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Going to the park…

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In my last blog post I mentioned about a trip to the park on Sunday. Everywhere I go I try to do the local thing rather than the touristy thing and whilst staying in Buenos Aires Im staying in an apartment with 3 local guys who act as guides, mentors and in some cases bodyguards.
I know very little spanish which is a bit of a disgrace travelling to a place without knowing how to converse but as usual I try some faltering spanish and people want to practise their english with me. In the vast majority of cases they are better than most native english speakers!
Whilst I know how to get around, order beer, order food, work my way around shops and supermarkets its a great opportunity to learn words and phrases not normally in the tourist dictionary. Just everyday run of the mill stuff, normal phrases that will get you through most situations ‘yes’ and ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’ type of things.
Of course living in an apartment with 3 other guys and one bathroom you quickly learn the phrase ‘I would leave it a bit before I go into the bathroom if I were you’.As I mentioned before the scale of things here is massive. Last weekend we did the local thing of going to a park for an extended family day out. Back home its the sort of thing we used to do as kids and even when we were kids the longest trip was maybe an hours walk the couple of miles to the Falls Park. Here is like two busses and about 2 hour journey! I live about 300 yards from a country park at home, about 10 mins drive from any number of municipal parks and very little isnt within a half hour to an hour drive. So its completely alien to me to pack to go to the park and spend half the day on busses.
The park trip is very much a picnic and a fun day out and people do the same they do the world over, play football, play with their kids, fly kites, eat stuff, chill, chat, sit in the sun and generally relax.

families in the park
Of course each culture and place has its own pecularities. One interesting part about here is the concept of drinking mate. (pronunced mat – eh, well I think it is). Its a herbal mixture which I liken to sort of chinese green tea. It is served in a gourd with hot water and a metal drinking straw, this is passed around from person to person with one person finishing one gourd full, refilling and passing it on. This goes on all day and you can buy backpacks to hold a big flask of hot water, your gourd and your mate mix. People take it everywhere on the train, in town, on the way to work, probably our equivalent of an on the go cup of coffee or tea. Its more ‘friendly’ than that with the sharing aspect and you only say thanks when youve had enough so the gourd gets passed around all day.

drinking mate
I like that. One other aspect I like is the kissing people on the cheek when you greet them and when you leave, ok the kissing blokes on the cheek bit takes a bit of getting used to but after a while even the locals stop offering to shake your hand and adopt you as one of their own. Id say its hard to be annoyed with someone if you have to kiss them on the cheek as you leave. Great idea.

So when I was asked if I wanted to go to the park with three beautiful women to do some model shots, how could I refuse. We bought the picnic, filled up the mate flask and went down to the subway.
Of course still bear in mind I was thinking the 2 hour journey to the park was a one off, well I suppose it was as it took us 3 hours to get to this one. I should have asked really….
So tube, then another tube, then one of those huge trans continental diesel trains you see on tv. Then after an hour on it and a right few rounds of mate we arrived at the park, or well close to it…

When I first arrived here I was looking a few props, just some small stuff I usually source off ebay. I was told that there isnt much ebay here in Argentina and I wondered how on earth people here survived without sourcing cheap chinese tat from the internet.
Its quite a simple answer, just take a train or the subway. Its a strange experience, you take your seat and a long procession of hawkers pronounce in the same loud deep nasal voice, never before heard outside of Belfast, about their products, how good it is, what it can do for you and how cheap it is. Pretty much an ideal ebay description. Oh and the voice is the same man, woman or kids. From knock off nike socks, to lighters (5 for a pound indeed), to flashlights with your favourite footballer on, to whistles that sound like birds, battery chargers, clothes. You name it they sell it. I even saw a group of lads get on the train with car tyres. I’ll never slag off northern ireland railways again. Of course theres always something to tempt you and in my case its those fake bamboo looking things that you buy on every holiday that are a beach mat that roll up for carrying if you know the things I mean. I must have about 10 of those things in the loft, bought each holiday, probably late on when I finally crack and buy something to sit on. Of course I hadnt the 30p in local change the purchase required and showing the 20 quid note was likely to get me hung drawn and quartered before the next stop.
The weirdest thing of all is the people who put small pieces of paper in your lap or hand you them. I dont know what they are, bible quotes, stories, fortune telling, sayings for the day good luck charms or what. I think the idea is they give it to you and you read it. How the exchange happens I dont know, if you read do you have to buy or if not do you buy it if you like what you read? Dunno.
I can only describe them as a fortune cookie without the cookie.

So here we are at the park, standing at the entrance, of course we didnt know it was the entrance so our intrepid guide decides to make us walk down the train track and through the forest for about 30 mins in 35 degree heat carrying a load that only sherpas should carry.
We finally get to about 100 yards away from where we started then head into the forest.
Then things started to go pear shaped.
There had been light rain overnight so the pathway was lined with small pools of water and the next few seconds were like a scene from Apocalypse Now. In slow motion entire squadrons of mosquitos took off and came at us out of the sun. It was a massacre.
I was bitten in the region of 30-40 times in the time it took me to get my backpack off, pull out the mosquito spray and start spraying indisciminately. A sort of drive by de-bugging if you like.
Like all the old world war two movies based in the pacific, we suffered heavy casualties but started to turn the tide. I truly do love the smell of deet in the morning.
It still took me a while to find out to my cost that I was getting bit through my clothes, something that would end up with me being taken to the pharmacy this morning, but the bottle of altan I bought at home started to take effect.
I can only describe what happened next as similar to the old ready brek ads in the uk. The ones where the kids come out of the house covered in a red glow. There was now an invisible cloud barrier all around me and the next mosquito squadrons pulled into sharp dives and evasive action about an inch from my body. For those of you not from the UK and used to the ready break ‘central heating for kids’ phenomenon liken it to the alien ships in independence day that had the invisible force field.
Of course in such a survival situation spacial awareness goes out the window so the fraction of a second my backpack was on the ground it got covered by what must have been the ground invasion follow up after the mosquito carpet bombing. They werent mosquitos but they got a dose as well.

So things then calmed down, we did the shoot, had our picnic, scratched a lot, cursed a lot (well me mainly), packed up and went home strangely by a shorter route than we came.

When I got back to the apartment I sat down on the floor and promptly announced that I thought I had been also bitten on the ass. After the two waves of laughter (one from the english speakers and one after the translation), it was pointed out to me that I might have sat on one of the poisonous caterpillars and I should google it to be safe. Now one of my childhood memories was of a ‘bring in and show’ episode in primary school. A bit like show and tell without all the american razmatazz (must stop saying american and say US, the other americans do tend to correct me a lot). We had these hairy caterpillar things in our garden at home so I brought a few into school on some leaves. I told the class they were hairy and were poisonous to birds etc etc. On the way home our class wee shit (read bully for those not used to the northern ireland vernacular) grabbed my box and crushed it saying that if they were poisonous they deserved to die.
That left so much of an impression on me I still remember it over 30 years on, such wanton cruelty sums up kids….
Of course bent over in the bathroom last night with two mirrors trying to work out if it was mosquito bites or a poisonous caterpillar that had stung my ass, I tended to agree with the wee shit.

So in the cold light of day full of antihistamines and covered in calamine lotion you have to say was it worth it.
Well heres just one photo of angie from the set and I’ll let you decide.


To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here

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