Colonia, Uruguay

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Just after Christmas we visited Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, which is about a 1h ferry ride from BsAs. Apparently everyone from Buenos Aires goes to Uruguay for holidays and most of the boats were long since booked up. We originally wanted to go to Montevideo (the capital) but since we couldn't really get on a boat until 2pm and were only going for the day, it wasn't really realistic.

Ironing - not for the faint of heart


A little while back smath pulled out the iron in our apartment... my immediate reaction was probably somewhat similar to what would happen if I saw a 10 year old walking around with a shotgun.

As it turned out, this iron had already fallen into the hands of someone who shouldn't have been using it.

Iguazu Falls

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A couple weeks ago I visited Iguazu Falls with Sam and my parents. Iguazu falls (aka Cataratas del Iguazu) are in the most north east corner of Argentina where the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil all meet. My parents paid for the trip as a birthday present to me.

The majority of the falls are within Argentina's border, with a small part of them in Brazil. The Brazilian side supposedly has some amazing views of the falls but unfortunately due to our not acting fast enough on the Brazilian visa front we couldn't visit that side. But no matter, the Argentinian side of the falls easily filled up our two days completely.

Short Changed in Buenos Aires

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I've been in Buenos Aires for roughly one month now, and something that keeps surprising me is a lack of change all over the city. No one has enough, and everyone needs it. Imagine going to your local corner store, trying to purchase some things that cost around $4, and the clerk not being able to give you change from a $5 bill... ever.

If you are buying something at a kiosk, using a computer, making a phone call, at the subway, or buying something in a bakery, you will definitely need to use change. For example, if something costs $2.20, paying with a $5 peso bill will not likely be accepted. This becomes very difficult. Everywhere you go, people expect you to use your change; however, you need as much change as possible, because you will need to use it on the buses, and in these stores.

This happens daily here. Vendors don't have enough change to last them a day, banks are only required to change a 20 peso bill per person (roughly 6 USD), the subways often let you on for free simply because they can't even change 10c from a peso (subway rides are 90c).

Normal shopping etiquette has completely broken down in Latin America's most elegant city. Sales staff have no compunction about peering into clients' purses and demanding the exact amount. Big supermarkets regularly round off the difference in their own favor, even though there is a law against it. Small mom-and pop stores, meanwhile, routinely offer candy as change in lieu of coins. And if you refuse to add more bon-bons to the swelling collection in your purse, many store owners prefer to lose the sale than to part with their precious cents.

If you want to take the bus you need change (fortunately not exact), the bus driver isn't allowed to accept money and if you don't have enough change (even 5c short) you'll be stuck walking as they often won't let you on. Any nearby shops will laugh at you if you ask them to change a bill.

Tres guitas
(photo by: 'J')

Apparently the government has been making coins in record numbers this year, but regardless the problem has gotten worse.

"There's a black market involving the bus companies and the money transporters who collect their coin earnings each day," says Central Bank spokesman Fernando Meanos. "Instead of depositing the coins in the bank, these transporters are reselling the coins."

I've actually found the problem quite interesting since I've been here, and really can't do anything but laugh about it. It probably doesn't help that I've also started hoarding what little change I get ;-).

Shortly before I arrived in the city the entire subway system had to let people ride for free because they simply didn't have enough change and didn't want the situation to turn violent.

The only silver lining in the coin crisis for the long-suffering consumers in Buenos Aires, is that the city's perennially cheerful taxi drivers seem only too happy to round off fares in passengers' favor.

Not to mention the occasional free subway ride. About every 2nd or 3rd time I ride I get on for free since they simply have no change.

"Since I couldn't get coins at the bank I started buying them from a bus company paying a 5% commission," says taxi driver Antonio Corral. "I had a friend there who sold them to me on a side street close to the bus terminal. But now I just slice the cents off the fare instead, I lose about the same amount of money, but I don't lose as much time."

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my first massage (now with happy ending)


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 **