and things I’ve missed from home
First off all, I’ve enjoyed pretty much every second of my trip and I would do it all over again, if my bank account allowed me to. There will be far more things I will miss from the Latin World as opposed to those I’m about to list bellow.
This highly subjective piece is not about slugging this beautiful, colorful and full on world against my “natural” world of Europe. Latin World is just different. It’s not better, nor it is worse – things are not so black&white – there are good and bad bits about both of these two worlds.
Fortunately, one can’t cherry-pick the parts that suit him or her better, otherwise, we could end up with one world that is richer, safer, happier and full of life, while the other one would end up poorer, dangerous, sadder and rather uptight 😉
My trip is however coming to an end and I need to search for some positive shit about going back to Europe 😉 So let’s get on it:
Oh well – do I have anything left to say about reggaeton? While the traditional Latin American music is often very enjoyable, my opinion about reggaeton hasn’t changed much – my ears just got a bit numbed there. Having multiple sound systems blasting it at each-other doesn’t help either. I must say though, that my tolernce to any other music genres is now so high, that I don’t run away when for example a tune of Taylor S is congesting the air 🙂
Oh yeah, I’ve also learned that there’s still some original reggaeton that’s political/social, rather than its more popular sexist brother, which is the first good news about this type of music. In spite of this politically-positive remark, the music itself however still remains to be the one with the most stupid beat ever (than never changes), not to mention the fact that as a genre, it takes the shitty 90s boy band music a step further – for this it deserves credit – because previously this was unimaginable.
2: The noise
Latin World is loud. Louder than Asia. The loudspeakers, the car horns, the spoken word, even the Pacific and the birds – it’s all very loud.
3: Eternal research and multiple economies
Not knowing how things work in each country, how to get a ticket, which is the right bus terminal to go to and how to get there, how does the public transport work, what is the right taxi fare, which ATM charges you the least, where to get baccy, how to, where, why, when…. all the time new things to research, learn and execute.
This applies to having one price for each item for everyone. Not multiple prices, like here. I understand why there are multiple economies as it would be crazy if the locals had to pay the same prices as travellers, but it’s annoying because it often leads to not displaying prices and they make it up as they go, often depending on the the way you look and the consequent alleged economical status it comes with, however awful it sounds…
4: Rise and beans
I actually don’t mind rise and beans but if it’s a part of pretty much 90% of the meals, then it can get a bit boring. It’s not that in Europe I’m going to rush to the nearest Burgering – those chains are present here. It’s just that the meals are very often down to rise and beans with chicken or pork or beef. Even the brekky often contain gallopinto (rise&beans) with eggs.
5: Lack of subcultures
Well, this is a different one because not everyone is looking for alternative crowds, music and so on. And it’s not entirely true that there aren’t any subcultures in Latin World. For example Buenos Aires wasn’t any different to any other European city when it comes to subcultures and the non-mainstream music bars. There were also some cool bars with cool people and music in some places, like Bacalar, Cusco, Bogotá or Antigua, to name few.
But overall it was rather difficult to find a place for a picky indie boy like me. Because of reggeaton’s utter dominance – I have really made massive efforts to find places similar to those I would go to in London or Prague to enjoy the eve’s soundtrack as well – but as I said above – all with very little success.
Well, in every town in the world there’s always the last sanctuary guaranteed and it’s a Reggae Bar. They are everywhere, aren’t they? And while I am a sympathizer and the music, especially the old school reggae goes down well, after a while it can get a bit like “rise and beans”, innit?
Yes, you could also come across occasional cheesy-ish tech-housey kinda events in some places, you would otherwise not even bother to consider but when it comes to some indie music, good techno party (except Bogotá) – or pretty much anything other than reggaeton, traditional music, 80s and 90s pop or its covers in Spanish – it was not easy to find a spot.
As for the subculture-uniform crowds, there was mostly a lot of the dreadlock people, usually selling their jewelry in touristy beach towns. Plus each capital city had it’s classic punks on a tiny street somewhere near the centre who drunk, juggled, begged, showed fingers and sold smelly weed. But that’s it – well – unless you counted in the hipster cafés. But are hipsters a subculture?
6: Street vendors and taxi drivers
Everyone is doing what they can to survive and it’s often not easy over here for many. I understand that and I always try to show some respect for their work but the more respect one shows, the more hope of a possible purchase it gives. There’s a thin line between respect and hope and it’s up to everyone to find where it lies and what works best for them.
To be honest, if I vaguely need something these people sell, I do my best to support them by buying their products. But if you drink your coffee on a terrace and you are approached by many street vendors at an interval of about 30 seconds between each approach, it can get annoying.
And that kind of a reaction will make you feel guilty/shitty straight away, because you know that they are just trying to survive. Because you are eating and they are hungry ): Because the four beers you’ve had yesterday cost more than they would make in a day, that is if they are among the lucky ones with a job.
But sometimes it’s just silly. Like trying to sell me sunglasses while I’m wearing a pair is not the smartest business approach. Or the taxi drivers asking you if you want a taxi while seeing you getting out of another taxi. Yes mate – I got off this taxi because I just felt like swapping taxis.
And another thing on taxis, while I’m on it. No disrespect intended but we, your potential customers can see your brightly yellow taxis with huge letters TAXI written across. If we need you – we will hail you. Dear Taxistas. No tienes que preguntar cada la gente pasa junto a ustedes. No, no tiene que tocar la stupida bocina para, podemos ver tu vehiculos.
This doesn’t need much of an explanation. Being a man, I only got the less unpleasant part of it anyway. For me it was just the stupid things, such as passing by someone in a narrow passage or driving a car: you will either giving way completely or you will end up or play their game and they will give way a bit – think “Bittersweet Symphony” video.
To be fair, machismo is not an unique phenomenon for this part of the world only. It’s just taken to the next level by some Latinos, especially when it comes to their way of treating ladies ):
∞: Begging children
This is a sad reality and except the point above, it’s the only serious thing I’m listing here. Not that Europe doesn’t have their own economically challenged people but here there are more of them and they are more “challenged”, especially after “the socialist” Maduro completely wrecked Venezuela, previously the richest country of the continent, there’s millions of them now here):
It’s heartbreaking, it’s horrible and it shouldn’t be like that. Children should be in schools, they should play with their friends. Children shouldn’t be forced to beg because they are hungry.
I wouldn’t like to leave it here in such dark shade of humanity so I’ll insensitively switch back to the First World problems. So what have I missed from home the most?
My place, my shelves, my wardrobe and…
Living off my backpack can get rather annoying. It’s not just that you only have a limited stuff to wear or use but you always have to dig it up as well as keep washing it..
Funny thing is that currently I ain’t got no home. I’ve managed to wrap everything up before I left Prague in October. I’ve sold my furniture, the HiFi, donated many things and now I’m gonna have to build everything from scratch.
…my bed and my bathroom and…
From no running water in the very very hot Granada, through many bad pressure or filthy showers to the salty (ocean) tap water in Bluefields to the tens of shower gels and shampoos I’ve forgotten in various hotel showers from Tierra del Fuego up to Mexico – you name it. All I want is just a good pressure shower with my bathroom stuff already inside 🙂 And I want my comfy bed back!
I don’t mean to big myself up here much but if it works out well, I can make a pasta like an Italian chef, well let’s say that it happens in 3 of of 5 attempts. But for any proper-ish cooking you need olive oil, herbs and all the things you don’t want to carry with you in your backpack…
Familiar systems, services, products, roads, etc..
It’s not that things/systems don’t work in here. They just work differently and for an outsider, it requires endless efforts, flexibility and adaptation. As a enthusiastic people watcher, I still get excited about the amount of “life” and energy on bus terminals around Latin America but I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to enjoy the united and simple systems with European customer protections and rights.
As for the road standards, there are many roads meeting even the German standards, especially in Argentina and Chile but some stretches of Latin roads could be only described as horrible and worse.
When it comes to products, again it’s not that there’s some sort of shortage of things here. It’s just different culture, different habits/demand and therefore different market. It’s the small silly things, like trying to get a pocket paper tissues in Central America or Shower Gel in Ecuador or a rolling tobacco in the whole Latin World.
I must say that except two minor “Darwin” lessons when I was successfully tricked to lose some money – which is btw a good statis, considering the amount of attempts to do me could be counted in hundreds – I haven’t experienced any real danger. However, just from the visual perspective, one doesn’t need a huge observational talents to see that security here is taken very seriously.
The precautions here are taken to a different level if compared to Europe. I’ve never seen signs that say “no guns” in European shops. And I’ve never seen so much presence of guns (police, military and private security) like here, in Latin America. It’s a sad truth which should be remembered by those whinging about Europe. Too many people take too many privileges for granted over there.
And last but not least: friends&family
Don’t get me wrong I love meeting new people – it’s mostly – or…ehm – let’s say sometimes very exciting. I was lucky to meet and get enriched by some great individuals during my travels. But friends are friends – it’s the common history and knowing each-other well as well as trust that makes friends more than just acquaintances.
And except Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Montevideo and two weeks in Panama, I kept meeting strangers only. I am so looking forward to be the no filter me. Filters are sometimes required due to some cultural differences as well as due to the fact that not everyone can get the extended level of sarcasm I’ve been suffering from ever-since the high school. I am really looking forward to catch up with you – you know who you are 😉