 hours to get from Buenos Aires to the capital of Uruguay. It's possible to do the whole trip by land only but it takes much longer and apparently it's more expensive.
I arrived in Montevideo in the evening and I took a local bus to my host's flat. The city is very different than Buenos Aires. It's smaller and dirtier but it has some charm. Rafael lives in a nice new building on the 7th floor, with a view over a beautiful abandoned train station and the city port.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This afternoon I finally went to the famous La Boca district, which is colourful and charming (in the picture). There are only few safe streets where tourists can walk, but it's enough to get the feeling of the Argentinian culture. There are many restaurants with tango shows, people are singing or bands are playing in the streets. You can find many handcraft shops in La Boca. Lovely place although very crowded.
Later in the day I moved to Daniela's house again. Bruno's mother is coming to visit and she will be staying in his flat. Daniela kindly agreed to share her bed with me this night; I can't have my bed back as she is hosting another Couch Surfer at the moment.
In a couple of hours I am going to the lambada club for the last time. Hernan and his friends are coming too, to do the beginners class. I should be paid for bringing people to the club and introducing them to lambada :)
Tomorrow I am going to Uruguay. I have spent 300 pounds in 2 weeks in Argentina, with no accomodation costs. Buses between cities, food in bars and supermarkets, taxis - all this is expensive here. What is cheap is local buses and tube in Buenos Aires. Entrance fee to the lambada club is 3.20 pounds a night. It includes 1 hour class and 1 drink, which is extremelly cheap comparing to London.
I am very sad that I have to leave Buenos Aires but.... I WILL BE BACK.
The accent and pronunciation of the language in Argentina is very different than in other Spanish speaking countries. It's because of a strong Brazilian influence, not only on the language but also music or food.
Yesterday in the afternoon I took a train to Tigre, a town by the Tigre river. I was warned to be careful on the train, and indeed it was filthy and filled with some dodgy, dirty people. The first time in Argentina I saw ugly districts from the train, on the way to the town. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Tigre, when I arrived I had a walk around but there was nothing to see. I booked an hour boat trip on the river (in the picture: the starting point), which was nice. The river is narrow, there are many boats overtaking one another and a lot of holiday houses on both sides of the river. It must be lovely to spend a weekend by the river, although I wouldn't like so many boats passing in front of  my nose while I am having rest.
At night Bruno's friends came over and they made sushi, it was delicious. His friends are nice but they don't talk to me. I think they are shy and they don't know how to do it. Maybe it's just me who can talk to anyone anytime and about anything. The guys talk between them, as if I was not there. If I say something, they always listen carefully, reply, explain... and then start talking between them again, and I feel eliminated from the conversation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yesterday I wanted to go to a district called La Boca. It's a famous and apparently dangerous district in Buenos Aires, with many skilled pick pocketers (but without guns I was told by locals).
I never got there. It was pouring with rain after breakfast so I decided to wait a little bit on my mattress... I woke up at 5 pm, Bruno came back from work 10 minutes later so I did shopping and I cooked. I like cooking in this house because I feel that Bruno appreciates it.
At night I went to Beleza Maluco. I have many friends in the club now so I was dancing a lot (sometimes with 4 guys at the same time as you can do in lambada), until DJ started playing electronic music after midnight. Beleza Maluco is the only club where dancing starts earlier than in other places.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I met Sandra and David again, they are stuck in Buenos Aires at the moment (they want to travel to Rio de Janeiro as soon as possible). David was robbed in Bolivia, he got into a taxi and few minutes later two men with guns appeared on both sides of him and demanded money and credit card. He told them he didn't have any cash but he gave them his card and a fake pin code. He had some money in a pocket so he was able to pay for the rest of the trip to Buenos Aires but now he needs to pay for the hostel and trip back to Colombia. His friend has sent him money through Western Union but the company tells him every day that the money hasn't come through yet so he has to wait.
I spoke to Bruno about his dog. He said that all Jack Russells have bad character and it's nothing you can do about it. When the dog was little, Bruno used to slap his face when he became agressive to make sure that he will not bite anyone, so now the dog knows he can't do it. But to my surprise, the dog started to behave. He is not coming on my mattress without my permission any more (he sits next to my head when I lie and stares at me, waiting for the green light). When I let him in, he fells asleep immediately and starts snoring like a bear. I can't help it, I have to smile when it happens. I like him, despite his bad behaviour. I respect his bad moods and he respects my wishes, this is  how it's working now. Just like between people.
Yesterday I went to a club called "La Salsera". As the name indicates, there is salsa dancing and classes during the week except from Thursday - it's lambada night!! :)) I arrived at 11.30 pm and there were only 3 people in the club. I introduced myself and danced few times (I love it when the floor is empty). Other people came at about 1 am. Oh my god... it's not how I like it. I like the London way, where the classes start at 8.30 pm, we start dancing at 10 pm and finish at 3 am. You can dance a lot, sleep at night and do something productive the next day.
This time not many guys asked me for a dance, they were dancing with friends. I was observing them for a while and then I started asking for a dance those guys whose style of dancing I liked. I somethimes feel shy to do it, especially when I am in a new club, but it always pays off. Yesterday I made new friends and I was given lift home. I understood that men don't ask me for a dance because they are too shy to ask a foreigner, they are scared of unknown. Shy, shy, shy... wouldn't this world be better without this feeling??...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I found out that Daniela doesn't have a Facebook account. Wow!! - I thought I was one in a million, now we are two in a million :)
It was a catholic holiday in Argentina yesterday (Day of Virgin Mary), people didn't work and many shops were closed. I moved to Bruno's flat which is very close to Daniela's flat. He is photographer, one of the rooms is his photography studio. He also has a little Jack Russells. Changing hosts is tiring but at the same time you meet various people, they all have different lives so you learn a lot.
Yesterday I was invited to a dinner party by Bruno's friend. The food and the company were excellent, all the people were Argentinian apart from one girl from South Africa.
As you all know I absolutely love dogs. But the little creature I live with at the moment is unpredictable and agressive. Yesterday I couldn't leave the house at night because he got agressive when I wanted to leave. I had a tempting thought of kicking him but eventually I managed to shut the entrance door with the growling dog inside the flat. This night he tried to get on my mattress several times so I had to push him out. When I woke up I let him sleep next to me for a while but when I wanted to get up, he became agressive again. Monster!!...
In the picture: one of the streets in San Telmo district.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yesterday I visited streets with many outlets as I was looking for a lambada dress. At night I met Sandra from Switzerland (who I met in Colombia and who I have been corresponding with since) and David from Colombia who travelled 7 days by bus through South America to meet her in Buenos Aires. Daniela joined us; we went for a drink and we had a great time (in the picture).
This afternoon I met the guys again in their hostel in San Telmo (a famous for tango shows district) and we went to eat the best pizza in Buenos Aires, near obelisco.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I have changed hosts. Hernan had a guest "booked" a lot of time ago so I could stay with him until Sunday, when Julia arrived. She is from Ukraine but she lives and works in Los Angeles. I met her in the morning, we all had breakfast together and I left to Daniela's house. Daniela lives in Palermo district, like Hernan, but in a different part. When I arrived we had a long chat. She is a lawyer who works for ONG but after many years of working in the sector she thinks about going on a long holiday and then changing profession. She separated from her French boyfriend a month ago so she is very upset at the moment, although she doesn't want to show it. She is planning to go on holiday to Ecuador in January as all the courts are closed during this month in Argentina (only few are dealing with very urgent cases). At the moment she is extremely busy at work as everyone is trying to solve their court cases before the end of December.
At night I was dancing lambada :)) Daniela, Hernan, Julia and Pedro from Mexico (who I met in the salsa club on Thursday) went with me and did the beginners class.
Interesting information: we were talking about my dog in Poland whose name is Sonda and Daniela initially thought it was Zonda. Zonda is a very dry wind which occurs in Argentina.
In the picture: in the city centre with Daniela, before going to the lambada club.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I wanted to see something new in the city but I just couldn't face walking miles again so Hernan took me on a ride in his car. He showed me some great places, for example Puerto Madero, "Pink House" (a government building painted in pink), National Congress building. What can I say?.... I love Buenos Aires. Before I came here I was worried that everything in the city was about tango. I don't like tango dance and music so I was worried that I would be forced to participate in it. But... no no and no. BA is not only about tango; it is about salsa, lambada, friendship, nice weather, amazing just amazing buildings and amazing streets. When Hernan was driving I counted lanes on the 9th of July street. 7 lanes going just in one direction, in the middle of the city!!!!! And 7 on the other side of the road. I can't describe how amazed I am. The city is enormous and very beautiful. I would like to live here (such a big statement....).
At night Federico picked me up on his motorbike and I did more visiting from the motorbike seat. I enjoyed it a lot. I got a hayfever and I had to buy medication because my eyes got really itchy. I asked Federico to keep his mobile ready and to phone an ambulance in case I got an alergic reaction. After my experience in Peru I am really scared to take any medication. But I took the first tablet and hey!! - I am ok. Federico got nervous when he heard the story from Cusco and when I asked him the favour...
We went to the lambada street party at 1.30 am. When we arrived the party had not started yet, people were preparing the music equipment (can you believe it, at 1.30 at night!!!...). They said it could be half an hour longer. I was tired to be honest and Federico got a little bit angry because of the delay so we came back home. Today I am going to Maluco Beleza, the same great lambada club that I went to on Friday.
In the picture: pedestranised Florida street in the centre of Buenos Aires.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yesterday I was visiting the city centre. Hernan lent me a guide book with a walking track, showing the most beautiful and interesting places and buildings. They included squares, monuments, the biggest streets (9th of July is apparently the biggest street in the world), theatres, shops. Buenos Aires is huge, its streets are long and wide. To be honest after two hours of walking I had enough and I turned my attention to shops with clothes :) The city is incredibly beautiful though and the atmosphere is good, I feel safe. It reminds me of Palermo in Sicily, my favourite place in Europe. People are busy in the streets but somehow it's not the same crazy "busy" that in London.

At night I went to a lambada zouk club where I was dancing a lot. Do I have to say how happy I was??... I found the club on internet, I went there on my own... and I left having at least 20 friends who are waiting for me at the lambada street party tonight. The music was excellent and the dancers were very good. I was waiting for this moment for a long time (I was dancing lambada the last time 8 months ago in Fortaleza, Brazil). I felt a little bit nervous because I thought that maybe I forgot lambada steps but there was nothing to worry about - I was dancing better than ever before :)
When I arrived to the club people asked me about my teachers in London who are the best lambada dancers in the world, from the Kaoma group: Braz and Patricia Cruz from Porto Seguro in Brazil.
After dancing we went to a bar for a drink (in the picture - the lambada team). All the people working in the bar dance lambada :)
I met Federico who lives very close to my host's flat so he gave me a lift back on his motorbike.
So far my life in Buenos Aires could not be better.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On my first night in Buenos Aires I was...... dancing a lot :))) I went to a Couch Surfing meeting in a salsa club called Jannoy (in the picture). I met only two Couch Surfers at the bar, out of 70 who were supposed to come. But it wasn't a problem. I went to the place thinking that I would not find good dancers and I would come back home early. I was very surprised to meet many professional dancers and luckily, Argentinian guys are not shy so they were asking me for a dance a lot. Not like in Brazil where guys were dancing only with friends and I had to ask them for a dance. The place was great, with a lot of space to dance so you don't step on each other's feet.
I met Pedro from Mexico who has been travelling for 14 months now. He is a great dancer; he spent a month in Cali attending salsa classes. I think people attend the classes in Cali and they never use the skills they had learnt as Cali salsa you dance only in Cali. Yesterday we were dancing mainly New York style and surprisingly, a lot of bachata. I was very happy and I felt alive again, after more than two months without dancing.
My pictures from the trip through Andes (Chile - Argentina) and from two Argentinian cities:
Mendoza and Cordoba

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Buenos Aires

Cordoba - Buenos Aires: 770 km, 10 hours on the bus, cost: 29 pounds. The bus was very comfortable but at one point the air conditioning was too much for me. The cold air was blowing in my face and I could hear people behind me putting on clothes and suddenly getting quiet. I had a panoramic seat in front of the bus on the second floor so I went down to speak to the driver. He switched off the air conditioning for the whole night so people could sleep well :)
We arrived in the bus station in Retiro, a district in Buenos Aires. It is very cofusing when you want to board a bus to BA from another city. It always says Retiro on the bus and you think that it's not Buenos Aires. I took tube and I arrived in my host's flat. Tube is cheap here, it costs 18 pence a ride.
Hernan lives in a nice part of the city, by a small but beautiful park. When I arrived I had a sleep and I woke up at 4 pm again.
In the picture: the huge Avenida 9 de Julio in the centre of Buenos Aires (the famous obelisco in the background) and Avenida Cordoba.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yesterday I did some visiting again; visiting, visiting, visiting. Visiting is all my life at the moment. Walking miles to visit something. I went to Museum of Natural Sciences and did more visiting in the centre. Cordoba is a beautiful city I have to say.
This morning I woke up at 7 am (ouch!!...) because my host Cristian invited me on a trip outside of Cordoba. It was the first time I met my host as he lives in a different flat. We went to Villa los Aromos where Cristian girlfriend's family has been building a summer/weekend house and Cristian (who is an architect) is supervising the work. The village was very nice and the air so fresh!! Then we took another bus to Alta Gracia, a beautiful town where I visited museum of Che Guevara (in the picture).
What is really funny for me (I couldn't stop laughing...) is that if you ask a passerby or a local for information, you shout: hey, flaco!! - which means: hey, skinny!! - and nobody gets offended :) However, you can't shout: hey, gordo!! - hey, fatty!! because this is offensive.