Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Slang and Games

For those who may be interested, the word ben-zona is not just a rude word - it can also be used to express how good something is. The closest equivalence is probably like the old skool meaning of wicked or the subtle difference between something being ´bollocks´ or ´the bollocks´. If you ask me, its probably safer to steer clear of such potentially ambiguous phrases. I reckon i probably understood about 85-90% of what everyone was saying.

Unfortunately i fear that those missing percentages held the key parts of theconversation.

In addition, for anyone interested, i found an Israeli equivalent to Father Abraham called Doda Tova (aunty Tova). Apart from the fact that she has 7 chickens instead of sons, and that they neither sleep nor eat, there isnt a huge amount of difference between versions. Anyone seriously thinking about Aliya but is being put off by the thought they may not understand Israeli campfire songs - dont worry - you will manage fine.

Going on another trek tomorrow and after that not sure what i will do...but am slowly slowly getting used to and enjoying the not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Hope to see you all soon


Treks and Food

Dr Atkins move over, there is a new diet on town...its cheap, works quickly and you will literally feel yourself losing inches round the waist. i like to call it the ´kosher / vegetarian abroad´ diet, or as it may become to be known ´Bender´s diet´. It comes into its own on 3 day ship journeys followed by 4 day hikes. It comprises a huge 200g of Dairy Milk, 4 pot noodles that Tanya kindly left, 4 packets of Kosher crackers that i had saved from the plane journey (they are long life ones.)

But you shouldn’t think that its been all healthy stuff...before the trek, we bought a big packet of Dulche de Leche ( an Argentinean specialty of milk, nougat and caramel) It just goes to show how a healthy diet of sweet stuff interspersed with pasta, rice and the odd baguette and veggie food from a restaurant that doesn’t serve pork and shellfish can help you lose weight.

The Trek itself was really great a experience. 4 days and 60km of walking uphills, down valleys, through scenery that words cant really do justice - lakes of blue, green and grey, snow peaked mountains and vanilla blue sky stretching as far as the eye can see.

Camping at night, Glaciers, llamas, we even saw the back of a puma. I spent the trek with a group of 12 Israelis (well 10 Israelis, me and one Australian Jehova witness...there are some questions that just don’t have good answers to them), spoke lots of Hebrew, played lots of BA type campfire games and learnt lots of slang.

Southern Patagonia

Since the last installment, i have spent 3 days on a boat sailing through the Patagonian fjords (which sounds a lot better than it was), spent time in Puerto Natales, done a 4 day trek and arrived back in Argentina, where i rented a car with people i met and went to see a Glacier.

Puerto Natales is a cute town sitting aside a lake in Southern Chile, with big square windows (in the winter there is very little sun) and painfully slow internet access. I arrived not knowing anyone and a bit worried about who i was going to meet, but as things often do, everything turned out well and good.

I had arrived a bit panicky and worried , but have had a fantastic week and met some really great people. I stayed in a hostel run my Chuan, a Chilean guy who spent 7 months in Israel and speaks fluent hebrew...i have to say that nothing really surprises me anymore... a few stories and thoughts which you will hopefully be good enough to tell me you find funny or interesting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Sabbath Tale

The protaganist of this story (lets call him C to protect his identity) thinks that Shabbat abroad is a strange phenomenon; you´re without family and friends far away from home, yet it can act as a anchor for things you recognise and know. C is a bit of a planner, an organiser...he likes to know what he is doing next week, next month, so he is still getting used to expecting the unexpected and the unknown.

C woke up last Friday morning having no idea what he was doing over Shabbat..yet within the hour, a meal had been organised with 14 secular Israelis and it was then that the fun really began...

Eveyone went shopping, the secular Israelis chose stuff for themselves, C chose stuff for himself, they were very nice about it, getting C to choose a dessert he could eat and everything. They all get back, start cooking, start chopping...and then two religious girls (or one religious girl and her veggie friend) arrive. And not just religious like Shabbat and Kashrut at home religious. One told C that the pasta he had wasn´t kosher, she didnt want to eat from the food cut by the (cold) cutlery they'd used...she didnt want to light Shabbat candles so as not to be obligated to light in future weeks...she thought it was weird C had pre paid at a veggie restuarant for lunch the next day...apparently C´s shabbat times were wrong. Dont get me wrong - they were great girls, it was just a bit funny for C to suddenly lose his monopoly on being a Halachic authority... to make things even more interesting, 4 Israeli religious guys then appeared fresh from this trek, with their own food and cooking utensils...

it was incongruos to say the least that in a kitchen of a random youth hostel in Southern Chile, lots of Israelis were preparing different Shabbat dinners. C ended up eating with the larger group of Israelis, davenning with the others and sitting and chatting with both. He is still unsure where he felt more comfortable. Clearly its too simple to pigeonhole people by being either secular or religious - its clearly more of a continuum that everyone finds themselves on (like eating pork on Yom Kippur to a girl not wanting a guy to hear them sing...or maybe thats just C´s continuum of frumness). But it did raise interesting questions about where Anglo Jewry fits in to Israel. All in all, it was definitely an unforgettabble if not slightly longer than planned) Shabbat for our hero.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Advice for potential travellers

  1. Before walking up a volcano, try not to have badly sprained your ankle a few weeks before and have more than a glass of milk for breakfast.
  2. Dont base a decision to go rafting in Pucon on memories of a leasurely outing in the Jordan river on Tour when you were 16...they are not the same
  3. Just because a guidebook describes a hotel as friendly, clean and with English speaking owners does not mean it is necessarily true (although they were quite friendly)
  4. Just because somewhere might be the only veggie (and fish) place in town, doesnt mean they dont have chicken or squid and crab on the menu
  5. When getting emergency safety instructions for a guide before rafting, try to make sure you can completely understand what he is saying.
  6. Snow burn is not an oxymoron - if you slide down a volcano too quickly and tumble off the track, you can get it...and it hurts
  7. If getting in a normal sized car with 7 other people (one of who may be a largish girl) doesnt necessarily appeal to you, you may want to think twice about getting in a cab in Chile
  8. If your idea of fun is twiddling your thumbs and waiting in queues for long periods of time, may i recommend trying out the Argentine-Chilean border.
  9. The Lake District is not just a place in England near Newcastle...it is also a very beautiful area in Argentina and Chile
  10. And finally, Maradona is very popular in Argentina...it is inadvisable to forget where you are and call him a fat bastard or that druggy who cheated us out of the World Cup in 1986.

    Shavua Tov Calev

Patagnonian Wildlife

if you've ever read guide books about Argentina and Chile you would be aware of the wide range of animal life in the area, the penguins, the whales, the birds. So far, i have come across two main types of species, dogs and horses.

Dogs and Phrases
the phrase let sleeping dogs lie could have been coined in Argentina, when it was perhaps shortened from the good advice of 'keep sleeping, limping and rabid dogs as far away from you as possible.' To imagine the amount of stray dogs here, think cats in Israel, double it and give each dog a slightly different limp and you get close to the picture here.

Horses and Metaphors
i was told by the guide that horses are just like women, treat them well, but wack them every now and then to show them who is in charge. Clearly being a new age 21st century sensitive guy i treated my horse with only kindness and respect...yet it constantly took adavantage of me, stopping every few minutes to eat - what does that say about the fairer sex?

Argentina and Chile - The Lakes

to those who are yet to unsubscribe...thank you

If a week is a long time in politics (as im sure Shimon Peres thinks it is) then it is even longer when you are away from home, spending lots of time outside and looking for activities. In the past week, we have done a couple of tiyulim, rafting, spas, met many Israelis (some of whom did combat units, others who sat in jail for left wing refusal) and on Thursday i climbed an active Volcano called Villarica which is definitely one of the highlights so far of the trip.

i have just spent Shabbat with an Israeli couple who have cabanas (cabins, rather than sausages) in Pucon, Chile. I think Shabbat is always hard being away from family and friends, but being in a quiet place with the sun shining, with views of the Andes on the one hand and Volcano Villarica on the other is not such a bad alternative. The past week we moved from Bariloche, a fantastically beautiful place of lakes, snow capped mountain - the kind of place that looks like a postcard, and you can close your eyes, open them again, and you still dont quite believe you are there, to Pucon in Chile also very picturesque and quite with lots of options for activities.

Please find below a few thoughts on the holiday so far and having been here almost 2 weeks, i feel at liberty to be able to advise potential travelles on the dos and donts of South America

Monday, November 07, 2005

Horse Riding

Horseriding is a bit like life in general – you think you´re in control when youre not and it can sometimes be a huge pain in the arse.

But despite these minor physical pains and existential discoveries, Friday´s virgin ride was a lot of fun. And when I wasn´t worried about falling off it was quite relaxing too. Tanya and I went with a small group of Dutch, Spanish and Texans through gorgeous scenery with hills and snowed capped mountains in the background.

At one with nature, at one with the house and successfully managing to not be at one with the ground, the whole day was great, and my bum was very much looking forward to Shabbat.

Wishing everyone a Shavua Tov and missing you all


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Sunday, November 06, 2005


In an increasingly globalised world, ability to communicate is empowering...unfortunately having my level of Spanish is not.

The most accurate description of what I have been breaking my teeth over the last week is Spanrench, an eclectic mix of French, Spanish and Hebrew. Between the ´toilettes´ and the ´c’ilu´s,’ a smile here, a hand movement there I think we are slowly making ourselves understood.

I have to say it isn’t helped by the fact that South American Spanish is different to Spanish Spanish, but then when you don’t really speak either, it doesn’t mater that much.

Is Argentina Israel in disguise?

Talking about being Israeli (we are yet to see lots of them although there are signs up in Hebrew) the similarities between Argentinians and Israelis are somewhat uncanny.

I know that an early Zionist congress decided against mass immigration to Argentina, but a century on there are many similarities. In addition to the dark complexion, I thought that it was only Israelis who ignored plane stewardesses asking them to turn off laptops or not get up before the plane has actually ground to a halt. Stranger still was the widespread clapping as our plane touched down in Buenos Aires.

Add to that the Kosher McDonalds and the absolutely crazy driving and I sometimes think my Aliya has started early.

In contrast, things couldn’t be more different to England. Hardly anyone speaks English, there is lots of PDA´s (Public Displays of affection) it is hot and sunny in November and the Falkands War is a big deal here….if asked best to say you are Australian.

National Stereotypes

Just because Stereotypes and generalizations are morally wrong does not make them factually inaccurate and wholesale descriptions of loud, raucous and drunk did not become associated with Brits road by accident.

I was unlucky enough to be awakened from my politically correct slumber by a group of retired WASPS who entertained our plane from Buenos Aires to Bariloche with their exaggerated laughter and broad accents.

For anyone who asks, I’m a proud Israeli!

The Story so far...

Unemployment, or being in between jobs as I like to call it, is not treating me so badly, although whether I´ll say that in 6 months is a different question.

A constant influence of shops, cafes and internet has somewhat calmed my slightly obsessive need to be busy and active the whole time and so far its been a lovely mix of relaxation and moving about, of squares, museums (well one museum) lovely walks and views and decent restaurants (Steaks in Buenos Aires are about 3 pounds).

I´m still slightly apprehensive about being on my own later in the holiday but traveling is very much a learning curve and I already feel a lot more comfortable and confident than when our plane touched down on Monday night 12,000 miles from home. Anyway, a few comments and thoughts so far almost week in…