Adventures in Argentina-Buenos Aires Neighborhoods


Buenos Aires has many neighborhoods, areas with sometimes distinct character.  Our hotel in San Telmo made it easy to see a lot of the city by walking.  Other areas we strolled through include Centro and Recoleta. In the three days we stayed there, we walked 35 miles according to my Fitbit.

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This Starbucks was exactly one block from our hotel.  We went there the first morning for the typical Argentinian breakfast:  coffee and a biscuit (not like the ones here) or a small croissant with some sweet glaze on top.  Starbucks can be found throughout the city.

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Everywhere you see beautiful parks and people use them for strolling, dog walking, jogging, relaxing, picnicking, hanging out–you name it.  Plus the trees–on all major streets, on side streets, everywhere.  Of course, it was the end of summer.  Perhaps parks receive less use in winter.

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Even on main thorough fares, like this one which is claimed to be the longest street in the world, trees reside on the sides, in the middle, everywhere.

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This is a mall, seriously.  We ate a delicious lunch here one day and came back the next day for a drink.  I had coffee; Gaston had a green drink with mint and ginger which was refreshing and delicious.  The ceiling is well–take a look!

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Hard to believe this is a mall.

One day we took the train to its end at the train station. The recently restored train station contains the fanciest Starbucks ever with incredible murals.

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The ceiling is beautiful too.

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From this station it is possible to take a train to various parts of the city but also trains go from here way out into the suburbs.  Reminded me of the subway and train system in New York City and its suburbs where I once lived.

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San Martin, the hero who freed southern South America from Spain, crossed the Andes with mules, not horses–Hugo, Gaston’s dad, gave me lots of history lessons.  However, when I saw this statue, I did not know all the history yet.  This park, filled with huge trees, borders several streets where, like much of Buenos Aires, modern and antique coexist.

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Suddenly we notice men on horseback riding out of a military area next to San Martin Park.  We rushed across the park to watch, hoping they would ride around the park.  They did not; they headed down a street.

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We never discovered the purpose of this little parade of military personnel on horseback.

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The buildings around the park provide a perfect example of the traditional, the centuries old beside the modern.  The traditional building in the middle houses very exclusive apartments.

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The opposite side of the park from the statue of San Martin overlooks the English Tower, given to Argentina by the English before the little war over the Falkland Islands which both countries claimed.  The English won.

A friend told me to take tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel so we headed to Recoleta area.  We strolled around, did not take tea, but we did have lunch in one of the small restaurants inside the hotel area.

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Next to this restaurant resides a tea store, Tealosophy,  where they sell nothing but tea.  I quit counting at fifty different blends.  In Argentina International Women’s Day was highly celebrated. This tea shop created a special blend just for that event, Mujeres Power.  I bought some; it smells heavenly but have not tried it yet.

We walked down to another park near the famous cemetery where all the national heroes and important people have been buried for centuries.  Nearby we saw the largest tree I have ever seen.

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The branches, which were impossible to photo in one picture, extend far and are so heavy they are supported by cement or metal columns.

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The tree is to the left in this photo.  The walk leads to a monastery and the cemetery.

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The cemetery was full of people.

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The artwork here speaks for itself.

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As we walked back we circled this famous piece–a tulip that opens and closes.

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Then farther down the street which is close to the port–we could hear ship sounds, etc.–we saw this living wall.

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Yes, this wall is made of living plants.  I could not help but stop and stare.

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The building which holds their equivalent of the US Congress.  I continue to wonder how I managed to walk past the Pink House–like US White House–several times and never take a photo.  Perhaps I was distracted by the protesters.  Argentina is used to protests which appear to be legally protected.  In the one we saw one evening, the protestors carried banners of Che Guevara.

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And finally some typical views, this one along a side street.

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The Haunting of the Mexican Border


If you have any interest whatsoever as to how times have changed along the border, the culture of the people of Sonora and Chihuahua, this is a must read. I need to go visit my friends who live there.

Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Cowboy and flowers on grave © Cowboy and flowers on grave © Tim Fuller

coverThe Haunting of the Mexican Border

I had no idea the blessing I was about to receive when I was asked to review The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey by Kathryn Ferguson for Story Circle Book Reviews. I said yes, since how could I possible resist that title? I spent the next few weeks savoring the experiences, ideas, and prose of this book. This is not a book that I read fast. I found myself re-reading sentences for the sheer beauty of the prose and scenes for the powerful experiences conveyed.

Mostly, I was taken with the melding of past and present, as my own experiences growing up on a ranch along the San Pedro River, a vein for Mexican migrants coming to the US, sent me reeling between the intimate familiarity of the rhythms of migration in this region…

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Costa Rican Adventure, Day Two–Part One


After a buffet breakfast of traditional foods, e.g. gallo pinto and plantanos fritos–my favorites, we headed to the central part of San Jose which is only foot traffic, no vehicles.

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We strolled to El Mercado where my grandson bought a stuffed sloth–I love bargaining so we got it for a good price.  My only disappointment was the rush so we could see everything–the disadvantage of being on a tour. Eventually, we ended up at the National Theatre.

Located in the central section of San Jose, it is considered the finest historical building in the capital and remains relatively unchanged since it was built in 1897–it opened on Oct. 21 of that year.  Most of its opulent furnishing were imported from Europe.  At the time of its opening fewer than 20,000 people inhabited San Jose.  It was financed via a coffee tax which was then and still is the major export and cash crop.

This theatre remains in use today and houses a small, cosy restaurant next to the main lobby.  We ate our first Tico lunch there.

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This and the following photos were taken in the lobby of this theatre.

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I took this and the following photo while seated in the main seating area looking up to the ornate ceiling.  Originally, the theatre was designed for multipurpose use so the main floor has seating than can be removed and the floor risen to the level of the stage and consequently transformed into a dance floor.  Rarely is this aspect used today.

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We left this area and climbed the stairs to the balcony where the president and cabinet still sit for performances.  Neither the president nor any of the cabinet have body guards.  We were reminded that in 1948, the country disbanded its army and still has no military. The following two photos were taken from the stairwell.

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This area is a large reception room across from the balcony level.  The incredibly intricate parquet floor has been covered by carpet for protection  so you can see only portions of it as you walk around.

We also visited what is know as the Gold Museum, my favorite.  It houses a huge collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts and other antiquities. No cameras, purses, backpacks, iPads, nothing can be taken in so no photos.  It is literally underground.  Visitors are directed to lockers in which to put all these belongings, lock them, take the key with you as you browse the incredible collection.  There is an excellent gift shop where you can purchase copies of these artifacts, painted wood jaguar heads, and other handcrafts.  This is not our typical, touristy gift job.  As a result I now own four jaguars, three heads (two from Mexico and the one I bought here) and an entire jaguar from Mexico for a total of four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Five: Civilizations Fall


Whether it is my innate ambition, something my parents instilled in me, or something else unknown, I try to learn something new every day.  Craig Childs starts this chapter of his book by talking about a Phoenix landmark.  Back when I travelled to Phoenix regularly, I knew this place as Squaw Peak.  Now its name Is Piestewa Peak.  The name change is probably a good thing.  I never knew before reading this how dreadfully pejorative the word squaw is.  Basically, it means Indian bitch as well as other things related to the privates of women.  All languages seem to possess an accumulation of dreadful words geared to putting women down one way or another.  Slang words for the private parts of a man rarely mean anything pejorative, at least not that I know of.  The new name, a Hopi name, a blessing word, is a word that calls water to this place.  Not a bad idea in Phoenix or most of the Southwest for that matter.

The name Phoenix fits.  Underneath modern day Phoenix, an ancient city lays buried, a quite sophisticated city with ball courts, temples, irrigation canals.  This city existed at least a thousand years ago.  Its inhabitants grew corn, cotton, beans, and agave.  Farmers, hunters, carvers, all sorts of artisans and merchants apparently lived there.  Now they are called Hohokam taken from an O’odham word meaning “ancestors”, the “ones who have gone”.  We find forgotten cities all over the world, Palmyra, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat.  What causes these sophisticated civilizations to fall?  If you read a bit, look further, you find common themes:  environmental decay, resource depletion, conflict, disease, social problems.  Angkor Wat fell because it could not maintain its complex irrigation network.  Ur in Iraq fell because a drought caused its port to dry up.  Usually, the demise of particular civilizations occur over time, e.g.Rome.

Childs notes that human patterns often follow animal patterns, or at least mammalian patterns.  For example, when over population occurs, behavior changes.  Parental care and cooperation become replaced with aggression, violence, competition for resources, dominant behaviors.  These types of behaviors are particularly detrimental to females and the young without whom the society (or animal population) cannot replace itself.  Generally, in animal populations, when this occurs, reproduction slows for several generations and the imbalance corrects itself.  For humans, it is not so simple.  Hohokam bones indicate mass starvation and malnutrition.  Other civilizations, e.g. the Anasazi, seem to have disappeared without a trace.

Today, most of the world’s largest cities have immense infrastructures that keep them going, miles of underground sewage tunnels, water mains, etc.  Here in the US in our oldest cities, much of what we take for granted is very old and deteriorating.  New York City and Chicago have water main systems that some experts claim are near collapse or at the very best badly in need of repair.  Doubtless such conditions exist in old cities throughout the world, most of which are much older and larger than the majority of cities in the US.  Yet, they continue to prosper.  Have we passed a point when civilization cannot fall?

Childs completes this discussion by describing his visit with his wife to Guatemala.  They visited all the best known Mayan sites, visited with natives.  His wife managed to get invited to a Mayan fire ceremony, a renewal ceremony.  History books tell us the Mayan civilization is dead, ended.  But it is not.  The Mayan culture still exists.   At least six million still live in the Central America.  What would have happened to Mayan cities if the Europeans had not brought epidemic diseases and better fire power?  We will never know, of course, but no matter how many civilizations rise and fall, change continues and humans continue to inhabit the earth.

The new question is this:  can this planet we live on sustain the ever increasing numbers of humans who inhabit it??

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Two: Hadley Cells, Weather and Drought


Hadley cells, the wind systems in each hemisphere , form patterns of atmospheric circulation in which warm air rises near the equator, cools as it travels poleward at high altitudes, sinks as cold air, and then warms as it travels back to the equator.  They are named after George Hadley, an English scientific writer.  Tropical regions receive more heat from solar radiation than they radiate back to space and such areas have constant temperatures.  More simply, warm air rises (heat rises) and then flows poleward at high altitudes, cools, drops, and flows back toward the equator at lower altitudes.   Then the process repeats itself.  When the air rises and leaves these tropical areas, it loses moisture as it heads to subtropical areas.  The majority of the worlds large deserts lay in these subtropical areas.

Hadley cells are expanding.  Precipitation has declined in tropical areas since 1970.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Southern Asia, the Sahel, Southern Africa, the Mediterranean, and the US Southwest are getting drier and drier.  Even wetter areas now experience long dry spells between extreme events of rain and snow.  Examples in the US include the cold and snowfalls in the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard this past winter.  Texas and New Mexico continue to experience a prolonged drought.  In the next thirty years scientists predict a 30 per cent decline in water resources.

In some places both governments and individuals create innovative and sometimes simple measures to counteract desertification.  In India near the Thar Desert, the government mandated the dispersal of grass seed to hold the ground.  Studies indicate that the grass seed grew better when planted by hand than when dispersed from airplanes.  Also in India orans, small sacred groves, have helped preserve shrubs and grasses and even trees, a genetic bank that would otherwise have been lost.  Childs describes how his friends who live on the outskirts of Tuscon have coaxed their water table fifteen feet higher, using ordinary shovels and hard work.  They built contour traps and “massaged” the ground.  Hardly worth noticing except when it rained, the rain sank into underground catches.  Their properties now look like small areas of refuge in the vast desert.  In some areas of the Sahel people have been able to plant and nurture trees in such a way that areas of green exist where they had disappeared.

Archeologists and geologists know that periods of drought occurred repeatedly for millions of years.  For humans and the animals we know, drought has never been easy.  Large areas of civilization cannot exist without water.  We can affect our future in positive ways and prepare ourselves if we choose.

Blackwater Draw-Part Two


The ancients hunted here at the shores of a lake

nearly 12,000 years ago.  In 1929, an amateur

archeologist discovered an ancient spear

point lodged in bone.  I walk the mile long trail

down into the depths.   Caliche, gravel,

larger rocks strewn by millennia.  For

thousands of years Clovis, Folsom, and Portales

Man left remnants of their hunting life.

The scattered cottonwoods whisper in the wind,

timeless voices call me, beckoning.

Who were these people?

What did they look like?

Where did they come from?

In whose gods and goddesses did they believe?

Doubtless hunger drove them to this place of water

and plenty.  Columbia Mammoths, giant sloths, dire wolves,

saber toothed cats  gathered here for thousands of years.

The diggers found an obsidian spear head with a

bison whose horns spanned seven feet and

mammoths twice the size of elephants.

Saber toothed cats competed with these

ancient ancestors at this place, all driven by

hunger, thirst, and instinct.  I wonder how

these people overcame danger, fear?

I walk the mile long path, stand in the shade

of these cottonwood trees , read the signs that

tell me what diggers found at specific spots along the trail.

The cottonwoods whisper to me.  They

tell me ancient tales of hunger, strife, fear,

beauty, love, endurance.  I hear the ancient voices

calling.  They tell me ancient tales of woe, war,

weaponry, courage, and community.  My

skin tingles strangely in the summer heat.  Now

this land is dry, a desert, the water that sustained

teeming life evaporated in the crystalline air.

Twelve thousand years from now who will stand here?

Will this place exist?  Will someone wonder the meaning

of our bones, who we were, what we believed?

Blackwater Draw–Part One


Annually, I make a pilgrimage to this ancient place where people hunted on the shores of a lake nearly 12,000 years ago.  It continues to be the oldest evidence of human habitation in the Americas.  For a large part of the twentieth century it was a gravel pit.  The gravel mining created both positive and negative consequences.  Without it, the bones of giant bison, mammoths, dire wolf, saber toothed cat and camels might never have been discovered at all.  However, because the owners of the quarry refused to stop mining, some portions of the site were destroyed by big swoops of the excavator machines.  Frequently archaeologists worked simultaneously along with mining operations, continuing within sight of each other.    Various groups, including some private individuals, attempted repeatedly to buy the site to save its precious stash of bones, artifacts, and ancient wells.  The owners refused to sell.  Finally, in 1978, Eastern New Mexico University purchased the site and continues archaeological excavation there.  They also run the nearby museum adjacent to the university football stadium.

If you expect something wondrous and grandiose, you will be severely disappointed.  A small building houses a teensy museum, restrooms, a few sweat shirts and posters and books for purchase.  An individual sits by the door to take your meager entrance fee–at most five dollars–and answer questions.  These individuals explain they are majors in disciplines related to the site, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, that sort of thing.  A simple gravel trail traverses the site and a smaller trail goes to an ancient well–16 have been found at or near the site–and to a dig inside a building where you can observe the layers unearthed, which group of people left which type of artifacts, and actual bones of mammoths, giant bison, and other animals from the end of the last Ice Age.

People react differently to such sites.  I always remain entranced, overwhelmed, reflective, thinking to myself, “I am walking where people walked and hunted and went about their lives more than 11,000 years ago.”  The most ancient evidence of people is labeled Clovis Man–Clovis, NM, is just up the road.  They never found human bones of these people here , just their spearheads stuck in the ribs and shoulders of mammoths which stood 15 feet at the shoulders.  The people who came later made a different type of spear, called Folsom points.  These people, Folsom Man, lived later by 1-2 thousand years.  Another site, called Folsom, is near the tiny town of Folsom, NM, farther north at the edge of the mountains.  This site is on private land and tours are available only twice a year.  Although I visited the town last year, I have not visited this site.  Other people arrived later and although the collection is smaller, their spearheads remain available for viewing at the nearby Blackwater Draw Museum on the main road between Clovis and Portalis, NM.

When I look at the list of animals who lived here at the end of the last Ice Age, I feel amazed because they include both camels and horses as big as our horses now.  Both of these became extinct as did the saber toothed cat with the humongous canine teeth and the dire wolf.  Giant sloths lived until modern times but nowhere near New Mexico.  How could all these animals live here?  It was wet and green then.  Until the last couple of decades, bodies of water of varying sizes have drawn animals and people to this area.  Giant fields of irrigated corn and dairy farms lowered the water table sufficiently to eliminate any evidence of water.  At the time of Clovis Man a large lake covered the site.  Later, during a 3000 year drought, people dug the ancient wells to reach water.  Because this remained the only place for hundreds of miles with a supply of water, people came.

The trail begins just to the northwest of the tiny building and goes along the top for a couple of hundred feet before it drops down into the gravel pit remains.  The gravel was below all the layers containing human artifacts and ancient animal bones so the pit is wide and deep.

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If your sight is good, you can read this.  The primary source of food for Clovis Man, giant bison and Columbian mammoths, came here for the water.  Archaeologists  theorize that hunters often killed these huge animals while they were in the water where it was more difficult for them to escape and move quickly.  In one place on the trail, evidence of a five bison kill complete with spearheads makes one think just how difficult and dangerous this hunting activity must have been.  I stand there, think about my own 5’4″ height, and wonder what it would be like to have a Columbian mammoth close to me.  Doubtless many died from injuries during such activities.

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The train meanders along the bottom of the gravel pit.  This year, plentiful rain grows abundant grass.  During the last several years, little rain has fallen as evidenced by all the dead trees and bushes scattered around the site.  Normally, this area is semiarid with less than 18 inches of rain per year.

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If spectacular scenery appeals to you, do not go here.  Most of the bones and artifacts were found in the layers at the sides of the pit.  As you walk the trail, markers indicate the location of findings.  Few human remains are found at such sites because these were not permanent settlement places.  Ancient peoples roamed the land in search of water and food.

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Signs, such as this along the trail, illustrate different places where specific bones and artifacts were found.  They also explain the different types of artifacts, their specific uses, and the history of the site.  Maps, like the one on this sign, help the viewer hone in on specifics in relation to where one is standing.  The photo illustrates archaeologists in action during site digs.

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Cliffs, like the one here, surround the site.  In these small cliffs each layer indicates a different age of human activity by not only the type of sediment but also by the type of artifacts and animal bones found.  Just beyond this particular cliff at the west edge of the site, irrigation pivots run in a huge corn field.  The grey at the bottom of the cliff indicates an immense pile of dead, dried, tumble weeds.  This is dry country.

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Approximately three fourths through the trail, the site mangers have erected several structures.  This one is the most primitive.  Others are modern with picnic tables and in one place I saw a giant sand box.  Guessing, I think it must be used to illustrate how one sifts through layers of soil to carefully remove spearheads, bones, pottery, etc.  This is the perfect place for a field trip, not too long, but full of geological and paleontological information.

I go here usually once a year.  If you ask me why, I may articulate something about how it has the oldest artifacts and bones found in North America.  The real reason??  I am not quite sure.  This place fascinates me, connects me with something ancient and wondrous, something undefined and mysterious.