onsdag 24. februar 2010

Iguazu Falls

We've been travelling!

Last weekend we got on a bus Friday afternoon at 15.15
(after doing a Pub Crawl the night before) and knew that we wouldn't get off until
18,5 hours later. But it wasn't a bad busride (we went with the company ViaBariloche) at all!

We were served snacks, starters and dinner while movies were playing in the background.
The temperature was relatively well regulated.. although we were prepared for the opposite with lots of clothes and blankets in the luggage. We can't say the same for the Australian boys sitting next to us though..they came in shorts and t-shirts (or actually, even less) and spend the night shivering trying to cover themselves with random pieces of fabric that they found on the bus.
I guess once a "speider" always a "speider" (scout)... 'cause we were ready for anything!

We spent Saturday in the city called Puerto Iguazu and met a very nice lady at the tourist information who helped us plan the rest of our weekend. We went to see the falls, and walked around the park. We got absolutely wet and it was quite comfortable because it was HOT.

We met a cute chilean family of 3 in the park with the cutest little boy who was too shy to talk to us, but we got to practise our Spanish a bit with his parents.
At night we hung out at the pool at the hostel drinking flavoured beer (I had orange), and met a nice dutch girl, and we all went to dinner together...and guess who we met??
The chilean family walked in to the same restaurant! Now that's a coincidence!
And the boy had obviously made plans for what he would do if he met us again because he said "te amo, te amo, te amo!" (I love you)

From there we walked forever (practically) in order to get to a street where there was supposed to be a carneval. And it WAS a carneval. Everybody was wearing glittering and tiny bikinis and dancing in the streets - cool!

And somewhat annoying that everyone had spray-bottles of soap foam that they were spraying us with....but whatever.

Our hostel in Puerto Iguazu:

Sunday we went to the Brazilian side and it was amazing!
First we met a man at the bus-station who was looking for a girlfriend.
He then showed us his bank cards..not sure if that was a part of his strategy in order to find a girlfriend, but either way, we left after a small chat.

When we made it to the falls we got a really good overview over how big the falls really are (A LOT bigger than Niagara Falls).

The falls are a great place for seeing really cool butterflies, and rainbows!

We spent the rest of the day in Foz do Iguaçu and eventhough everything (almost) was closed because it was Sunday (I guess Brazilian people are quite religious) we managed to do some of the musts-when-in-Brazil:
Eat a buffet dinner
Drink SKOL beer
Drink Brazilian coffee

Our waiter was the cutest ever, mostly because of his funny way of speaking English. He greeted us at the door when we arrived: Good night!!!! oh...sorry: good evening!
and proceeded to ask if we wanted joyce to drink.
My de-coding English abilities from living with various people from various countries with various levels of English in Trondheim payed off, and we got some joyce. I mean juice.

Monday we took a bus to Paraguay (Ciudad del Este). We considered walking across the bridge in order to be able to say "we walked from one country to another" but decided that maybe it was a bad idea since our hotel reseptionist informed us that it was "not advisable". So we stayed on the bus, and despite the warning in the Lonely Planet book, that people throw things on to the bus as we pass, nothing was thrown and we made it across safe. We even remembered to be properly stamped OUT and in of the country (very important).

What we saw of Paraguay was completely different from what we've seen in both Argentina & Brasil. It was caotic, without "proper" roads, cars, people, animals, sellers etc. EVERYWHERE and street sellers/street markeds EVERYWHERE. And every store has a personal security officer who is armed with the largest rifles I've seen...randomly thrown over the shoulder. Looks very intimidating. We walked around and looked at the stuff they had to offer, and while a street seller was trying to sell us something a car actually came and hit him! Luckily just on the back of his leg, but his sandal was broken, and it was kind of sad. Mostly for him of course. But we all felt bad. Still didn't buy anything from him though.

Paraguay is really poor, and here is a picture of some homes

Then all of the sudden it started raining like CRAZY and we headed for the bus-station where a 21h. bus trip waited. This time we were going with the company Crucero del Norte.
We felt extremely well prepared as we quickly discovered that we needed both hats, jackets, blankets etc. to keep warm. Our mums (and dads!) would be proud.
We also noticed that the bus looked a bit less well-kept than the one that had brought us to Puerto Iguazu and started worrying about whether or not we would get something to eat.
In stead of a movie we got 5 different songs (90s disco music) played on repeat.
It made us more worried. But luckily, at random stops street-sellers came on the bus to sell different things you need for a long bus ride..I list: football shoes, CDs, towels, blankets...and FOOD! So, we bought lots of empanadas in order to be ready in case there would be no food.
We also made a new friend. And when I say friend I mean slightly-creapy-guy-who-keeps-staring-like-crazy.

Around 23.30 when we'd lost all hope for food the bus stopped and everyone rushed in to what appeared to be a bus-restaurant. It was a "restaurant" run by the buscompany where we got dinner and dessert. All in 15minutes. Max. We had to eat and run, and that was a good thing, because we ended up eating with guy-who-stares-a-lot. The bus ride got a bit better from there, because a movie started (and we fell asleep)...and slowly (!) but surely we made it to Buenos Aires.

Now we've just got back from throwing a birthday party for the kids, and
I can still hear the words "dame un globo!!!!!" (give me a balloon) ringing in my ears.

News from the Guardian

Here is an artical that I came across from the guardian about the reality in some of the villas outside BsAs: (for the record, we have not seen any sign of druguse among the children we work with in the villas, so I guess we have been lucky)

The 10p cocaine byproduct turning Argentina's slum children into the living dead

A generation of parents in Buenos Aires can only watch in despair as their sons and daughters are consumed by paco, a lethally cheap drug

Nina Chamorro runs her finger across the montage of photos of neighbourhood children tacked to the wall of her community soup kitchen in Villa Itatí, a sprawling urban slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

"He is dead now. And him. And him," says the 75-year-old grandmother, her eyes drifting sadly over grinning faces. She points to another photograph. "He was shot by the police last month. That girl disappeared. We have lost so many of our beautiful children. We knew them since they were born. They had their whole lives to live."

Villa Itatí is only a few minutes' drive from the more upmarket parts of Buenos Aires. Ask most people here to explain the cause of the grisly gallery in Chamorro's kitchen and the answer will be a single word: "paco". A toxic and highly addictive mixture of raw cocaine base cut with chemicals, glue, crushed glass and rat poison, paco is the curse of Argentina's urban poor. And consumption of this bastardised, low-grade drug is eating away at the vitality and hope of the most deprived neighbourhood areas of the capital.

Essentially a chemical waste product, paco is what remains from the narco-kitchens producing cocaine bound for US and European markets. Since its appearance on the streets of Buenos Aires in the late 1990s, the drug has taken a deadly grip in slums such as Itatí. ­Levels of addiction rose by more than 200% in the first part of the decade and more than 400,000 doses are now being consumed daily.

Users are witheringly referred to as the muertos vivientes – the living dead – of Buenos Aires. Addictive after one or two hits, the drug systematically destroys the nervous system. Users quickly become skeletal and ravaged, resorting to crime, violence and prostitution to feed their habits. Enormous numbers die in short order.

Villa Itatí runs on paco: an economy that is an endless, grim cycle of illicit profit, addiction-fuelled crime and wasted lives, all witnessed by a despairing generation of parents.

According to urban myth, the first paco in Argentina was sold here. Residents say narco-traffickers started flooding the neighbourhood with paco in 2005, selling hits for little more than 10p each. According to provincial government reports, an astonishing 50% of Villa Itatí's 60,000 residents have used or are currently addicted to the drug. Across the country, 2008 government figures show that 64.9% of under-18s in addiction and treatment services are there because of paco.

Virtually no one owns a car in Villa Itatí. But in a place where there is only one source of wealth, there are stark signs of big money being made by some. Shiny black four-wheel-drives with darkened windows are parked in the unpaved street near Chamorro's kitchen. "Paco," says one woman, pointing to the trucks. "Those cars are what they buy with our children's blood."

"The dealers came here and first they targeted kids," says one resident running a community project who didn't want to be named. "They sold these kids hits of paco for one peso and got them hooked and now they work for them selling it in the streets. If they lose one dose, they shoot them in the legs or kill them. Families are cooking paco in their houses because it is the only way they can make money.

"This place used to be a real neighbourhood, people had work. We were poor but we were a community; now it is all crime and drugs and sewage," says Chamorro. "There is no work, the factories all closed. Some of the women go into the city to clean rich people's houses and a few of the men collect cardboard. But there is nothing for the young people."

Sonia Andrade, Chamorro's daughter who helps her run the soup kitchen, describes how she lies awake at night hearing the children of her friends scrambling across the roof "like rats" looking for things to steal.

"They are so desperate they rob everything from their families to get another hit, and when there is nothing left to take they steal from their neighbours," says Andrade. "They didn't have much of a chance before paco, and now they don't have any at all."

The scourge of paco may be the final act in the tragedy of decline in what is one of the city's oldest and largest slums. When Chamorro started her soup kitchen more than 20 years ago she used to feed 20 or 30 people a day; now it is closer to 200. Her simple two-room soup kitchen is at the heart of the urban shanty town. It is only midday, but already the smell from "La Cava", the huge open pit filled with household rubbish and ­sewage at the heart of the slum, is overpowering.

Andrade points to the high embankments of the highway. When it rains, she explains, water pours down the slopes and floods into the pit. The slum's poorest families living closest to the pit find themselves knee-deep in putrid water in under an hour.

"All the children here have scabs all over their bodies, they don't eat outside of what we give them here, they all have breathing problems," she says. "The ­kindergarten used to give them milk and breakfast, but now the money from the government has stopped and the teachers don't come any more."

But however appalling the poverty, it is the growth in drug abuse that has turned the place into an urban hell.

Dr Carlos Vizzotti, director of national assistance and prevention programmes at Sedronar, the government's agency for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement, admits the government is struggling to contain the problem of serious drug addiction in the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

"We can't compete with the dealers who are paying kids and families 200 pesos a day to sell and traffic paco and cocaine. We try to get them off drugs, but then we just send them back to the same problems which brought them to paco in the first place."

The accounts of those working on the front line are unremittingly grim. Father Pepe, a missionary priest, runs addiction and poverty alleviation projects from his small, whitewashed church in another slum, Villa 21-24, close to the heart of Buenos Aires.

"Paco is a manifestation of everything that is rotten in Argentina," he says. "It exposes the systematic and growing failure of the whole system, health, education, basic services – they are all falling to ruin. It isn't that paco is a drug of the poor; it is that it feeds off the poverty and exclusion that was always here. Paco just shows us what lies at the heart of our country today."

Outside the heat is searing, but inside the church is dark and cool, the walls covered in murals depicting the harsh reality of life in Argentina's slums. The largest shows a child paco-user ­protected from the grave by angels. "Paco is a tsunami that has hit the most vulnerable. If we weren't working here, then there would be nobody to help families fight against this. The state and wider society have washed their hands of us," says Pepe.

Rising crime has made Villa 21-24 a byword for violence in Buenos Aires with many areas of this vast urban settlement being controlled entirely by narco-gangs. Last year Pepe was forced to ask for official protection and faced death threats after he spoke out against the traffickers and rising crime in the neighbourhood. "In the last few years we have seen many more problems with crime, with violence and guns linked to a more co-ordinated narcotics operation here in the slums. It's an increasingly big business," he says. "Yet the capacity of the people to prevail, to want something better, lives on, and this is what we should be supporting."

But as Argentina gains a new unwanted status as a premier narco-trafficking route, the outlook for ­campaigners such as Pepe is bleak. ­Traditionally used mainly as a transit route to get cocaine out of Latin America to Europe, Argentina is increasingly used as a producer and consumer of cocaine and cocaine byproducts in Latin America.

Drug Enforcement Argentina, an anti-drugs pressure group, claims cocaine kitchens like those first discovered in the slums in 2006 are booming and that there are more than 1,500 clandestine airstrips bringing cocaine base into the north of the country.

Sedronar admits that porous borders, limited resources and expertise, and a lack of effective co-ordination between regional and national agencies means that Argentina is losing the battle to contain the rise of narco-trafficking into the country.

In Villa Itatí, Nina Chamorro and thousands of others like her are ­desperate that paco should disappear and their children be given the chance of a way out of the spiral of poverty and drug addiction that is destroying their future.

"We have been abandoned by the government, by everybody. They are all terrified of our children coming to their houses and taking their things, but they need hope for something better. There has to be more for them that this," says Chamorro as she heads inside the soup kitchen. Her words are an almost certainly futile expression of despair.


■ Paco is cocaine base paste, a byproduct of the refining process, cut with chemicals such as sulphuric acid and kerosene as well as glue, rat poison and crushed glass ■ Readily available, paco is sold for as little as 10p a hit. The average paco user smokes more than seven doses a day ■ Madres en Lucha (a group of campaigning mothers) estimates paco kills two people a week in Buenos Aires ■ Drug Enforcement Argentina, an anti-drug lobbying group, says paco trafficking exceeds £600m a year. Cocaine seizures in Argentina doubled between 1999 and 2006 ■ Paco was smoked in other cocaine-producing countries before it reached Argentina: it is known as kete in Peru, bazuco in Colombia and pitillo in Bolivia

torsdag 18. februar 2010

Measuring device

I don't think we've told you but our doorbell keeps ringing,
even when we are not expecting people. In order to open the door
we have to go downstairs with the key, so usually we are too lazy
if we're not expecting anyone. But, all this door-bell-ringing has made
us kind of curious.

So, the other day when it rang we decided to go downstairs and see who it
was and what they wanted. And at the door was a young gentleman
(who probably wasn't gentle at all) holding a small device
asking us to let him in, because he had to measure how much electricity
we've been using. YEAH. We think that's argentine for
"You have to let me in so I can rob you".

Seeing that we were neither in the mood to have our electricity use measured,
nor be robbed we figured it would be best NOT to let this door-bell-ringer come in.

But other than that, our life here in BsAs has been very crime/crime-attempt-free!

A couple of new Tango-stars have been spotted shining vaguely on the Argentinian night sky.

Yesterday we really did it! The Tango is now basically running through our blood vessels in desperate need to get out there and please the cheering crowd. This means we walk on our toes all day long, most of the time backwards and with fancy crossings of the legs in between (I wasn't too far off actually in Heathrow, so if you feel like a visual just check out the video AK kindly posted from that performance.

Well at least it's almost like this. Truth to be told we did actually attend the whole beginners-class this time, and we danced with Jose from Argentina, Thomas from Denmark, a guy from Sweden, a guy from the US, a guy that I didn't feel like asking anything and a guy that didn't speak.

It was a lot of fun and very interesting. And we did figure that we do actually have the chance here now to learn a truly amazing and breathtaking form of dancing... the Tango!


onsdag 17. februar 2010

Please be my Valentine!!!

Ooooofh, I guess the worst idea you could ever come up with is going to South America to "celebrate" Valentines day. For some reason we managed to stumble over this celebration without any specific hopes or agenda. Being three seemingly "single" girls walking around in this maze of read hearts, couples making out in unappropriated places and teddy bears playing 'I-love-you-songs' for a couple of weeks before the big day of love, we decided to get ourselves good seats and the biggest box of popcorn available in our local movie theater - to bury our sorrows and let some pressure out of our systems, this in the form of salty, miserable tears. The movie: 'Valentines day' of course.

The movie wasn't too sad really, it was nice and loving, and we felt good after... And after devouring three huge boxes of famous Argentinian ice-cream we felt even better, though also a bit nauseous. The two approximately 80-year-old women sitting next to us in the movie theater also made us feel a little bit happier, mostly because they also didn't have a date for the evening. If they would have had dates the regular clinching with their loos teeth would have been a little bit annoying, but since they were there in the same business as us... it was all good!

Leaving the movies we once again stumbled over love, but this time it was someone else's, and it was so damn beautiful. Coming down the stairs towards us was a freakin hot guy and a amazingly beautiful girl. Apparently the guy had given her an 'I love you - balloon' earlier in the evening. We were "aaaaawh-ing" some times after them, and being in need of sharing my emotions I just had to tell them that they looked beautiful together. For some reason they didn't get scared or anything and leaving the main entrance I felt someone poking my shoulder. It was the guy giving me his camera wanting us to take a picture of them officially showing their love to each other. I can't describe it, what a beautiful moment, and the slowness of the camera made the kiss last forever and it gave us what we needed that evening. Our belief in true love was revitalized.

On behalf of Anne Kristine and myself... We do believe in love, and hey boys, we love you! (You know who you are, but just to specify that would be Alejandro Munoz Garcia & Simon Meesker).


søndag 14. februar 2010

Carneval in Ri..... No, in Buenos Aires!

The famous carneval isn't just in Rio!
Luckily it is also in Buenos Aires!

Saturday nigth we took a walk to see how porteños (the people of BsAs)
celebrate carneval. The carneval is only found in certain streets, during the
weekends all through February.

Here you can see a little bit of the celebration:

After the carneval we went to a restaurant to eat,
and were surronded by couples celebrating Valentine's Day.
We looked a bit strange in the mix I think...5 scandinavian girls
alone on the night before Valentine's Day. But it's all good.
We'll tell you about the celebration of Valentine's Day later! :)

The restaurant was really a romantic setting for a date, with cute sofas everywhere:

For dessert Ida & I decided to go for "un poco de todo" (litt av alt)
it was actually called "un poco de todo" on the menu...and it was true. and delicious.

lørdag 13. februar 2010



Yesterday we went to the Beyonce concert here in BsAs.
or, well, in San Isidro, 30min. outside BsAs.


we were there! :)
It was a really good concert, with all the latest hits like Halo, All the single ladies etc.
but also some good old ones from Destiny's Child. Beyonce is really an entertainer!

Getting to San Isidro was really easy, we took a train and it cost 0,80 peso=1,5NOK.
However, getting home proved more difficult. It seemed that all the people who were at the concert (quite a few) were going back to the city. So, we decided to sit down, have a beer and a pizza and wait it out and hope that when we finished there would be lots of available taxis.
Yeah, we were wrong.
When we got to the taxi-line the police officer informed us that it would be around 2h. to wait.
We didn't believe him...it couldn't be SO long to wait?
Yeah, we were wrong. It was.
So we waited and waited and waited.
But at least something interesting happened..the taxi driver asked me (AK) if I was from Brazil.
Now that's a compliment.
So we waited some more, and then finally got home.

But, it was worth it! Beyonce was great! :)


(picture from google)

So imagine that our pilates instructor looks more or less like this.
Now imagine that all the other women at the class are over 60.
Now imagine that we are still the least flexible ones there.
Now imagine that the instructor does the split.
Now imagine that the instructor laughs at us as we are trying to do the split.
Now imagine that the instructor comes to help us to do the split.
Now imagine us deciding to go to pilates class every week.

mandag 8. februar 2010

Buenos Aires-life

Ok, so a lot is going on. And we're NOT good at telling you about it!

Friday afternoon we received a very persuasive invitation to our first Argentinian "Friday night after-work". We jumped in a taxi and headed towards Buller, the one located downtown.



After :)

Friday we also found out we have a sushi take away approximately 20 meters from our front door, I cant believe I didn't notice this before. Saturday I tried it out after AK's parents informed us about what's good to eat during upset-stomach-times. Apparently one of these things is rice. You might think raw fish is not the best idea inside a not so happy, empty stomach. To your information; You're wrong! Hah... I'm cured, and the sushi was great!

It was still raining like crazy though, and we started getting used to it after one week of "bad" weather. The Trondheim'ish feeling almost met us on the corner, but then we opened or eyes and the feeling was gone again, since Trondheim actually could fit into one of the many parks we walk by every day.

Sunday we spent planning the close future, that is our time here in Buenos Aires. We did actually come up with a plan, but I will not inform you (the world) about it at this point, because I believe the falling height might be a bit high, and I really dont want to hit the ground while the world is watching. When we make it a reality it will be in the news, so wait until then to read about it.

What I CAN inform you about is that Embarrassing is back! We had a band meeting and after some thinking about pros and cons we figured it would be a disaster, and a crime, to keep on living in silence.

Today we did the ground work to make this into a success.

My new guitar :)

A very fine Takamine guitar looking exactly like this except from the fact that it has only 6 strings, it's "only" acoustic, is more brownish around on the sides and in the back, and that it has my name written all over it!

First official band practice after the comeback: Tomorrow!


lørdag 6. februar 2010


I am SO lucky.

Today I have read about Bernice, a 22 year old single mum in Haiti who sleeps with a machete under her mattress in order to protect herself from predators during the night in the tent where she sleeps with her daughter.

(picture from Dagbladet.no http://www.dagbladet.no/2010/02/07/nyheter/utenriks/haiti/kvinner/overgrep/10285022/)

Meanwhile, I get to lock the door to our apartment, turn the air-conditioning on,
complain about the noise from cars on the street and then fall safely asleep.

The world is not fair.



As mentioned earlier we are finally on our way down the long and very unclear road towards being "not-so-bad-that-people-laugh-when-seeing-us-dancing"- tango-dancers. Thursday we went to a dancing-class. We were a bit late, so we didn't really get the introduction-part and after standing there looking lost for a while we ordered a coke and sat down to watch. I think this means it will take some time before we get to the end of this road. The important thing is though, the motor is running. And don't worry, we'll keep you posted.

By the way. The other day AK was very fascinated by a man dancing in the street. Luckily I was able to capture the reconstruction inside this video:

You can thank me later!


fredag 5. februar 2010

Health update

So, after several days of sunshine and fun -
2 of 3 has got the stomach flu (AK can happily rapport that she escaped the virus/bacteria somehow), the toilet is broken (awesome timing),
the weather is cloudy with some showers, and internet has stopped working at our apartment.

However, all of these are just temporary problems (and some also luxury problems) so we are still going strong, studying Spanish, trying to eat and drink enough, and planning a day-trip to Tigre (1h. outside BsAs) if the stomachs and the weather cooperate tomorrow!

We wish you all a wonderful weekend!!!! :)