November 24, 2015
My life has been blessed and fortunate regarding being able to travel and see the world. Hopefully, it provides a vehicle for others who can’t get there physically to use their minds to vision and feel the experience. Since I have a bit of down time, I am going back in time to bring some experiences forward that I have not previously shared.
This particular experience regards my initial work in West Africa. As part of a team with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, we traveled to Ghana and Liberia. The primary purpose was to explore what we could do to help Liberia recover from their civil war. Many have heard of developed and under-developed countries, at this time….Liberia was considered neither. It was considered a post-conflict country, because the civil war had not long ended.
During this time, you could not get a European or American flight straight into Liberia. So we had to fly into Accra, Ghana. From there, we took a United Nations jet from Accra into Monrovia, Liberia to accomplish our mission. It was completely existential!!
This trip was amazing for many reasons, other than me catching a nasty case of Malaria. But, upon returning to Ghana, we had the opportunity to get a personal tour of one of the Slave Castles used to feed the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Cape Coast. I have posted these photos on different web-sites, but never on my blog.
However, I want you to keep this in mind. When I worked extensively in West Africa, often times when I got into a discussion…many West Africans would apologize for slavery…state their tribal affiliation….and then state how their tribe had nothing to do with slavery. One reason that is the case is because it is documented that African Tribal Chiefs along with European nations were complicit in the development and maintenance of the slave trade. This is not to cast blame or to take it away from anyone….it is just an observation based on historical facts – Given credence based upon my own personal experiences there.
So I make this post not to stoke flames but to promote thought…to share an experience, so that our minds can travel across the world and through history. Just like we should have respect for what took place in the concentration camps in Germany – such as Auschwitz….We could list out the historical atrocities on each continent that illustrate immense human suffering. Could be the Japanese throughout Asia, the British against the Boers, but, the list would be so long. Now my focus is this experience. We need to see it, imagine it, feel it and understand it. It should let us know that everyone’s history has a story for all of us. This should create more compassion and kindness for each other. So these pictures are not posted to simply stoke a racial discussion on who has suffered the most. There is no monopoly on suffering. It is simply an opportunity, to see your side and the side of others…and the history that should inform us of…..
Not many words here, just the description….Observe and let your imagination flow:
Standing on top of the battery of Cape Coast Slave Castle….
Looking out from the battery, you can imagine the number of ships waiting off the coast to drop off their supplies for trade and to pick up the human cargo for transport to the Caribbean and the America’s…
General holding cell for the slaves…
The door to the female storage section of the dungeon…
This is the opening to the section of the dungeon where they kept the female slaves who refused to perform sexual acts for the captors…
This is the opening to the male slave storage dungeon….
General views inside of the dungeons. These dungeons held at minimum of 1,000 slaves as a time during the days of trading…
This is the area of the castle where they kept the most rebellious and problematic slaves – chained to the wall:
Another view deep inside of the dungeons:
This is the pathway to the infamous “Door of No Return”…this was the last walk the slaves took to board the ships – never to return again….
Peeking through one of the openings above the tunnel, this is a closer view of the path down the tunnel to the door…
A closer look….
This is the actual door of “No Return” – where African Slaves passed through to the ships never to return again…
Standing at the door and looking outside, this is the view of today….markedly different from the days when the Castle was active…
When Ghana gained its independence, it took over the Castle and re-stored it. The door of ‘No Return’ was symbolically renamed the ‘Door of Return’ to provide a sign of the return of Africa’s lost children…
This experience certainly provoked many feelings; however, I keep those to myself. My hope is that it provokes some feelings for you, and that each of us takes inventory of our thoughts and feelings to improve our relationships and views of the world….As always, hope you enjoyed and more to come…
First Day in Buenos Aires, standing in front of the Congreso National…an absolutely beautiful sight that projects lots of things if your feelings are sensitive and aware enough to pick them up.! … yeah, I know – my clothes are baggy…lost lots of weight – guess that is better than them being too small :)
When I first went to Buenos Aires, I had no guide, no expectations and very few assumptions…probably a good way to approach life! However, I did connect with Tango Alejandro Gee before I arrived; and, he literally became my guide so that I could find what I was looking for during my time in country – literally, experientially, and spiritually.
Sitting at dinner and a Milonga with Alejandro, he shared some excellent wisdom. Alejandro said that an older Milonguero once told him, “in Tango, you have to learn how to walk in the dark.” For me, that speak volumes of wisdom. It solidifies how Tango has many analogies that can be used in our lives. A story in the bible that is often repeated is how when the storms came and everyone was afraid, how Jesus spoke to the waters and said “Peace be still.” For me, that wisdom is not just for the storms in the ocean or those in the sky – it speaks to the storms of the soul. For those storms of the soul are the ones that really need to be changed into peaceful situations….not to mention the darkness faced by those struggling with the reality of mental health conditions.
One of the challenges of writing a public blog is that when you make your writings public, then people can read into your psyche. But, sometimes we need to expose what is in our psyche for our own benefit and the benefit of others – so that those who may have the storms of life on their journey may also learn and benefit.
So it is true, we do need to learn to walk in the dark. One of the things I find so interesting about Tango are the analogies that can be developed – being able to stand with balance; to develop our posture; to walk in spite of; to make sure that we don’t take steps that are too big or awkward so that we don’t throw ourselves off of our axis; to become aware of what we believe in, and to continually stand on it regardless to how groundless our situation becomes; to develop relationships based upon these principles; and to breath and lead with the heart. Not just the physical heart, but our emotional center. And, how this heart has to be used in maintaining our connections with others. Sometimes in Tango we make mistakes – there may be a separation, we may step on toes, we may get lost; but, don’t stop…just accept the mistake and keep dancing..keep living….keep your heart aligned with….(you fill in the blank)….and continue on.
Just as these things inspired Tango originally – what is your passion(s) – what do you source to drive the power of your existence – what compels your passions to come alive – to thrive – to evolve – to give comfort – to bring you together with others – to build relationships – what is the inspiration of your passion? What happens to your passions – is there always joy, is there pain, loneliness, loss, happiness, camaraderie, family, love, the loss of love? With El Beso – has your soul ever been kissed to the degree that when you smile it isn’t the mature adult smiling – but, it is the smile of a child – your inner child. What happens with your passions – is there always peace or do the storms of life come along and you are in need of the words – ‘Peace be still.”
It is unfortunate that often times, movies about emotions are considered chick flicks. This indirectly undermines an understanding of the actual nature of the emotional capacity of men. Maybe one day, someone – whether it be a man or woman – will right that wrong and let chicks know they haven’t cornered the market on the expression of human nature. :)
With that said, it is absolutely wonderful to go somewhere where you can’t speak the easy language of words…you are forced to use the human language – a language of patience, of compassion, the language created when you stop projecting your own internal inadequacies and actually seek to understand. This is the language of humility, patience and hope that a respect for humanity is met with respect.
I am being careful here with my wording as I don’t want to trigger stereo-types (e.g. cognitive shortcuts). So, without repeating the cliché that Tango was born in the brothels, let’s focus more on the river plat region. During this time very little interaction between the upper class and immigrants or the poor took place. And so, the Tango culture was basically born in how the immigrants and the poorer interacted together. Much of this social interaction took place at night, so let’s just say that the night time culture of an urbanizing environment brought together the people of the night who were from ALL walks of life. Those who frequented these establishments became known as Milonguero’s…the dancers, singers, musicians, and those who made a living during the night :) … if you know what I mean – so let’s just say that if we are talking about brothels, we are also talking about pimps, prostitutes, thieves, and others that work in the night. There is a story I was told about a Milonguero who was a thief. The organizers still invited him to their gathering. But, they also knew to take everyone’s valuables and lock them up in advance. By engaging in this act, they could enjoy the Milonguero’s contribution to their social gathering, while also dealing with the reality of protecting their stuff!! :) Consequently, when a Milonguero says, “to dance Tango, you have to learn to walk in the dark,” then hopefully, you get my drift :) I got it…
What stands out though, is that these individuals from all walks of life were not just seen as some pariah. They were a part of the intricate mix of those who made the origins of Tango, of such, that it lasts the tests of time and continues to support people socially by bringing them together – not separating them. This says quite a bit about how being overly judgmental ultimately undermines the quality of our own interaction with others…not necessarily that of the person being judged….
and, the fact of the matter is – when people come into your life – they bring their life – the good and the challenging – judgement isn’t a useful tool – so, can you see there humanity – do you have compassion for them – if you can answer the question of why, does that build understanding – if they are willing to dance the dance of life – then, help them dance….
As I bring this specific trip to a close….being here, I was looking for something specific…looking to connect to the inspiration of Tango…to understand!! …. that is my learning process….Thank you to Alejandro Gee and Erzsebet Tamas (Jou Jou)….I found it…and now that I found it, I know what to connect to…Tango music, if they have words, are sung mostly in Spanish…but the relationship between the words, music and environment doesn’t always make it necessary to understand the words – if you can connect to the inspiration (some of us need that – and some of us don’t). But, after being here and connecting to the inspiration…I can give you an example of what it means…click on this link, and listen to the words and look at the convincing expressions…and feel the emotion of what is being conveyed, and you will know for sure…what this trip was about….and what was found…
and now compare….
Do you understand it now…? Whew….I do…..!! :)
This trip was exceptionally amazing and I have to share and give thanks…thank you to all those that inspired it…you know who you are. But, also thanks to those who give me instruction in Atlanta, Georgia – Angel Montero and April Parker!!
Usually after I travel abroad, I start to think about where I shall go next. Well, in this case…I already know….with respect to Buenos Aires – in the next few months – Voy a Volver!!
November 12, 2015
And now we come to one of the main purposes of my trip. This cultural exploration to delve into the inspiration and expression of Tango. What I am specifically interested in is a specific style of Tango that is connected to the “Golden Age – the early years of the Dance.” I want to see and connect with what drives the older dancers – many of the themes I have touched on in these posts on Argentina. So, I followed the advisement of Alejandro Gee and took the walk to a particular Milonga being held at “El Beso – The Kiss.”
When referring to an older style, a description of its inspiration is found in “The Meaning of Tango”:
“Imagine a young man at the end of the nineteenth century, fourteen, fifteen or sixteen years old, living in a village with his large extended family in one of the poorest parts of Spain or Italy. He hears that the Argentinian government is running a campaign to bring people just like him to their country. They will find him a place to stay, feed him for the first week he is there, and help him find work. He has already heard that Argentina is one of the richest countries in the world – far richer than his own country – so he decides he will go there, make his fortune, and then come home and build a grand new house for his mother…
So our young man leaves, for the first time in his life, his mother, his sisters, cousins and aunts, and makes the long boat trip to Argentina. He arrives in the great port of Buenos Aires, only a few years earlier practically a village itself, now a bizarre mixture of sophisticated European capital city and Wild West frontier town…There are more people in each street than he has ever seen before in his whole life, and practically all of them are men…
Our young man finds himself far from everyone who has ever loved him and everyone he has ever loved. Perhaps in another place he would have consoled himself by getting married, starting a new family, having children to love. But the city he is in is a city of men. Maybe he will be one of the lucky few to find a woman to love him, but the odds are against him…Many of the men must have found the loneliness and isolation intolerable. The only place they could express their softness – the sweet tender part of their nature – was in the arms of a prostitute or dancing the Tango.
To dance with the women in Buenos Aires, the immigrants had to learn their dance – and learn to do it in a way that pleased the woman, or the women would not dance with them. The unique pressures of this extraordinary city, in this extraordinary moment of its history, formed the evolving Tango, and made it into something more than a dance. The Tango became an expression of a fundamental human need: The Hunger of the Soul for Contact with Another Soul.“
– Christine Denniston “the meaning of TANGO”
Which answers some questions regarding Tango – what is the passion – what does it source to drive the power of its existence – what compelled it to come alive – to thrive – to evolve – to give comfort – to bring people together – to use as a tool to build relationships – what is its inspiration? In the history of the development of this human story, is it the pain, loneliness, the loss, the missing Joy, happiness, camaraderie, family, love, the loss of love?
Will not go too far into that as each person has to find their own soul in the Tango, their own longing – if you want to go that far – as Maya Angelou said it, “the soul is the longing…” so in the music, in the dance, in the embrace, in the camaraderie – what part of it relates to what you long for? Whew…I like the sound of that :) To sum it up…as the name of the club implies – “has your soul ever really been kissed”? And, what happened after that?…. :)
Walking pass the door and into the stairwell, the color of the walls, the posters, the feelings generated by the environment and projected from the soul in tandem with the old style Tango music you hear playing, and a sense of expectation starts to rise….
Once you walk in you see every one seated by the organizer. And, it reminds you of a traditional type of arrangement. The organizer generally seats the women in one section, men in another, and couples in another – although in certain sections you will see them interspersed with each other…
The environment, once you stop to observe the nuances, is something that reminds you of another time – a time when chivalry was a part of the order of the day. Although people are seated in different sections, they communicate about a willingness to dance through the Cabeceo…a way to inquire about whether or not a person wants to dance while both maintain their dignity. If the answer is in the affirmative, the man walks to her and escorts her to the floor. The main focus of the dance is to make the follower have a wonderful time. Afterwards, the man has the responsibility of escorting her specifically back to her seat. If she is not the best dancer, it is the responsibility of the leader to adjust to her in a way that still ensures she has a wonderful time. I witnessed this on several occasions and the many examples of chivalry were quite impressive to say the least.
To watch the dance…
Is a completely amazing experience. I’ve seen many amazing things in this world, and this ranks right up there at the top. If you get captivated into watching one couple dance, then it appears they are doing their own thing. But, when you expand your focus, while including that couple, to include the entire floor….then, you witness one of the amazing views in life. Similar to watching a flock of birds or a school of fish shift directions. It appears they are doing different things because each has their own favorite steps, moving at various times to what they find in different layers of the music. But, then it is as if a signal goes off…and, then they all move, seemingly, together counter-clock wise around the room in the line of dance – creating a glowing sense of harmony! A beautiful sight to behold…
As Alejandro mentioned, the majority of these individuals were older people. Some appearing to be at least 80 years old…and many of them mimicking the walk of a cat…At first many of them just looked at me as I wrote in my journal with my look of amazement.
Then after awhile, they began to smile and an older gentleman sitting next to me began to speak to me. Interestingly, as he talked, he quickly recognized that Spanish is not my first language. And, I told him in my elementary Spanish way that I did speak a little. And so, our conversation began. I asked him about his style of dance, Viejo Estilo, the old style of Tango. He spoke slowly and was so very patient that he gave me the time I needed to think and form my own sentences in Spanish. Instantly, made me ponder what is it about older people that drives that patience in life and in the dance. Just as if I was dancing with him, he made me feel good and made me want to talk to him more. We indeed had a wonderful time.
As I asked him about the Viejo Estilo, their is only one thing he kept mentioning over and over again – El Piso! El Piso! El Piso! El Piso means: The Floor…which goes into the vocabulary of the dance. Never lose the floor!! Right from the start when studying Tango and watching Tango in El Beso, you pick up right from the start it is a form of communication! It is a language. And, in every language you have to get the basics of vocabulary.
Borrowing again from Christine Denniston –
“A newcomer, to Tango, learns the way a child learns a language. First, absorbing the language of the fluent speakers around it, then after about nine months starting to speak the occasional word, gradually gaining confidence and skill, until after about three years the child can have a reasonable conversation.”
In this communication of the language of Tango, there are certain focus points necessary to build the vocabulary.
Tremendous emphasis is given to just learning how to stand; becoming aware of your axis; developing your posture; and, learning how to walk…significant things that must be dealt with before steps can be performed effectively or are even necessary. Of course there are more aspects to this vocabulary, but this serves as a start. Now, keep in mind….I don’t claim to be an expert, knowledgeable, or even proficient. In many ways, I am a baby still learning how to stand and walk. Added to my own mix, I have ZERO, as in Nada and Nunca, history of dancing. But, for me it isn’t a dance. I’ve found some tools that can be used on my path in life that also allow a person to improve their relationships and build…
What gives me hope, is that I read of an old Milonguero – Old Style Dancer – who was asked by his companion “how is your Tango coming?” The old Milonguero replied, “after forty years of dancing, I think I am finally getting my walk correct.” *chuckle*….so, that gives me hope!!
There are plenty of sources you can use to learn about Tango, I’ve only discussed a few that are relative to where I am on my personal path and journey in dance and in my life. And, believe me, there are plenty of principles in Tango and Buenos Aires culture that can be used to make the path and journey more mutually beneficial for all involved…finishing this trip with just a few observations – coming next!
November 11, 2015
Walking out the front door for my regular morning stroll, I look down the street and see an amazing thing…an intersection with a book store on each corner. Actually, on this corner there are five bookstores.
Unfortunately, there are too many neighborhoods I know of, where in place of book stores there are liquor stores on each corner…
But as I stand here and marvel at the sight of bookstores :)….I go back to thinking on my purpose for the day…looking for the connection…..connecting to the humanity within a different culture. Getting away from the veil of superficiality produced by the comfort zone of cultural uniformity and wide spread ease of access to nearly everything. I want something deeper than the shallowness created by the ease of access. I want to find the depth – not to judge or critique, but I want to connect with the human story of cultural tango of a deeper Buenos Aires.
I have been listening to Tango music for some time now, and my understanding of it has improved. However, there is still something deeper that is eluding me. When something keeps eluding you, then we have to look deep into ourselves to see what it is inside of us that is holding us back. The thing that is holding us back is actually oppressing us. Meaning, sometimes we oppress ourselves…we hold ourselves back….most times, it is us who is the greatest oppressors of ourselves…so we need to identify what is holding us back, what is oppressing us, and let it go…because this is what actually enslaves us….and if we can free up our minds, hearts and souls then we come closer to capturing what exactly it is that is eluding us.
In many ways music reflects the nature of its people, but also how that nature manifests and expresses the specific and composite feelings of a time….The music, the dance, and the lyrics going hand in hand, but there is something deeper there…that is what I am looking for….what is at the base…what is the inspiration….the inspiration of IT!!
Reminds me of when I was working in West Africa – Liberia in Gbarnga (Kpelle Tribe Country)….during the rainy season, no moon, no stars, no ambient light, no electricity, the epitome of pitch black, you could barely see your hands in front of your face. But, in the distance you could hear the drums from the villages miles away – drums five (5) and six (6) feet tall. They tell a story – a story that helps you understand animism.
Or the movie, the ‘Red Violin’, each section of the movie – the sound of the violin was inspired by a human story. Or as Erzsebet talks about, the challenge of understanding hip-hop music in the United States without being able to relate to the environment. Realistically, relating to the urban environment of New York helps you feel down deep a connection with the Wu-Tang Clan or Biggie Smalls; relating to the culture of California, whether it’s Los Angeles or Northern California, helps you understand NWA and Tupac Shakur. Just like being in Appalachia helps you to relate to the people of the Song Catcher. With Tango, the Portenos are born with it…they already have it…As Erzsebet said, “the rest of us are trying to get it!”….
So, off I go, with my Tango music in my ear piece…strolling, thinking…and seeking to use my imagination in search of understanding….to connect to this human story…this is la plaza de mayo…where I spent a lot of time each day sitting and people watching….
If you have read my blog, even though I been so many places, you know that it is always more about the people than places. Always interesting to hear political or geo-political discussions about various countries…as if they are only defined by such. Look, they have babies too…isn’t she just a spoon full of puddin…. :) I wonder what her life is like…what path she will take…as she grows and matures…
and these two, they had a ball for a long time. Not to mention the two on the bench behind them. They spent most of the time snuggling, hugging and kissing. But, I didn’t want to get made out as a nut watching them and taking pictures…so I kept the pic with the kids. Look at that…people ‘love’ each other in other countries as well *ok, a little sarcasm*….
Plaza de Mayo has multiple dog parks as well…lots of people/couples walking and enjoying each other and their dogs…it is true, this city has a lot of pet dogs…being that it’s urban…even on the side walk – watch your steps…you might get a puppy surprise…
In this park, on occasion they would have cultural festivals where there would be booths representing Argentina, Russia, Haiti, Italy, Spain….and others. Of course, I had to stop and chat with ‘My Dudes’ from Haiti. This fellow spoke English but he was also nice enough to tolerate my attempts to utilize my Spanish :) He is from Jacmel, Haiti. Jacmel is on the other side of the Island from Port-Au-Prince…an absolutely beautiful place…amazing restaurants and the water is amazingly beautiful…how do I know…of course – I’ve been there :) Great conversation and his smoothie was one of the best I’ve ever had….not surprisingly, there are a fair amount of Haitians in Buenos Aires:
And of course, how could it be a city park without Pigeons…of course I have my Tango music on in my ear phones…and when I noticed these Pigeons..check them out…they have their own Tango Walk…Look at that Strut…and trust me, they were stepping in tune…especially the dude with his chest stuck out, in Tango style, escorting his Chicky down the sidewalk :)
Continuing my search to connect with this cultural phenomenon, we stroll by a little shop I spent plenty of time in. This is the local Parrilla…one of the most common restaurants around Buenos Aires. Parrilla stands for grilled meat, so it is a restaurant that specializes in grilled meats…which, of course, Argentina is world-renowned for its beef….
I would hang out here in the evenings as well, watching futbol matches with the locals. Also gave me a chance to work on developing my ear for Spanish…a very interesting crew to say the least…
These two fine gentlemen took excellent care of me. They let me practice my Spanish…after awhile this young man and his Compadre would shake my hand and give me ‘dap’ like I was one of the ‘homies’ coming to hang out with them. Wonderful people, very kind and warm…even if you aren’t an expert with the language…a smile and a warm handshake goes such a long way…
Now, I’m gonna have to admit. My diet is not heavy on the meat side. But, I am a food snob in that when I travel I want to eat like the locals. But, every now and then, I would have to go find something that my system was more tolerable of :) Going from very little meat to a lot of meat…well…to be polite…that can make you bad company… :)
So this little Deli Mart became another frequent spot…ridiculous salads, salmon wraps…and they were very inquisitive of where I was from…and were very kind in helping me become comfortable with using my Spanish to select and becoming familiar with paying and getting change…Delicious….
Walking down the street and continuing my search, i come across a sight that is quite common throughout the world….two women either holding hands or walking arm-in-arm. Whenever, I see this it speaks volumes
Now as I mentioned, I am a food snob when I travel..okay, more like all the time, but particularly when I travel abroad. I don’t think I have ever seen a place with more Pizza shops than this place. I mean in some places, they are almost on every block…now for several days, I refused to eat pizza. I said, I didn’t come all this way to eat pizza. But, as I kept studying the culture, I realized that Buenos Aires has a major cultural confluence of Spanish and Italian influences. So I said, “well, maybe there is something to it….so let me check it out”….And let me be clear…this isn’t American Pizza…I would call this Pizza Cake…thick slices, but the cheese was very soft, veggies very fresh….and it cut like cake…nothing I’ve ever had before regarding pizza…in Buenos Aires…I would say a must try…
Busy, busy, busy streets….look at that architecture…music in my ear…let’s me imagine what it looked like in another time….
Always looking to capture people, at the corner was this fine senora…selling her flowers. Stood there and watched her for awhile – she got quite busy…imagined people doing the same some years ago, buying flowers for their sweetheart…building relationships…she was kind and a wonderful person to talk with…
you ever come across people who have such a gracious spirit and are so effusive that you are humbled in their presence and walk away thinking and feeling as though you have had an experience with someone who has a much more appreciative perspective about life…mmmm…something to ponder…
I also have to admit, I love to come across an instance where Art and Social Messaging come together…I’ll let you translate :)
And, eventually I strolled by the shop that Alejandro sent me to go check out – NeoTango. The Tango shoe shop. Now if you are into Tango, you know that Tango shoes aren’t so easy to come across in the United States. So I had to check them out! Talk about great deals in comparison to the web-site and without the crazy high shipping costs. And, these folks were so kind as well…and it didn’t seem that they were only nice because I was spending money :) Yup, had to pick up a few pair of shoes…some of the most comfortable shoes I have ever purchased…and they’ve got a web site :)
Now on a more political side, some have called the current Argentinian government as leaning somewhat leftest….towards the Hugo Chavez direction – think of Venezuela…I found that interesting as I have found him to be an interesting gent since I’ve read his biography. At the same time, having worked in Panama…I’ve also seen the implications of his government on the influx of Venezuelans into Panama as refugees or migrants. Never-the-less, it wasn’t surprising to come across this book in the store window :) President Obama dressed up as the Heath Ledger’s Joker from the ‘Batman’…okay…. :)
And, strolling out of Congreso,to check out some adjacent neighborhoods we come across several expressions of political thought. This group was protesting for more substantive labor rights…interesting group – made a heck of a lot of noise…I thought it was a parade…can always appreciate the right to protest that is allowed…it was somewhat refreshing….mostly because they seemed to enjoy being with each other even more than the protest :) and of course, just like you have clouds all over the world…got to have a McDonald’s (in my charlie brown voice – ‘good grief’)…
Also came across several groups around the city celebrating the Presidential Elections. Gentleman named Macri made it to the Presidential Run-off…from what I hear, he represents the group that is not as leftist and may be more interested in having better relations with the United States. We shall see….they were happy all the same :)
Plenty of balloons, screams of celebration and horns honking…and if you look closely enough you will see they brought along their own personal drone :)
Continuing my stroll, I do come across some physical sites to capture. Love the architecture of this building and how it sits….Just sat and looked at it for a bit to listen to it speak…and, it spoke volumes about the past, present day, and the future…can you hear it speak…
Now this faculty building provided an interesting contrast to the the modern architecture adjacent to it..a flower that has a glowing light inside…which one speaks the most to you…and what do they both say?
With my own music in my ear…these contrasts also speak to what I am looking for…what my longing is seeking to find…but, it was also nice to have a brief reprieve..just as I am a crazy fan of street food – one of the great delicacies and treats you find when being abroad – gotta love the street artists…this young lady, sitting and relaxing and singing a tune…was extremely impressive…would swear that she must be getting ready to sign a contract….kind of a mix between Amy Winehouse and several other people combined…a very nice addition to the social mix…
As I continue my stroll, I happen to walk up on the Embassy District. Quite by accident…but, if you’ve had enough life experiences then you know the irony of things is that life seems to have a sense of fate. The first building I walk up on that let me know I was in this district was of course – “The Embassy of Indonesia”….had to chuckle at that one…. “Apa Kabar, my people…”…
And, of course, as the day is winding down…and I’m completely worn out…I come across another site that Alejandro told me to definitely check out…called El Ateneo….Now, book stores and I have a special relationship….even if there are only a few books in English…it doesn’t matter – it is a book store…which for me, deserves a bow :)
This place is so amazing and beautiful…of course, does this not speak to you? if it doesn’t, please log off of my blog and never come back…I don’t like you either :)
I know of a particular city that I wish could support a book store like this; no names mentioned :)
Now, look at this ceiling…talk about an amazing point of confluence for the contemporary and the historical…I spent good time here…just looking around, thumbing through books – practicing my Spanish, and absorbing the energy….gotta love it…
Alright…it’s been one serious long day, but a couple of points on a lighter note…Have you ever seen a bike with tires such as this…just found it while i was walking by…I’ll just call this one the ‘Urban Assault Vehicle”….somebody needs to watch this person – they are a person of interest!! :)
Okay, and as it is time to settle down, and grab a bite to eat and rest my ‘dogs’…you have to appreciate how culture and perceptions of such get spread around the world. Maybe a better term is projected around the world. It is one thing to see a picture of Rihanna, Alicia Keys, or Antonio Banderas in the commercial district in an advertising display.
But, who would of thought that I would come all the way to Buenos Aires…stroll down a street and see the advertising for:
Ha Ha…I guess they are down for Empire here as well!! Ah, Portenos, I ain’t mad at ya :)
Well, just a few pics of the trip…again, really focusing on how these sites, my readings, lessons, and immersion give me insight into what comes next!! Peace my friends…hope you enjoyed our little walk….more to come…
November 6, 2015
In my travels, I find it interesting how different cultures manifest similar philosophies but through different mediums…and often times the eventual expression tends to reflect the unique characteristics of their immediate environment and social interactions. Even to the point where the same religion or cultural expression can be significantly different although the values may be the same. Experiencing this variation allows for deeper insight into the object of your focus. Being a Pinterest fan, I always like the quotes that I come across:
“I believe that every book you read changes you; changes how you think, what you say, how you act, or how you look at the world. If a book doesn’t change something about you then it has failed at being a book…”
Obviously spoken by a book Nazi purest :)
Well, if that can be said about reading, then there is much more we can say in regards to creating the actual experience. As mentioned, this trip is less about sight-seeing and being a tourist, and more about developing mindfulness through being exposed to and absorbing the cultural drivers of Tango – this amazing point of confluence where if mentally and soulfully penetrated, we can not only get a better understanding of Argentinian culture, but also connect to what Tango actually is….
It is a difficult dance, and I am no dance expert but what I’ve seen of many other dances, this just isn’t a 1-2-3-4 scenario where you just step on time. It is much more complex than that! Since it ultimately developed from the impetus of a city going through significant change…in many ways the dance and the music reflect the desire of a society to meet its needs while also adapting to intense social change. More so, however, it reflects the human story. Consequently, Tango is not just a dance. It is not just the music. For some, it is everything!! For those who are quite unfamiliar with Tango, then this is a video that allows you to see an example (click the link).
However, keep in mind that Roberto Zuccarino example is for a ‘salon show’ – with all the dramatics. The example of Alejandro Gee is styled more towards actual social dancing (earthy). What you will find in the actual environment is something significantly earthier – if you know what I mean….I will only post so much here…but, if you are so inclined to want to learn more, then this is some serious recommended reading ‘the meaning of Tango:’
In short, when you think about the evolution of Tango, imagine a time in the late 1800s and early 1900s where the area that became known as Argentina was mostly populated by natives to this area, Africans – resultant from the slave trade, and Spaniards as a result of being part of the Spanish Empire. The government developed a policy to promote mass migration to Argentina in order to develop the workforce needed to economically develop its vast resources. Thus, massive immigration brought in many young Spaniards and Italians and others from Europe. Many of these immigrants were young men leaving family, loved ones, friends and a familiar environment to come seek their fortune. This influx of people, formed a conglomeration of people that despite their various countries of origin, had similar mental, emotional, and socio-economic characteristics. So, the Tango Dance and Music reflected the common social characteristics, needs, and lifestyles of people who were mostly transplanted but also seeking ways to adapt to their environment.
While those times are long gone, we can still use our imagination to be able to feel, sense, and increase our awareness of this unique human story. So, my first steps are to put some Tango music on in my headset and go for a stroll. My first focus is mostly on architecture, but I will have other pictures posted later. We could take this into a very deep discussion when we touch on the implications of architecture, both reflecting the psychology of the builders and its impact on those in its surroundings (e.g. consider the effect of color, ceiling height, style, etc.)
But, let’s take a walk through one of the older parts of Buenos Aires – the Congreso District…the sights are wonderful, but what we are looking for are those things that allow us to use our senses to bring forward the past….with a bit of Osvaldo Pugliese playing in the background :)
This is the area adjacent to the Congreso National Building – an older structure under renovation:
This is a common architectural style featured in the area – it speaks volumes – can you imagine how it stood out back when it was first constructed:
Off of the main strip down in one of the neighborhoods:
Observed this fine gentleman working. He has the back of his bicycle propped up and attached to a grinder. As he peddles his bike, the grinder turns and he is sharpening his knives for a day on the job:
This the back of the Congreso National building, amazing view and structure/design. Sitting here at night with music in the background allows you to really use your imagination to bring forward early times….
Similar to Cuba, one fascinating aspect is the number of vintage cars that are in use and in excellent condition. I have no idea what year this car is, but it is a Falcon. You car enthusiasts know that this is about as extinct in the United States as the Sabre-Toothed Cat:
And in the midst of the hustle and bustle, have to respect a person willing to do what they need to do to make a living:
There are plenty of photos to be taken, but as mentioned earlier, I am looking for those that through an initiated feeling can provide the context of awareness that I am looking to heighten – get my drift? Architecture/Buildings, just like trees, have seen many generations go by during its time. As it is said, if the walls could talk!! And, with imagination and creativity – they do talk indeed!!
Within the first few days, my cup became full and runneth over…next stop – to experience an actual ‘old school’ Milonga (the place of dance)!!!!!
November 6, 2015
I ended the first blog posting with a picture of the ‘Thinking Man’ with the National Congress building in the background. This trip isn’t singularly for the tourist experience – in fact, I tend not to be interested in those types of trips (although they do have their purpose). I much rather prefer immersion in place of the perfunctory.
One day, I may put together a post that compares aspects of the many cultures I have experienced; but, for now, this is a singular focus on a particular cultural aspect of Buenos Aires. Often times when exploring cultures, it is necessary to spread yourself across multiple venues and seek to experience the many aspects and nuances of what a country has to offer. This trip is unique in that much of the historical development of Buenos Aires can be identified by delving into a singular aspect of their social network – The Tango (more on that later). One unique aspect of Tango is that it is the major point of confluence for history, socio-economics, immigration, music, cultural expressions, socialization, politics, and many other cultural components that illustrate the development of Argentinian society. Because it is a point of historical and contemporary confluence, Tango, it holds the key to developing much deeper insight into the nature of people.
And so, where I usually follow the Anthony Bourdain trail when traveling internationally, this time I am following I am seeking to develop a greater more in-depth understanding of this dance that is loved in so many parts of the world. It would be easy enough to just take the classes throughout the United States and develop some proficiency. However, that isn’t enough for me….I don’t want to just know it…I want to feel its base. On a side note, it is interesting how we can come across individuals who are experts in community development, but are uncomfortable and inexperienced in the practical reality and sub-culture of the communities they claim to be the subject of their expertise. Consequently, I am forced to dig deeper to develop more of a connection to the base of this amazing cultural phenomenon.
So, to maximize this experience, I researched various venues to stay while on location. I didn’t want the usual hotel or to simply reside in the tourist district. I wanted an authentic Argentinian abode to begin my immersion. Thus, I found two amazing individuals: Professores Alejandro Gee and Erzsebet Tamas (joujou).
These are two absolutely amazing individuals that provided excellent instruction, accommodations, and an exceptional immersion into Argentinian and Tango culture. They asked me what I wanted to focus on and then commenced to instructing and drilling me on the basic fundamentals. I must say it was very intense….even brought out the old mans arthritis :) If you are really interested in delving deep into what makes Tango the Tango…they are an excellent source of direction.
Alejandro also provides living accommodations in his studio. This studio is an absolutely beautiful place – full of Character. This is what his dance studio looks like:
Amazing!! On the walls are pictures of a lot of the Tango Greats from the Golden Age…that really adds a sense of mystic. In many ways, it brings forward the greatness of the Golden Age era into our contemporary times and allows us to feed and grow from the richness of the past.
This is a view of the area walking into the studio – love the nuances in the design!! Just says so much about what you can feel from older style architecture….it brings it forward:
Now who can not appreciate this type of stained glass inside lining the hallway. There are certain feelings and experiences that are better presented without words…just look and feel it…
Italian marble winding staircase with more stained glass. Climbing or descending these steps really gives you an understanding about what a ‘sense of permanence really means.’ You don’t carelessly walk these steps. Best grab the handrail…if you slip and fall, there is no forgiveness coming from this floor. But, they are nice to walk slow on…you can feel the permanence enter your body – you can interpret those implications on your own :)
One of the many things I love about international travel are the people you meet. A major part of Argentinian/Tango Culture is the socialization – a wonderful meal, a glass of wine, great company and meaningful conversation, in the middle of the dance studio. With the pictures of the Tango greats on the walls and Tango orchestras playing in the background, this is not an experience to be forgotten. And, let me make this clear!! Alejandro Gee is a master instructor, but the man can also FLAT DOWN RIGHT COOK!! I was thoroughly impressed and this type of intimate exposure to Tango/Argentinian culture was soulfully touching!!
There is much more to share!! However, unlike many of my trips where I have kept up on my blog. This one I let sit for a bit….as I mentioned, this is more of a thinking trip….some would say: an anthropological exploration :) I was deeply amazed and my thoughts are seriously provoked….more to come….
October 22, 2015
When I first began to blog about my travels, the motivation was to document what I was seeing and experiencing so that my children and family could follow along with me. Then, as more people talked with me about traveling….it also made it very clear to me how fortunate I am to have had the experiences that come with worldwide travel. So then, blogging became also a mechanism to share these experiences with others who may be curious as to what is happening in various parts of the world.
One of the things I love most about international travel is to sit and listen to news stations and media outlets that bring a completely different perspective. Once you are outside of the States and develop a connection with the people you are visiting, then it is highly likely that you can easily identify how jaded some of the news coverages and political perspectives actually are and how they contribute to popular and un-popular culture.
As time has passed, and eventually I will post other trips that I have taken that have not made the blog as of yet, this blog has turned into something even more. Many psychologists believe that much of what makes up our personalities is a lifelong response to specific incidents, experiences, culture and/or events. Essentially saying that much of what is taking place in our minds is a response. The question for me becomes at what point in time do we stop responding and start creating what we want to be. Much of this ability to create comes from stopping the response mechanism and actively pursuing experiences that provide a foundation to build the mind that we want to have. I am clearly not saying that this is an easy thing to do…far from it!!! Because we know as Erika Badu beautifully sang – many of us are dragging mental bags full of all kinds of things that weigh us down. Never-the-less, sometimes we have to try to unpack those mental bags, and replace what is inside of them with something new, fresh, gainful, and gives us the tools to have a more complete life journey. And so…
We embark on another journey and this time we are heading south….way south of the border – to the land of Good Air – Buenos Aires, Argentina. As we move along, I’ll get more into the purpose of the trip and the experiences that await.
For now, it is quite a feeling to take off from Hartsfield- Jackson in the middle of the night, up into the sky…looking out the window into the darkness.
In many ways it’s a surreal feeling. Knowing you are flying over the Gulf of Mexico, places near to Central America and Cuba, down through Columbia and Venezuela…you can’t see much because of the darkness, but it is an interesting feeling knowing that you are there. Even in the dark, on occasion you will see spots of lights or small cities to peak your interest. Then, as the morning comes and the sun rises, you begin to make out the terrain – mountains, trees – this time it looked like parts of the earth had an Afro :) so very thick. As the sun rises, you begin to make out the Pacific Ocean, Peru and the mountains in Chile. And in approaching Buenos Aires, you notice the changes in ground color and terrain and the obvious signs of life, farms, homes, and cities. Observing these areas, you may wonder what their lives are like. What do they talk about? What are their challenges? Is it the same as ours? What shapes their personalities? What would it be like to live their lives? Anyway, you get my drift!! It is always easy to make assumptions about people, their lives, their political and social perspectives etc…it is quite another thing to put on their shoes and wear their emotions and feelings…adopt the sum accumulation of experiences that shape the construct of their mind….
So, this trip will be a bit different. No one will be waiting at the gate, no guide (unless I find one), there are no friends or colleagues waiting to guide me around…this will purely be the experience of a stranger in a strange land. With a descent amount of knowledge about Spanish – but many of the people here actually speak Castellano…a different variation….’like I will know the difference’ :)
So, this is tantamount to taking off on an adventure like the ‘High Planes Drifter’…seeking to find what else the world has to offer. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken such a trip, and definitely will not be the last. And beyond seeking experiences to help mold the mind, it is also quite a feeling to hurl yourself into the unknown, to challenge what you think you know about people, their culture, their ideas, but also just as importantly – to challenge what you think you know about yourself.
I have a few surprises in mind that will probably surprise me just as much as it might surprise you. There is a specific cultural experience I am seeking this time around…so we shall see what we find….So….Adios me Amigos…and Hola Portanos….Here we come…..
Now forthrightly, although I’ve been many places and seen lots of things, international travel can be a bit overwhelming…stepping off the plane…trying to act like I have confidence in my Spanish abilities…well, let’s just say the first few people I came across were very nice and patient:
Had to get through customs with my Spanish – I got an A for effort at least…They let me in the country :) Had to get a taxi into town – that gentleman spoke English so he went easy on me…the Taxi Driver…well he was a nice fellow…he just took me to my destination and let me rest – thank the LORD :)
So right now, I’ve taken a bit of a stroll, used my Spanish and their kindness to convert Dollars into Peso’s; set myself up at the residence where I will be staying; picked up some lunch (ridiculously delicious)…took a few pictures….
This is a photo of the National Congress Building in Buenos Aires right behind the statue of the ‘Thinking Man’ – always have to get that one in….
Lots of beautiful architecture and amazing cultural activities to come. But, for now, my friends, as my Spanish culture compadres do…it is time for a Siesta….
May 13, 2015
Some of us make it to the top of the world, or at the top of the mountain…and are able to walk out on its ledge and look down upon it…
And some of us get near it and watch…while many of us are somewhere in the middle. It is a rare chance in life to see a sight such as this! And, even rarer to meet people that represent this. However, many people have things such as this in us whether it has manifested itself yet or not.
Once when working in Liberia, the driver of the car lost control and I nearly lost my life there. It was a horrible accident. When I returned to the U.S., a friend and colleague who had heard about it mentioned to me “I don’t know why you do what you do, but isn’t it kind of dangerous”. He asked me, “what motivates you to go abroad to really far distant places whether they be somewhat dangerous or representative of a major difference in the ease to amenities that we have in the United States…”
To experience different cultures and ways of life, is to step outside of our comfort zone. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we step outside of the cognitive shortcuts that impede our insight. You can’t always understand something by sitting in the middle of it and looking around. Sometimes you have to step outside of it to see it for what it is…just as in we need to step outside of our own thought processes and emotions to sometimes see clearly. It facilitates understanding. It can facilitate the development of compassion and appreciation where none exists.
I didn’t put a significant post up on Bali, because I provided that a few years ago when in that country.
Bali I Link
Bali II Link
But, one significant lesson learned during the trip to Bali and life overall is the need for appreciation. All over Bali you see these displays of offerings, to show appreciation and seek blessings…
Even in the retail establishments, there is always the display of the need for appreciation and the intersection between our lives and nature:
Even with the amazing exposure to the all the exotic displays of culture:
Or the amazing displays of artisan skills that adorn the environment completely with beautiful sculptures:
Or the hospitality demonstrated, when a band walks up to you on the beach and asks you where you are from so they can play and sing something that reminds you of home:
One of the most amazing things though is to be accepted and treated as family even on the other side of the world.
I’ve been lots of places and I have seen lots of things; but, spending a month in Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) was one of the most phenomenal and amazing experiences I have ever had. In many ways, it makes you feel as though you have lived several life times in a short amount of time.
I am very appreciative of the opportunity, and if I have fall off the grid….you may find me in a little village somewhere in Indonesia hanging at a Warung :) Here is to everyone who made this trip so amazing:
Nothing but love and appreciation…always…
Back around the world sometime soon…hopefully….
February 23, 2015
After getting back from the journey to the temples and Jocja…thought I would take a little down time to rest and soak up all the amazing experiences I have had up to this point…but, then an opportunity popped up to get one more experience…normally, I would of just passed, but I am already punch drunk, exhausted and worn out…plus, how often do you get a chance to get on the other side of the world…there will be time for rest later on…so, let’s keep er’ moving…off to Mount Bromo…
Mount Bromo is an active volcano that is listed at about 4 hours from Surabaya…with the traffic faced thus far…i don’t know if I believe that…but, let’s go with it :)
Now Bromo is famous for being an active volcano…but, also for its sunrise…
Of course it didn’t take just a few hours…so, getting there in the middle of the night…and by-passing the usual suspects – hotels…settled in to a local home stay on top of the mountain…basically, the Indonesian version of the Air B&B…called the ‘Cemara Homestay’
Now to be clear…this isn’t just a hill, it is a mountain…steep…and I mean straight up…they only let you go so far in a regular vehicle…for a couple of reasons, but, to get by the check point you have to be in one of these, and you see hundreds of these up here…
So, after a few hours of trying to sleep…it’s up and about at 3:00 a.m….got to check out this sunrise…somethings don’t require words…in fact, sometimes words can diminish the moment.. so here it is :)
What a sunrise…what do you think? :) The idea of standing on a volcano and watching the sun rise…well…speaks for itself…now, this is the kind of place where you embrace silence and kind of just walk around :) So, just a few pics for you to soak it up…
The savannah’s…open plain…before you get to the active volcano…absolutely peaceful and beautiful…some serious views of the mountains…
These are provided for those who would rather not take that long arduous stair case up the side of the mountain to the volcano…funny thing is, as aggressive as they were regarding getting people to take a ride…no one asked me if I wanted a ride…do you think it was because the horses were small and I was twice the size of everyone else…oh well…guess I have to walk :)
Getting to the top, you could immediately smell the sulfur rising into your nostrils…not long ago there was a rupture that destroyed some of the infrastructure…so this baby is still cooking…
While the area is primarily Muslim, those who live on the mountain are mostly Hindu, so they also come here for there specific rituals. And, positioned on top of the volcano is a Statue of Ganesh…representing wisdom and learning…how appropriate…chilling on Mount Broom with Ganesh :)
Well, as I bring this segment to a close…just have one last thing to point out…these folks are exceptionally industrious…similar to when I pointed out some cultural points when going through the mountains…these people here take it to another level…although it is a mountain, they treat it like any other field…I mean…I saw areas where people were farming on the sides of mountains at angles of 70 to 80 degrees…I mean, ridiculous…and they climbed those areas like their legs were stronger than mountain goats…absolutely beautiful and exceptional…amazed…
Well, to be straight with you…I am worn out…my cup runneth over…these past few weeks have been similar to having my head opened up and someone pouring culture, knowledge, wisdom, life experience…and globalization into my brain until it just ran over the side….grateful is all I can say…once I rest, getting ready to spread my own alchemy :) Time to actually just take it all in….and find the proper context by which to organize all these thoughts…
Mount Bromo…a must see….
February 23, 2015
Now if you come to the other side of the world, and come to see the temples…more than likely you will stop and stay for a bit in Jogjakarta…Jogja for short…not giving you alot here…just a few things to give you an idea about an oasis between your temple stops….
This place embodies much of what you will find in Indonesia and it is an excellent stopping point…as is said, “we eat and we shop”…:)
You will find plenty of cultural activities here “eating and shopping”, but you will also find lots of street food, art, a large international set, nice accommodations, and it is a great place to just sit back and people watch!! This is the main strip – Malioboro…
Lots of food options, but it is always nice to find a traditional eatery and sit and people watch…trust me, they will be watching you as well:
At night, this place is buzzing…I mean, like a bee hive…people everywhere, all over the place and each other…and of course…motorbike heaven:
If you are a shopper then you must go into the market…you could probably spend a week in there digging through all the things they sell…but, keep this in mind…this is a culture that requires you to bargain…and also keep this in mind…whether you are at the temples, a city, or anywhere else…there is the local price, the Indonesian price, the Asian price, and the International Price…if you don’t see a price sticker on it…you better watch out…
There are signs warning you of pick pockets..but, some of these folks will pick your pocket right in front of you…be careful, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth…a very religious society in many ways, but they will also dig into you without any consciousness. Now, it isn’t everyone, I met so real down to earth honest to goodness respectful people…but, all over Indonesia, especially in bali…if they can tell you are a foreigner…then you best get ready!!!!
At night, the street is packed, but all day long from open to close..the market is full:
And, you will often find a little treat that pops up on you…plenty of folks playing music, small bands by the side of the road..or moving around looking to entertain…interesting thing is, some of them will feel you out to see who you are and where you are from…then, they will break out into something they think you can associate with….good stuff….
There are lots of things that could be shown…having all these experiences, this blog could be endless…but, just wanted to give you a little taste of what you will find…time for some rest…relaxation…and contemplation…