Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sweet Sounds

Have we talked about noise? This city is a sonata, beginning with the gentle whirring of a saw around 8:30 am. It usually builds to include a chorus of dog barks, a baseline of gruffly cars without mufflers, the evening’s delivery boys with their puny motorcycles chirping and finally to the crescendo of high school boys high on cheap beer clapping and singing at 3 am virtually every night of the week.

Sounds like it must be hard to sleep, huh?

Anyway, this gives you a sense of the daily life of sound in BsAs. So you can imagine what happens when’s there’s really something to yell about. Dude, you don’t want to be there. It’s something along the lines of a Kiss concert without earplugs. Ok, maybe a little dramatic…

So it was not really surprising the other weekend at Masa Critica when one of our masa ended up in a little fender bender with a taxi, that all hell broke loose. We were riding along, the masa growing into a group of well over 100 cyclists. Cruising through the fancypants neighborhood of Recoleta, the group was like a web covering Calle Callo. When we got to the bottom of the hill, there was already something going down, a rolly polly taxi driver screaming at a hippie dippie kid.

Traffic was starting to pile up, as the fracas was in the middle lane. The group of bikers had pulled into a gas station, people were chatting, smoking, sharing food and drink. Bellowing cars begged their impatience to get the hell out of the way. The cops showed up. The crowd warmed up. And the clapping commenced.

Of course, there were words to go with the clapping. “Bici, si. Taxista, no.” keeping with the rhythm of the rhyme as the argument with the taxista, the police and the kid kept going. The voices thundered together, the clapping adding force to the message of the masa. At one point someone held up the bike to egg the crowd on, the back tire deformed by the force of the taxi. We roared.

Another policeman came and the crowd got louder – “Bici, si. Taxista, no.” The honking continued, the chant too, until our hands were red and our voices hoarse from screaming.

After an hour or so, it got resolved. I have no idea what the resolution was exactly. Satisfied, we stopped screaming, got back on our bicis and headed south.

P.S. Thanks to my wonderful friend and writer Sharon Haywood for the inspiration for this post!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bathroom Cultural Alert

The other night, I went to see one of my most favorite singers in the world, Concha Buika. Think Erykah Badu and Nina Simone rolled into one tiny woman from Mallorca, with a family from Equatorial Guinea – the only African country where the predominant language is Spanish

The girl is fly. She dresses and looks like Badu, emits that amazing air of power a la Badu too. But the voice. That voice – a creamy dream with a range that will knock your socks off. She’s kinda jazzy, but girl ain’t afraid to bring in beautiful Cuban rhythms, hip rocking drumbeats or dramatic flamenco.

Divine. Here’s a little clip.

Before we went into the show, a friend and I ran to the bathroom. Of course, in true woman form, there was a line. We waited patiently, as the line moved at a decent clip. The bathroom was your typical post-modern public outhouse, with stale green walls and an antiseptic vibe. I noticed out of the corner of my eye there was a woman selling your usual bathroom fodder, including little squares of TP.

My friend leans in and whispers, do you think its drip dry? I look around and see that no one else is buying paper. Well, I respond, when I am in a place where the custom isn’t clear, I usually look at what other people are doing to get a sense of the system.

We opt for the gamble. My friend, who enters the bathroom ahead of me, yells out to me in disgust, “So much for when in Rome…”

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Sparrows

Sorry for the slack gang. I have been in work mode, holiday planning mode and party mode as spring and a trip back north for the holidays is creeping upon me. This has given me little time to reflect on my life here, sadly.

But since it’s the end of the year, which is a time for broad reflection and thanks for everything, I keep coming back to a story about a lovely little necklace that represents my journey of the last 18 months.

My favorite shop in Washington is called Nana and is owned by a dear friend Jackie Flanagan. (Everyone in DC, go and go immediately!) She has the cutest stuff known to humankind in her beautiful U Street boutique, including lovely jewelry by a designer called Pieces of a Girl.

Years ago, I bought myself a lovely little necklace of a sparrow. I always got compliments on it, as it is delicate and beautiful and looks nice with almost anything. I wore it all the time and even bought a few for some dear friends.

I have had my sparrow with me constantly, a reminder of the people that are far from me physically but not emotionally. They are all my dear friends in DC and throughout the world that have helped me get to right now. And for them, I am grateful. Especially my friend Jackie, as she is an example in my life of how one can achieve something with hard work and a desire to succeed.

Sparrows are tiny little birds that are found in almost every part of the world. The great thing about a sparrow is that they are free to come and go wherever they want, only constrained by the extremes of temperature. Because their tribe is everywhere, they are able to find their own group of fellow sparrows wherever they end up.

My own little sparrow flew with me from Washington to Buenos Aires, from La Paz to Cape Town and all the way back to the US. Sometime earlier this year, it broke.  I held onto the chain and my little bird as they continued around with me through the US and Colombia. I finally brought my sparrow in to Jackie in the late summer when I was back in DC for a while and she vowed to get it fixed for me.

On my last full day in town, I went over to Nana to say goodbye to Jackie. Things had been crazy at the store and while everything looked beautiful and ready for fall, she hadn’t had the time to get my sparrow fixed. She wanted to just give me a new one, but she didn’t want me to continue traveling without my first sparrow, the one that had been all of those places and had experienced all those things with me.

So now, I have a necklace with two sparrows. The sparrow from the first part of this great adventure and now, a shiny new one for the next part.