Monday, October 26, 2009

Cementerio de la Recoleta

The cemetery in the upscale barrio of Recoleta is one of Buenos Aires' A-list tourist attractions. I'm not sure what this says about the city, since I visited a nearly identical complex in Valparaíso, Chile, that's much less hyped.

Regardless, the cemetery contains the mausoleums of many notable Argentines--the most famous being Eva Perón--including several presidents who's names I recognize from reading about how the government "dealt" with the Mapuche and other indigenous peoples towards the end of the 19th century.

The graveyard is laid out like its own mini-barrio, with tree-lined main streets and narrower connecting walkways. All this is presided over by an army of feral cats who live on the grounds and are fed by locals.


At this time last year, I was newly arrived in Mexico City, contemplating the differences--and increasing similarities--between Halloween and Día de los Muertos. In Argentina, neither holiday holds much sway. So I've taken it upon myself to "spooky" up my photos of the cemetery. Gotta celebrate the season somehow!

Creepy caretaker

Long shadows

Roads of the dead

Ghost, angel...or statue

Cemetery still life

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and a Bald Bolivian Mountain

Today is Blog Action Day, "an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day...with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance."

The issue for 2009: Climate Change

I'm not going to spend any screen space arguing its existence. I find the "debate" tired and depressingly unconstructive. If you still harbor doubts (or inflammatory comments), I kindly direct you to the Pew Center. Instead, I'll talk about what I've seen with my two brown eyes.

The Chacaltaya glacier just outside La Paz, Bolivia, has virtually disappeared. It used to support the world's highest ski run, complete with t-bar, but now only gives up a couple turns to rich Bolivianos who feel like making the hour's drive up to 17,400 feet for a lark. I wrote about my tour of the glacier here.

Glaciers advance and glaciers retreat. Yes, it's a fact. But when it comes to tropical glaciers, there's only retreat. Smaller and less resilient than those at higher and lower latitudes, tropical glaciers serve an "early warning" function, as they're most quickly and dramatically affected by warming temperatures.

What's really scary is that millions of people in the Andes depend on glacial melt for drinking water.

What happens when the glaciers are gone? I haven't exactly done in-depth research, but I've never heard anyone even attempt to offer a solution to the problem, only acknowledge it.

Which brings me back to Chacaltaya. The 800,000 inhabitants of the valley of La Paz have other water sources trickling in. But those in El Alto--who number nearly as many if not more by now, up on the flat rim of the Altiplano, worlds apart both economically and culturally--my guide told me they have no other source. Chacaltaya's it. And by some definitions, Chacaltaya's gone.

A disused t-bar, a touch of snow, and 800,000 people in the distance

Los pobres dying of thirst. Just one consequence among countless others (for a decidedly unscientific list of potential negatives, go here) of climate change.

What can you do? These 10 solutions won't bring about salvation, but they're a start. And don't forget about 350, a different kind of day of action. Learn more here.

Also, got a blog? Write a post on the issue before the day is out. You can register with the rest of us here.

If you're in the mood to read more, the following content from Matador is definitely worth a look:

Wipe Out: World's Most Vulnerable Coastal Cities

9 Places to Experience Now Before They Literally Vanish

New Report: World Still Unprepared for Climate Change

Why the Road to Climate Catastrophe is Paved with Cheap Flights

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's in my head

* I'm sitting at the 2'x2' wooden table in the comedor staring, as usual, at my too-big-to-be-practical laptop. My lower calves are tight from a run in the park this morning. I love that feeling. I'm drinking coffee too quickly out of the tall mug with the gold floral pattern, one of two coffee-appropriate vessels that came with this departamento amueblado. The floor-to-ceiling windows next to me look mainly onto another section of building, other apartment windows, but I can also see out over the train tracks, past the Classical square bulk of some government building and to the highrises just in front of the ocean.

* The idea of writing is burning an ulcerous cramp into my stomach. I look at the Times New Roman type of my "to do" list and immediately look away. That shit is not gonna happen today. I get reprieve after reprieve from my day-job work as projects are pushed back. I feel like I need to be accomplishing something with this time...impotence.

* I wonder what the Internet will look like for our grandchildren. Will they be able to access everything their grandparents wrote, all the trivial musings on blogs, all the Facebook status updates and tweets? Would they want to?

* This Internet connection is crap. It needs to be reset five times a day. Just went out again.

* I know what the problem is, because it's not new. Feeling "stuck" somewhere when there are other places to be. Maybe constant movement has conditioned me to always be thinking one place ahead. It's not the best way to live. The buddhas would be disappointed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

About the Buddhas

A recent post featured what may be my favorite photo from my travels.

Rows of stone buddhas sit cross-legged, eyes closed, hands draped, ears sagging, hair knotted. In front of them, a row of stone basins, two painted yellow and red.

The shot was taken close to exactly three years ago on the grounds of Wat Sainyaphum in Savannakhet, Laos.

I went into detail about my hike through the region's protected forest and a visit to the holy stupa in my piece at TheExpeditioner, Slowing Down in Savannakhet.

But three years later, it's the city itself I remember most vividly:

* The sky was gray. No shadows. It rained.

* The hostel I'd booked faced the Mekong. The day I got there, the entire riverside was covered in festival. Longboats raced against the current, groups of kids with American death-metal t-shirts played carnival games, sweet egg bread fried on portable griddles.

* At night I drank big bottles of Beer Lao on the hostel roof. A caged bird screamed. Down on the street, people sorted through the festival garbage. I looked at the river current, and across it to the lights of a Thai city.

* The wats were quiet, the buddhas carefully arranged.

* There wasn't a lot to do. I didn't mind.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Ever conscious of the needs of my readers, I'm publishing this picture as an addendum to the post below.

Yes, the scene I described was of morning, but I've chosen one on the other end of the day, because...well, it looks cool.

The view from my balcony:

Thursday, October 1, 2009


My new apartment is on the 10th floor. The immediate view out its north-facing windows is low and green, thanks to the San Martín commuter line that cuts like a river valley between two banks of highrises, tall, white, and glass.

Each morning I shower, washing off the cold-air sweat of a run around Plaza Holanda and the paddleboat pond. Standing in the tub, I slide back the pane of the shoulder-high window to let the shower mist escape into the chill. Even without my glasses on, the difference between the outside world through fogged glass and through nothing is sharp and green.

A train. People get on, get off at the Palermo stop. It kicks up again, and soon the track clack and engine horn are whittled down into just another piece of the low roar of this motorized city.