Bolivian Carnival: a cultural event of enormous national import perhaps obscured internationally by its bigger cousin in Brazil. By 11 a.m. yesterday the six day event was in full swing in the city of Tarija. Poorer northern migrants drifted through the crowds soliciting ‘pesitos’ (little dollars) or selling spray cans full of foam, water balloons and beer. Bolivian women young and old flitted around in their traditional dress: garishly colored dresses and flat brimmed hats. Strange gift baskets containing an unlikely assortment of sweet-bread, bright peppers, balloons and streamers were gifted between the locals. A din of festive conversation inundated the town square interrupted only by the startling rattle of exploding firecrackers. The social drinking of the morning would develop into full blown alcoholism by evening.
After a few early afternoon beers we retired to the casa. Later in the evening we sallied out again to catch the ‘Comadre’ parade – a celebration of female friendship that consisted of an endless stream of dancing Bolivian sororities.
What really got us involved was the flirtatious but violent exchange occurring on the periphery of the parade. Young boys heavily armed with water rifles and balloons prowled the streets and emptied their aqueous payload in the direction of vulnerable young beauties. The women would reply with hissing salvos of spray-can foam.
Being an exotic gringo, my sister became a prime target for the child soldiers. Within minutes of getting to the parade she was soaked down to the bone by repeated attacks. Growing increasingly agitated at her unjust treatment, she purchased her own pepper-spray proxy and began to fight out her preadolescent suitors.
Amy ended the night delivering a little justice of her own to the town of Tarija. We had spent an hour or so watching two young Bolivean squirts of about 12 pepper the defenseless girls in the parade with a huge backpack full of water balloons. She bided her time. As the parade wound to a close, we snuck under the bleachers until we were just underneath the boys. She leapt out and emptied her entire can onto the backs of the unsuspecting hoodlums.
We sprinted off gleefully as the stupefied boys wiped the soapy foam off their faces. An amused cheer went up from the neighboring stands behind us, assuring us that the people agreed: se hizo justice.
I Am Canadian (a hopeless foray into politics)
Being separated from Canadian news sources, my only exposure to developments on the home front has been the odd blip that Canada has managed in international news.
Well, it has been one blip so far. And what a shocker it was.
I’m sure Obama’s visit to Canada made a bit of a splash at home. Were editorial sections and blogs across the country bubbling over with analysis and wonderment? Were letters to the president piling up on the desks of the disgruntled citizenry?
I had the privilege of catching the report of his visit on CNN World News. The title ran OBAMA VISITS CANADA. The report started with an uncharacteristic moment of verbal trebuchet from Obama:
“I am so happy to be here in Iow – (Iowa…) – Ottawa.” The golden boy president, flanked by the vacant smile and flabby cheeks of Stephen Harper, was still stuck in campaign mode.
But that was just the beginning of the embarrassment. Not only was the trip covered with humiliating superficiality on CNN but for three full minutes these words blazed from the bottom of the news report:
Spell check anyone?
Next we shamelessly forced the President to sample a flimsy, ovaloid pastry, crowned with a symbolic ‘O’ of whipped cream: the ‘Obamatail’. Aficionados of the Canadian capital will know that a simpler version of this pastry, called the Beavertail, is the city’s common street snack.
Why do we perpetually choose the most pathetic symbols to represent our nation? Look! Barack! We love you so much we dedicated our favorite pastry to you! Its tasteless, in more ways than one.
This whole circus act reminds me of a classmate I had in boarding school, an endearing Antiguan student who couldn’t shake his Caribbean sleeping habits. He was late with such regularity and such extremity to our French class that when he showed up 5 minutes late, the teacher would actually congratulate him. We suffered so much disappointment in America through two terms with Bush that whatever Obama does for Canada, he will be held up as a Messiah.
We need to have standards. We need to demand respect from a man expected to settle the conflicting demands piping up from all over the globe. We should be worried. Obama gave signs that his visit was an obligation. He only stayed for half a day and our star struck politicians didn’t seem to demand much discussion out of him. He neglected to comment on Canadian or American strategy in Afghanistan. We didn’t bother him to clarify his explicit lack of support for NAFTA. And when it came to American protectionism, he donned his disarming smile and told us not to worry.
If the tides are changing, if the world order is being turned on its head, we need to make sure we have an intelligent say in how it happens. Or at least let the world know we are good for more than sycophants and donuts.
Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
¿Qué es poesía?, dices mientras clavas
en mi pupila tu pupila azul;
¡Qué es poesía!¿Y tú me lo preguntas?
Check out this site for a description of the how the poem is read, what it means, etc.
A real rough translation:
What is poetry? you tell me while piercing
My pupil with your pupil blue.
What is poetry! Is this what you ask me?
Poetry…. that´s you.
I travelled all the way to the other end of this distended land mass and what serendipity. I finally found a people that understand me. A people that understands my taste in “classic” music. I can´t even count the number of times that I have heard my personal soundtrack in South America. The music videos on the bus, radio waves radiating out of street level windows, a playful note from a passing iPod.
For those who know me, both my guitar repetoire and my de facto music library consists of about five perpetually legendary songs:
Foreigner – I Want to Know what Love is
Scorpions – Wind of Changes
Toto – Africa
Bon Jovi – Always
In tribute to the tasteful tribe of latin america I have gone to the trouble of tabbing the first of these classics, arranged for one-man band acoustic guitar. Don´t bother correcting me. Its perfect.
Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is
I´ve got to take a little time,
A little time to think things over.
I beter read between the lines,
In case I need it when I´m older
And this mountain I must climb
Feels like the World upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as love grows colder.
In my life,
I´ve seen heart ache and pain
I don´t know
If I can see you again.
Can´t stop now,
I´ve waited to long,
To change this lonely life….
I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS,
I WANT YOU TO SHOW ME.
I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS,
I NEED YOU TO SHOW ME.
I need to take a little time,
A little time to look around me.
There is no where left to hide,
It seems that love has finally found me.
Chorus ad infinitum.
CHORDS: Capo 2nd fret if you´ve got the huevons of Mick Jones. Or for us mere mortals you can play it open.
Intro- Verse: C#m – (B) – E – A – C#m
Bridge: starts on C#m but then quick to this and repeat: A – F#m – B – F#m x2
Then the climactic approach to the Chorus: A – E – F#m – A
Chorus: E – B – F#m – B
Make sure to have a choir of gorgeous women come in on backup for the chorus so you can freestyle the vocals…