traveling

my first massage (now with happy ending)

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For my birthday yesterday, Sam got me for a present (among other things), a massage at a spa just a few doors away from our apartment. Before this I'd never had a massage, always a bit too awkward and not really sure how it works (or if I'd just laugh the whole time due to ticklishness).

This place was pretty classy and the guy at the front desk even spoke English, making me slightly less nervous about the whole situation. Sam jokingly said something like "yeah, don't worry, it's a men's spa but they have women masseuse, they massage your ass and stuff, but that costs extra and I didn't pay for it :-p".

At this point, one of the girls fetched me and showed me around the facility and to the shower area, signaling for me to shower first. They had a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, and some kind of a funky shower that didn't work properly. I wasn't really sure if I was suppose to go naked or bathing suited... so I made a compromise and wore boxer briefs.

While waiting for the masseuse (there were actually two, I was getting the "four hands" treatment) I chilled in the jacuzzi and the steam room. The main masseuse fetched me, introduced me to the other one and took me to a private massage room. Both were quite fine looking Argentine ladies, though in the "fake" sort of way (bleach blonde, fake n' bake, enhanced breast types), but I'm not about to judge.

The massage was 1h long, and all I really knew was that the first 30mins was suppose to be a harder massage and the second softer. The two masseuses didn't speak much english, and when asking me what I would like, I could only really understand "aromatic" and "tantric" (<-- this got my ears perked up a bit). I got them to clarify a little bit, and in the end explained to them that I'd like a harder massage to start followed by a softer one. They seemed cool with that.

** This is where it starts getting interesting **

One of the girls signaled to me that I could remove my shorts. So I did. Lay face down and the massage commenced. They began with one massaging my upper back / shoulders, and the other... my ass. At this point I was like "hmm... I guess Sam /did/ pay the extra ;-)". As the massage progressed it was clear that one of the girls was a lot more... forward? then the other. The massage got a little bit interesting at points, but nothing I decided to say anything about, for all I knew it was still a normal massage ;). The one girl then started moving in such a way as to rub her breasts up against my hands (and yes, she was equal with both hand).

** And this was the first time I touched fake breasts (or fake breasts touched me? I know, I'm inexperienced, but I'm not afraid to admit it) **

Shortly after they asked me to roll onto my back, and covered my eyes with like a little eye covery thingy. They then massaged that side of my body for about 10 minutes or so... they were getting a little bit close for comfort, but I declined to say anything again as nothing /that/ inappropriate had happened yet, and if anything, a little less "personal" then when I was on my back... and then... one of the girls leaned up to my ear and whispered... and I swear to god I am /NOT/ lying about this, and please keep in mind and believe me when I tell you that while the massage was very nice and relaxing, in no way was I aroused in a sexual fashion... so she leans in and whispers ... "scott, you want happy ending?"

** The End **

3 things that always trip me up in foreign countries

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This is somewhat related to my Culture Shock blog post. But somehow there's a re-occurring theme with 3 basic things that always surprise me and get to me a bit (a lot?) when I'm traveling in a foreign country. This doesn't include the US which is may as well be the same as traveling in Canada (well, the more urban areas anyway).

Disclaimer: Parts of this blog post contain graphic details.

1. Toilets. When I first arrived in Italy with Scott, we met a guy who had just arrived in Europe from the US for the first time. His girlfriend warned him about the toilets, so he brought a massive pack of toilet seat covers to show those toilets who's boss. However, in a lot of Italy the toilets have the seats removed! Needless to say, he got owned. I'm not sure why the seats are removed, but they're standard north american style of toilets, just with no seat, so you kind of need to do a half squat above the toilet, or seriously mummify the thing with a ton of toilet paper.

In a lot of western Europe you need to pay to use the toilets, this was a bit annoying as we always had to carry change with us just in case, though after using a free toilet in Spain, we were more than happy to drop a bit of change for clean crapping.

In Hungary, for whatever reason, many of the toilets had a nice little ledge for your, well... to "rest" on prior to being flushed. Not really my thing, but I guess some people like to examine their "stool" prior to flushing.

The apartment I'm living in now has a nice little add-on bidet for the toilet (you can probably get one for /your/ toilet too! (let me know and I'll try and hook you up)). Thus far I've been too afraid to use it. But I did turn it on once to see what would happen. Fortunately my face wasn't anywhere near it when it took a good shot up towards the ceiling. A minor wipe down of the nearby surfaces was necessary.

2. Tissue paper. Nowhere I've been have I been able to find as soft as toilet paper and kleenex as is in North America. Hungary was the worst I've been for both (and I won't go into any more details there, but I'd have been in about as good a shape with a fine sandpaper)... but honestly, soft toilet paper and kleenex are the exception, not the rule. We have spoiled bums in North America.

3. Recycling. I've had to come to grips with throwing out plastic and glass bottles when I'm traveling. Especially when I can't speak the language. South Africa may as well have had no recycling at all. Now in Buenos Aires, there's clearly recycling, but I just haven't been able to crack the system yet. This might seem a silly thing to be bothered by (in my top 3), but really, I cringe every time I have to throw out something that I know can be recycled, a small part of me dies inside. (Maybe a spanish speaker can provide me with a script en espanol with how to get more info about it :) ).

Trip to La Boca (Caminito)

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Decided to venture to El Caminito yesterday. Took us only 4 hours to make the 30 minute trip (probably 1.5h if we'd walked). Caminito is located in La Boca, which is considered one of Buenos Aires' poorest and dangerous Neighbourhoods. The guide book had phrases such as "if you must walk... whatever you do don't turn left on ... and don't even think about walking back along the water ..."

Anyway, we decided to take the subway to plaza de mayo and then hop on a bus the rest of the way. The bus however, seemed to be going in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go... by the time the bus passed the original subway station we started at, we figured we might be on the right bus going in the wrong direction. Having nowhere to be really, we stayed on the bus to get a nice little tour of Buenos Aires... 1h later when the bus was in the middle of nowhere... we got kicked off and had to find another bus back (we were hoping maybe he'd just turn around and start the route from that end, but no luck.

In Buenos Aires you have to have change to ride the bus, you can't buy a pack of tickets, always change. We /thought/ we had enough change for the day... but turns out busses in the suburbs cost significantly more. We bought one ticket, got yelled at by the bus driver a little bit and then took our seats. Hopped off at a subway station and decided to try our luck again. At this point we were out of change, and apparently so were the subway people... so they let us board for free (subway costs 90c/ride, we gave them 2 pesos and they couldn't even change 20c worth).

We knew we'd need more change to catch another bus at this point, so we stopped at a small "kiosko" (a little corner store type thing) and tried to find some unevenly priced items (if you ask for change they'll laugh at you). We managed to get 50c which was enough to add to our existing change collection to get us into Caminito. Hopped on the right bus going the /right/ way this time and arrived about 10 minutes later.

El Caminito used to be right next to the BA docks and supposedly the poor people living there would beg docked ships for extra paint they had. The area now is primarily for tourists and even overwhelmed me a little bit with just how touristy it was (easily the most touristy place I've been in years). It's located on the edge of the La Boca neighbourhood, which apparently has the highest crime rate in Buenos Aires. Though supposedly the area is a lot safer now than it use to be even a few years ago.

On our way out, I tried to buy a hot dog but almost failed due to the vendor not having even a peso of change (!!). And then boarding the bus... well, no one had change so the bus driver just let us all on for free.

Change in Buenos Aires is a serious issue. I'll be writing more about that in my next post.

You can see all my El Caminito photos here. Or my whole Argentina set.

New York photos uploaded

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Two and a half months later, but I've finally remembered to post my photos from my one week in New York. After DrupalCon Hungary I timed my trips back to have a one week layover in New York. Sam also joined me there for the week.

I think this is the only blog post I've written about that trip besides the one night stop over I had on the way there (due to a mistake in my ticket purchasing :) ). Anyway, the trip was really good, we stayed the week in a nice apartment in Brooklyn that had fairly central access to a few different subway lines.

It definitely had a few areas that reminded me of parts of Vancouver... but everything was at least x50. I really liked the city and wouldn't mind spending a bit more time there.

Culture Shock

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Whenever you go to a completely new place you get a bit of culture shock. I think even coming home from a long trip you can often experience it as well. When me and Scott Mac went traveling in Europe we started our trip in Amsterdam. I think I remember the most "shocking" things right on arrival to be the language (all hundred of them spoken there), the european style of streets, getting almost killed by cyclists, and the alcohol prices :). We didn't find the red light district until we'd already been in town for a day and a half... we couldn't figure out for the life of us what this so called "red light district" was, or why it was called that ;-).

I've traveled a lot more since then and I still enjoy the "culture shock" when arriving to a new place. In New York I talked to a couple people who were just so totally rude to me I could do nothing but laugh... I don't think that helped the situations either though :).

I think maybe formally culture shock is defined differently... but I mostly just use it to describe anything that's different that catches me off guard.

headless doll

The phone system is always one of them, everywhere phones work differently, they have different tones and different rules when calling (for example, unless you have a special plan, land lines can't call cell phones in argentina). Sometimes even the pay phones them self are quite different.

Pay phone

In my opinion, North Americans eating habits and food are quite tame. Liver is probably the grossest looking thing you'll get in a supermarket.

mmmm brains

I cooked up the bottom left one for Sam and myself, goes great with some garlic butter.

Buenos Aires is a very European city, the streets and buildings all have that feel. I still always feel like I'm going to get hit by cars when walking across the street... need to fight your way through the crosswalks even. Probably doesn't help that our apt is on the corner of one of the major intersections here.

It's a really great city, weather has been awesome too... these people just need to learn to speak English!

poodle