From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

South American musing

Some facts:
The average time to eat dinner in Argentina is midnight. My friends, for example, with whom I stayed for the first two weeks, never dine before 1 AM, as Sergio doesn’t get home from work until 12.30.
There is no point turning up to a club before 3 AM, as it will be empty.
The meat is excellent. Even moi, less interested in meat after Guatemala than I was before, found myself lusting after succulent slabs of fresh grilled flesh, almost! The fish is excellent too. So is the pizza. And the pasta. And the ice cream. Let’s face it, the food is impressive. And as for the wine, it’s a well-kept secret that the best wine in South America is Argentine. After a year of eating frijoles, tortillas and "coffee" made from maize, wheat and rice in Guatemala, I found myself in gastronomy heaven the minute I landed in Argentina.
As a race, the Argentines are pretty good looking. The girls are thin. At least I didn’t feel like quite such a giant as I did in Guatemala, where the average height is well under 5 feet, but I was a trifle put out to find that I fitted size large clothes! Obesity is not a problem in these countries. Not yet.
Buenos Aires is no.1 in the world (on a par with NYC) for therapy. Everyone I met had undertaken therapy at some point. I conducted a survey hanging out at the beach with a group of about ten portenos. Not a single one had never had therapy.
Plastic surgery is pretty popular too.
It’s hard to beat the friendliness of the Argentines and the Uruguayans. Uruguay is an often-missed country on the South America list, because it is so small and overshadowed by its dominant neighbours, Brazil and Argentina. Which is what makes it such a special place, almost like a secret. Montevideo is the best kind of capital city – a manageable size, easy to get around, very laid back. It has 23 km of sea- or should I say river-front promenade meandering along the entire length of the city, with bathing beaches which start in the centre of Montevideo and get better the further east you go, right up to the Brazilian border.
Uruguay, I was surprised to learn, is the product of British meddling, who wanted to control trade around the River Plate.
During this trip, I have learnt a lot about the British Empire. While we Brits in present-day Britain have all but forgotten the glory days we once knew, our legacy is entrenched in the memory of colonised nations around the world. Often negatively, unfortunately. Some see us still as a colonising nation. Others lump us in with the US (thanks Tony). In Argentina there is the fervent memory of the Falklands war. Sadly for us, it is less unusual to be at war, and something that happened thousands of miles away 25 years ago under the rule of the iron lady is rather distant history. For Argentina, whose sole memory of war and of 1000 young inexperienced lives lost in Las Malvinas, it is a wound that still hurts. And many show it! Woe betide the English visitor.
Being Scottish comes in very handy when globe trotting.


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