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As I sit writing this blog in Argentina, I’m currently streaming a live show of my favorite band occurring in Philadelphia, booking holiday tickets for a flight to Miami, emailing my mom in NY and stumbling upon a number of other random website- all in the confines of my comfortable air conditioned studio. If Xavier de Maistre lived in today’s world I don’t think he ever would have left the realms of his lair. Everyday as soon as we log onto the Internet we have the ability to literally travel around the world without ever stepping foot outside. We can make our money on the Internet, order our food for delivery on websites, pay our bills, read books, listen to music, check out photos and even communicate with our friends face to face. The technological advances we have created in our common age have made the strange notion of room travel an everyday experience. Why venture to the outside world when we can survive and entertain ourselves simply jump into our pajamas, sprawl out on the couch and veg out to the constant flow of information stemming from the Internet?
I for one believe in Maistre’s notions that travel is what we make of it and it really doesn’t matter to what location we travel to, as long as we are in a frame of mind that is conducive to enjoyable exploration. Sometimes I take for granted the peace and tranquility experienced in my bedroom, especially the studio I live in abroad. The king size bed with a delicate pillow top, the simple side table light that guides my journey’s into the realm of books before I fall asleep, and a dozen other useful items that make my life function. However, on the other hand falling into the trappings of a comfortable living space denies one access to the wonderful world occurring around you. On a beautiful today in Buenos Aires I felt like the heat was too much to bear so I simply escaped the world and spent the entire day in my apartment. Sure I got to download an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, read different news articles from around the world, and work on the job search for when I get back to the US- but I could have been outside, taking a stroll along the ecological reserve or renting a kayak on the river basin in Tigre. My time abroad is rapidly coming to an end but instead of forcing myself to take greater advantage of a city I might never visit again, I find myself doing the exact same things I could be doing anywhere else in the world. And though I’m exciting about returning home, seeing long lost friends, taking my dog for a walk and eating a falafel on St. Mark’s street, as De Botton clearly states in the first paragraph of this chapter---our homes have a tendency of remaining the same.
Now instead of just leaving this writing as a blog post, I think its time I actually followed my own advice, I’m getting the hell of my couch, catching a cab and going out for a couple drinks. Chao. Hasta Luego.
I like the idea of “room travel.” I think that “room travel” is first of all indicative of the fact that travel does not need to be long distances or even new. One can travel around one's room or one's country while receiving the “travelers experience.” By travelers experience, I simply mean whatever is gained from traveling. Room travel is especially interesting because it is in a place where you spend so much time that to find new things in your room are even more interesting than finding a new place on a walk, or trip, or whatever other way one travels.
I tend to travel around my room a lot. It is not my room per se, but it is the room I have been sleeping in for three months. In the dressers in my room are not my clothes, but rather stacks of hand written notes of my host moms about all her clients. My mom is a social worker that works from home. In my closet there are many jackets that are owned by my host family and not even not enough room for my clothes. There is a desk in my room with no chair and a computer that is busted. Every once in a while I will travel my room by reading the things in the dressers or going through the family's albums that are stored underneath the computer.
In some senses, when I travel my room, I invade the privacy of my family who keep things in my room with a tacit agreement that I won't touch them. On the other hand, I am so curious as to what is lying in my room that is so much a part of me. It is where I sleep, wake up, eat, watch television, and talk to my parents. In such an intimate place, there is so much unfamiliar. In that respect my room is slightly mentally uncomfortable.
My room is also physically uncomfortable. It is too hot with not much ventilation. There is a door to the balcony that when open cools the room, but also literally opens the door to the noise in the street. Therefore at night when I try to go to sleep, I either die by noise or heat. Usually, I choose to die by noise.
When I travel around my room, it is important to understand the physical and metal comfortableness of my room which adds another aspect to traveling around my room. Not only is traveling around my room investigatory, it is also a search for something that just might make my room just a little bit more comfortable.
I enjoy Spanish class so much more on Wednesdays and Thursdays rather than the first two days of the week. We have two teachers that share the four days, and as much as I like them both, the latter of two just wins the cake. Waking up everyday to go to two hours of Spanish gets quite annoying, but whenever Beatriz comes dancing in, she makes it just a little bit more bearable. Her petite little body ranking in around 5 feet always come bursting through the door with crazy shoes on, mostly high heels. If we ever comment on them, she always clicks her heels together stating she already knows how cute they are. Her short dark “European-trendy” styled hair fits her persona perfectly. So do her snaggled teeth and lip-sticked smile.
“En Espanol, POR FAVOR!” she always snaps back when we start telling stories in English, which is almost always. Yet, she likes to throw in the trendy English words into conversation herself. Beatriz laughs at everything. She mocks everyone’s accents until we get it right. She slurs her “vosotros” conjugations in a Spain-Spanish speaking way to mock their accent. And if someone ever answers in English, she claps at them to show how proud she is that they know how to speak English. Her second favorite comeback is to say that she has no money to pay us for teaching her English, but since our parents already paid her, we should speak Spanish.
Beatriz is such a light-hearted 45 year-old. She fits into my images of the typical Argentine. First of all, she loves to have fun and be goofy. Whenever we play games in class, whoever loses has to do something for punishment, which usually ends up with someone dancing and singing along to the Spice Girls. Second of all, Beatriz LOVES meat. Whenever the class discusses food, which is quite often, Beatriz always throws her arms back in description of how much she loves red meat. She always wants to chow down on a bone. Third of all, Beatriz likes to dance. Just in our last class, we were all standing in a circle singing a new song we had just learned while Beatriz taught us some tango moves. And last but not least, Beatriz is lenient in a laidback way. My class always hopes that the test days fall on Wednesday or Thursday just to get a little help from Beatriz. My best friend basically takes his entire test standing at her desk. And she always lets us postpone homework and quizzes. She has become one of my favorite characters in Buenos Aires. I will always remember little Beatriz in Argentina, and I have my Spanish skills to thank her for.
The first time I saw this man was about 2 or 3 weeks into my stay here in Argentina. I had spent almost my entire time either with NYU kids or with my host family, so needless to say I had not met very many people yet. My friend Charlie and I were on the way back from playing Ultimate Frisbee and we stopped to get some choripan in the park (you can refer to my 6th post if you want to get the lowdown on choripan). There was a small shack/mini-parrilla, typical of parks here in Buenos Aires, with two guys inside chatting it up. As Charlie and I approached, I the guys talking and they were speaking in Spanish, but parts sounded a little different. After ordering my chori, I asked if they were speaking Portuguese, and he said yes. I’ve taken a year of Portuguese at NYU, so I began to try to chop it up a little bit, speaking in a mix of Portuguese, kind of like the guys were before.
He was the first person with whom I’d struck up a random conversation. He asked us what we were doing in Argentina and we told him we were studying. He spoke incredibly fast, and the fact that he was switching between two languages didn’t help my understanding. While he was friendly, at the same time, there was a sense that he was spiteful of us. I picked it up in his tone and then finally I heard him say “chetos,” which in Argentina is a derogatory term for the rich. There’s not really much to argue with there, compared to a guy that is selling choripan out of a shack in a park, I am EXTREMELY rich. All I felt I could do was be genuine and try to have a nice conversation. When we parted ways, after about 15 minutes of chatting, he gave us a nice goodbye, whether it was genuine or not, who knows.Meeting this man was confirming something I already knew: as a North American in Argentina, there are going to be people who do not like me. The chori vendor was not an aberration, he represent a feeling held by many here in Argentina. There’s graffiti around the city that reads: “yanquis afuera del sudamérica” (Yankees out of South America). All I can do during my stay here is try to be the most respectful visitor I can and try to promote a good image of the “yanquis.”
I know I talk about chori a lot, but it’s really just that delicious.
There’s countless parrillas here in Buenos Aires. A parrilla is basically a grill/restaurant. However, in parrillas they are literally barbecuing the meat in front of you. As in, there is a man, tending coals, cooking meat over an open fire, in a restaurant. Obviously each parrilla is different, and there is definitely a range of the not so great cheap to the over-priced, gourmet, but in between there are many wonderful parrillas around this city. There’s a parrilla about a half block away from my place called “Parrilla Di Carlo.” I had walked by it many times when I first arrived and the sign always caught my attention. After I finally decided to walk in and try it, my stay here in Buenos Aires was instantly changed for the better.
Upon walking into Parrilla Di Carlo, one is instantly struck with two lovely sensations: the smell and sight meat over hot coals. There the “asador” (grill master) wields his saber (to call it a knife simply would not do justice to that beast) and tends both flame and meat. There’s a narrow area leading into the restaurant, with the grill and asador on one side, and a bar to sit at on the other. Next to the grill sits the dueño (owner): Carlo. A wise, turtleneck wearing, pipe smoking, older fellow, Carlo watches over his parrilla from his stool, perched like a falcon. Slow moving and deep-voiced, he calmly takes your order. While there is a whole restaurant extending further back with tables and waiters, a place where one can sit and eat leisurely, for me, I prefer sitting at the bar. After ordering, I hop on one of the bar stools and wait, drooling with the others as we watch the master at work. When it’s crowded during the lunch rush, the asador is like an artist: cutting, slicing, carving, and flipping the meat, while he’s keeping track of the orders AND tending the coals and making sure that he’s got the perfect amount of heat. The combination Carlo’s stoic leadership and the asador’s quick and meticulous work make for a fantastic parrilla experience. They create a wonderful atmosphere that is almost as great as their meat.
My housekeeper Marie is idiosyncratic, funny, and kinda primitive. She comes for a small town in Paraguay called Rio Verde which literally means green river. She moved to Argentina when she was fourteen to get a job. She never finished High School and has no interest of going back to school. Her job is simple, she cleans the house, helps cooks the meals, washes the family's clothes, sometimes goes grocery shopping, and does other odds and ends as necessary. She sleeps in a very small room in the corner of the apartment. It does have its own bathroom, but she has very little personal space. Her day is simple. She wakes up, and makes breakfast for herself and everyone else. Then she does the dishes, and begins to clean the house. She starts with the kids rooms, makes her way to the master bedroom, then the bathrooms, and finally to the common rooms. Once the cleaning is done, and really while it is still going on, she watches telenovellas. She watches them during all of her free time. Sometimes I come home and she is watching them in my room. It is kinda odd, but mostly I just find it funny. I feel bad for her sometimes, because she is not allowed to eat meals with us. She always eats by herself, in the kitchen while everyone else eats in the dining room. I once asked her why she ate by herself and she said because my host mom won't let her eat at the table with us.
Maria loves cracking jokes when we spend time together. She also is not used to technology. She loves playing with my MP3 player and my computer. I showed her Skype the other day and she was really impressed. She thought my friend on the other end was super cute and asked if he was ever going to come to Argentina. He said you never know and that she should wait for him. I also showed her YOUTUBE so she could see all her favorite musical artists. We both like Calle 13 so we listen to him together on my computer while she watches telenovellas in my room. I asked her if she liked any artists from Paraguay and she said not really and that music from the United States was much better. Sometimes she sings when she is walking around the house. This is when I like her the best. I love my housekeeper.
The three blocks I have lived on in the past three years have never ceased to amaze me. In my first year at NYU I lived directly next to the projects and every time I walked home I was either offered drugs or called “white boyyyyy”. My second year at NYU I made the mistake of renting an apartment on St. Marks Place, the street brothel of the east village. Just by my luck I lived right above the noisiest bar on the block and each night I found myself drifting off to sleep to the lovely sounds of drunken buffoons. Naturally in the third year of my NYU experience, my time abroad in Buenos Aires I live on the hooker bar block.
Vicente Lopez between Pueyreddon y Guracahga is the realm of the high-class hooker bars. Five bars in a row, each with the symbolic emblem of 5 stars-the mark of a bar that bar something special lurking on the inside. During the day my block is as normal as they come. There’s the flower man on the corner whom only has one leg and jumps between cars attempting to sell his wears during peak traffic hours. There’s the fruit and vegetable stand, a place I go nearly every day to buy fresh produce, and where the workers are constantly watching Argentine telenovelas. There’s the ever-present “SuperKiosco”, a corner store clone that exists on almost every block in the center of Buenos Aires. But when the sun goes down, my block transforms into a different beast.
The first sign that something out of the ordinary is happening on Vicente Lopez is the guy waving down taxis on the middle of a pedestrian block. From the hours of 8PM till about 7AM, this guy stands with a huge flag in his hand beaconing cars and taxis to him as if he was working at a mainstream hotel. The second sign that Vicente Lopez is different from all other streets are the flyer boys who dance from sidewalk to sidewalk forcing you to take their advertisements. Now these advertisements aren’t your average run of the mill flyers, each one has naked woman and man, with the corresponding name of the bar in which you can find them. So every night as I casually try to make my way to my apartment I’m bombarded with flyers and other guys who are the next level workers for these prostitution rings. These guys are a little more serious and ask questions-in English- like “Would you care to see the show these evening Senor?” Now the first couple weeks I could never get to the door of my apartment without being harassed by this crew, but now they know my face and just ask, “When are you finally going to give in?”- now they ask in Spanish.
Trying to get to sleep on my block in Buenos Aires is way more intense then it ever was on St. Marks Place. I’m always hearing throngs of screams from groups of tourists below, hustling to get into the bars for lower prices, or coming out of the bars and yelling to the high heavens. Then if I’m still unable to fall asleep you get the crew of workers emerging from the bar just as the sun is rising. They tend to fraternize outside smoking cigarettes and drinking beer until god only knows what hours. Usually I can only get to sleep by turning the air conditioning on blast to subdue the noises from below. But even with the lack of sleep and the constant harassment to have sexual encounters for payment, I wouldn’t want to live on any other block. Not that I necessarily agree with whatever is happening behind close doors, in fact I’m completely against it, but what would a study abroad experience be without a little exposure to the seedy underground of a third world country. Also I think I forgot to mention that all of this late night activity occurs directly across the street from the Recoleta cemetery, one of the holiest sights in all of Buenos Aires.
An old open-aired piano sat on the cobblestone street under the Argentine sun. It was accompanied by a 20-something year old banging on its beaten keys. He was also accompanied by 6 others that were playing away on violins and xylophones. In harmony they created perfect beats in a tango-ish tune. Blocks away, dreadlocked amigos sat on the street corner drums in hand. A completely different beat flooded the street. Yet, another block away a rock band sang a Beatles song. Every Sunday at San Telmo there is a two mile long street fair compacting hundreds of diverse people into a skinny cobblestone strip. Looking over it from the end of the fair you can see a swarm of hundreds of moving heads far into the distance.
The items being sold vary from antique trinkets to hand woven sweaters. One end of the fair resembles a second-hand vintage store. Old dresses and shoes line the streets, but so do buttons, hooks, sunglasses, and radios from the nineties. Further along the strip, leather belts and bags are sold, an Argentina specialty. Fur hats and coats seem a bit ridiculous in the streets, but many ladies still buy them anyways. Racks of leather jackets are on the corners. The jewelry is amazing. It is so bright and exotic. There are many woven necklaces and bracelets. The ring assortment is insane: spoons, wired and beaded, buttoned, and jeweled. Photographs and paintings color the street. Argentine CD’s are laid out for the curious tourists. Every type of matte (a typical Argentine tea) gourds are at your reach. And for some odd reason, gnomes are a big hit. Many hand-crafted gnomes dressed in various outfits are for sale on every block.
As you manage to stroll your way down the extremely busy street, you come across the culture of Argentina in a day. All the locals come together to sell their goods and hang out with their friends. Medialunas and empanadas are being sold along the street. Orange juice is being squeezed right before your eyes. Music fills every block. Tango dancers pose for pictures. Art galleries are situated behind the booths. It is full of commotion and chaos, yet is delightfully relaxed and laidback, just as the Argentine approach to life. Today I walked out of San Telmo empty handed, but with a day full of experience. You do not need to buy a single item. Just the experience of La Fiera is all you need.
My living room is so very cozy. As you walk into my house, you kiss the Mezuzah on the door. Then you pass the picture of the Chabad rabbi on the door. The rabbi is holding a Jewish prayer book in his hand and has a long white beard. Basically, the rabbi looks like a very stereotypical Jewish Rabbi. Then you enter the couch area. There are three couches in a “u” shape, leaving the side closest to the door open. The chouchs are very comfy and are the type where each seat on the couch has its own pillow both for one's back and as the seat. Unlike the United States, couches here are pillow based instead of the couch being one long individual piece. The couch against the left wall is white with black lining. The middle couch is brown with black lining, and the last couch is also white with black lining. Inbetween the right and middle couch is a night stand with a black lamp on top of it. The night stand also has three family pictures on it. One of the photos is of my two host parents and their two daughters. The second is of the oldest daughter, Maria, and her now husband Marcello. The third picture is of the youngest daughter with her now husband Joshua. The two daughters come over for lunch a lot so I know them very well. Therefore, having their photos around is reassuring. In front of the couches are some cabinets. On the first cabinet is a stainless steal bowl which is some kind of family heirloom. On the other cabinet is two golden candle stick holders that the family uses to bring in the Jewish sabbath. Inside the cabinets is where my host family keeps their nice china. The silverware set is gold with silver trim. It is extremely expensive so there are actually locks on the cabinet doors. Behind the couches is the giant table, where my family and I have dinner every night. Sitting in the middle of the table is always the two salt shakers because one is certainly not enough. On the table always is a beautiful white table cloth with a snow flake design. It is a glass table, and therefore, you must be very careful about how much weight you put on the table because it might crack. The round table sits ten seats easily around it. On the wall next to the table is a giant mirror. There are not that many mirrors in the house so it is common to use that mirror for dressing purposes. Behind the table is the door to the balcony. The door is glass and a beautiful white curtain blocks the view of outside almost at all times. Now that Buenos Aires is starting to warm up, The curtain has been more and more open in order to allow the door to be open to cool down the room. I love my living room.
Recently a few of my friends from back home arrived here in Argentina. They were originally going to go to Rio de Janeiro and then come here to Buenos Aires, but there was some complications with their Brazilian visas, so it seems that they’re just going to get an apartment here and maybe travel around Argentina. I wasn’t expecting them until a few weeks later, but a few days ago my buddy sent me a message on facebook letting me know that they’d touched down. Last night we hung out for the first time, and it was an incredibly strange, but awesome experience.To begin with, it was so cool seeing my friends, three people who I’ve known since before high school, in Buenos Aires. With their arrival, I’m seeing this city with new eyes again. I’m remembering what it was like when I first came here, before I got settled here. I want to be able to show my buddies what my life is like here and give them a good, fair, portrayal of Buenos Aires, the good and the bad. Not that I’m an expert now and I definitely don’t know the city perfectly (it’s huge!), but I live here, I have places that I go to regularly, and it is my home. Seeing my friends really made me realize this. It brought together two totally separate worlds and it made me realize that I have a pretty established life here. I have an identity. This is no longer a new and exotic to me, it’s simply Buenos Aires, my home. In many ways, is kind of like how my relationship with New York changed. Before coming to NYU and living in New York, it seemed like this magical, dream-like place, but after living there for a while, the awe kind of wore off. I am NOT trying to say that I’m tired of it here (or in New York for that matter), instead what I really mean is the opposite. Now is when I am really enjoying living in this city, not just visiting. I’m discovering and enjoying many new aspects and realizing just how much it truly has to offer. The arrival of my friends has made me look back on my time here and realize how great it’s been and how wonderful it will continue to be.
Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (Jorge Luis Borges) While Argentine literature is extremely interesting, with many different and important writers, Jorge Luis Borges is without a doubt the most prominent. You simply cannot mention Argentine literature without Borges and in many ways he both embodies and defines it. He truly has a unique style and captures many important aspects of Argentine culture and history in his works.Reading this book has been fascinating for a number of reasons. Not only is JLB just an absolutely genius human being and incredible writer, but I am also currently taking a class called “Borges and Argentine Literature”. Thus, I have already read a few of the stories in this book, but, since my class is in Spanish, I read them in Spanish. Furthermore, in my class we’ve read a few pieces by peopled who have translated Borges’ work, in which they talk about their experiences. In short, I have had MANY different things to think about and ways of going about analyzing this nice little piece of work. This book is not a novel (Borges didn’t write novels), instead it’s a collection of different stories and texts by Borges on a topic that fascinated him: Labyrinths. For Borges, there are physical/spacial labyrinths, like in his story “The House of Asterion,” which depicts the labyrinth on a Crete at the center of which awaited the mythical Minotaur, but there are also mental/temporal labyrinths, which he believes can be constructed through literature. For example, he uses the example of One Thousand and One Nights (a book that Borges adored) in his many different ways of speaking about labyrinths.While this book in particular focuses solely on labyrinths, I actually think it takes away from Borges’ work. The beauty of Borges is the universality with which he writes, all the while relating it back to Argentina. While Borges loves writing about labyrinths, he would never write a book about labyrinths. His three most acclaimed books, El Hacedor, Ficciones, and El Aleph are all collections of different stories and texts with a very wide range of topics, but they all come together to create something new and profound. I love reading Borges because I believe that through him I can achieve a better understanding of Buenos Aires and of Argentina.
Yesterday, NYU in Buenos Aires got a unique chance to play against a club basketball team in the barrio Quilmes (Shares a name with Argentina's most famous beer). Quilmes is a suburban neighborhood outside of Buenos Aires that is known for its hospitality and middle to upper class homes. In Quilmes, there is a recreations center called Club Bertelli Athletico where we were invited to play their team in basketball. We arrived and there was almost no one there. We began to shoot around and eventually, more people started pilling in. The NYU team consisted of six guys and six girls. The team as a whole was not very good. Three of the six guys did not really play basketball. The other three including me played on a regular basis but that was not enough. The first quarter started out actually pretty close. We started out with a two-three zone, and they started with man to man defense. Their man to man defense was tough, but they were awfully confused by our two-three zone. We got a few quick points by dumping the ball into our big men, while they stayed in the game by going three for four from the three point line. The first quarter ended with NYU down one. The score was fifteen to sixteen. The second quarter was when things started going down hill. The first four minutes were fine. Then my team started loosing its wind. It happened slowly like a snowball. The other team started getting fast break points left and right. Even when we managed to score, they were getting fast break points off of that which is basically unheard of in basketball. By the end of the second quarter, we were down big. In the third quarter, we allowed the girls to play. This of course did not improve the level of play, but rather decreased it. The other team played their less good players, but that did not matter much. The gap between scores started to grow out of control. I think the other team was up twenty points after the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, my team started to get their wind back and both teams had the same amount of points in the fourth quarter. After the game, both teams came together for pizza and soda. It was super good. We had corn pizza, tomato pizza, and onion and cheese pizza. My favorite was the corn pizza. We discussed different styles of basketball over the food, and was all in all a good time.
Well I don't wish to explain or dare say I understood Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, but one quote did stick out in my mind. “Why have we had to invent Eden, to live submerged in the nostalgia of a lost paradise, to make up utopias, propose a future for ourselves?" (162) I think the answer to the rhetorical question is that we need purpose and we want to believe. What I mean exactly is this:
Religion is prevalent in the world not, because of the need for people to be close to God but rather because of need to have something to strive for. Thats at least, my take on the matter. People set goals and lists just to cross them off. Have you ever wondered why news years resolutions are so popular? It is simply because people love to set goals. I am not saying that goals are bad, but rather it is just human nature to perceive life as setting goals and reaching them. My take on eden is that people were not satisfied with death as the ending to our goals so a new end goal was invented. We needed a goal passed death to insure that we kept continuing to set goals as if death was not an obstacle. If death was the end goal, then people would have a real hard time doing all the intermediate steps to get there. With eden as the last step, it is very easy to keep pushing, because who wouldn't want to live in a utopia.
Now understanding that Eden would be a goal is I think easy to comprehend. I think the hard part lies in having faith that it exists. Faith is a little bit more tricky to talk about. What I wish to say about it is simply that when what we need to have faith in is positive it is easier to let ourselves have faith then when the faith has to do with a negative topic. Eden connects with this point by being the ultimate end of religion. In religion there are both positive and negative things to believe in, like God rescuing people from the flood and bad like thinking God gave your dad a heart attack. However, in Christianity, and other religions, it is not an accident that eden is set as the pinnacle of the believe, arguably equal to Jesus (This point is debatable but I'll save it for a different post). Eden is the pinnacle because it allows a follower to disregard all the bad faith and focus on the one good faith at the top.
At the end of my spring break, I spent two days in San Juan Argentina. It is a small town two hours north of Mendoza. We found on the Internet that a flight school there offered tandem skydiving for $165 U.S dollars. An incredible price for skydiving. Therefore, my two friends and I decided to pounce on the opportunity. We arrived at the bus station at ten in the morning. We called the people taking us skydiving, and they said they would pick us up in fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes, we noticed two people walking towards us, one girl one guy, and they just made a “b” line for us and kissed us on the cheek (A typical Argentinian greeting). We were just like um... are you the skydiving people. It of course turned out they were. They then proceeded to take us to their club. I was the first to go. They spent ten minutes explaining to us what to do when we get in the plane. It sounds like not a lot of time, but there is not a lot of explaining to be done. As I was in the plane getting ready to take off, the instructor who I was going to jump with noticed a problem with the plane. The plane had to be repaired and it took about three hours to do so. Then came my turn to actually jump. We climbed to 10,000 feet and I had a great view of the whole city and even the Andes Mountains. Then you get strapped into the instructor. Sit on the edge. Afuera, Aldentro, Afuero the count goes. You sail out of the plane like a ride in Disney World you forget where you are and just feel the wind hit your face. You flip and spin and close your eyes and pray. Then, all of a sudden you feel a pull and you notice that your parachute is up and the hard part is over. You then have five minutes to sail tranquilly down to the ground. I had kind of a tough landing. When I hit the ground, I couldn't stick the landing, and I fell backwards onto the instructor. I thought I might have hurt him, but it turned out to be fine. The people on the ground rushed to our rescue, picked us up and detached the parachute. It was the craziest thing I have ever done.
Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourist Settings does a good job of demonstrating that society itself creates in essence a semi-fake stage and tries to hide the back stage. However, I take offense to the quotation, “The term 'tourist' is increasingly used as a derisive label for someone who seems content with his obviously inauthentic experiences.” I do not plan to contradict the claim that the label “tourist” is used as Dean MacCannell describes, but rather give insight into why and how this label has come to arise and give examples on how I have or have not fallen into that trap. I consider myself a tourist, and therefore, I feel free to use myself as an example of what a tourist does and does not do.
First of all, the term has become so negative because it seems, as MacCannell describes, tourists seem content with the false experiences they, being tourists, receive. I do not agree that tourists are content with false experiences, but rather that they do not know they are receiving one. I know that when I feel I received a “touristy” experience, I feel swindled. I also know that I try and eat at non-touristy places because its cheaper and a more authentic experience. The problem is inevitably that the tourist never knows what is real and what is fake, but can only try and figure it out. Of, course sometimes the tourist will be successful in this respect and sometimes not.
Now to do something authentic is in some respects a catch-22 because if the tourist is doing it, then by definition it is not authentic. This catch-22 I feel is one of the reasons the perception of tourists liking inauthentic experiences is generated. This is because while the tourist is doing an activity, he thinks he is doing something authentic. At the same time, someone observing the tourist knows that it is not authentic and also thinks that the tourist knows that because of the inevitable truth that the tourist can only do something touristy. Therefore, I think it is not that tourists are happy to do inauthentic things, but rather simply have a different vantage point then the local as to what is authentic. An easy way to avoid this catch-22 is to only observe authentic behavior, however this would be contradictory to the point of traveling in the first place and therefore, I cannot offer this course of action to resolve the tourist's catch-22.