Monday, December 15, 2008

Sun Over Beach

Long about 16 months ago, I injured my knee. You've heard me whine enough about it already, but throughout my rehab, my main goal has been to get back to the point where I can play Ultimate again. Last weekend, I joined the local Ultimate jugadores on a trip to the southern end of Buenos Aires province for a beach tournament in Monte Hermoso. 50 of us met at the Plaza Italia Burger King and piled into a comfortable touring bus headin' south. Most of the gang already knew each other pretty well, having played many Saturdays and weeknights together, not to mention various extra-curricular activities (read: staying up all night as is the custom in Buenos Aires). That bus ride provided a chance to get acquainted with some of the gang. Of course because this is Argentina and Ultimate Frisbee, everyone proved friendly and cool.

We arrived at 7am to a still sleeping beach town. I had a spot reserved in one of the apartments, but we didn't have assignments. So I just followed four random people into one of them and claimed a bed. Of course, since this is Argentina and Ultimate Frisbee, all four of them were awesome. I shared a tiny room with Nick and Nick while Josh and Julia (a couple who live in San Telmo and have maintain an absolutely prolific blog on life in BA) had the other bedroom. This was the first time I'd slept in a bunk bed since my 2002 visit to Argentina. Random yet true. After a quick recovery snooze, we all hit the beach which was rrrrre linda.
Team Argentina on a beautiful morning

This entire weekend was set up by Maxi who grew up in Monte Hermoso and had everything laid out so smoothly, all we had to think about was bringing our A-game and sunscreen. I was placed on Team #3 which quickly was named Aguavivas. Once again, everyone was cool. Instead of writing that over and over again, I'm going to use the local colloquialism, buena onda. Onda literally means a wave, but the loose translation of buena onda is "good vibes." I've certainly experienced it in many groups of people down here since my arrival, but never in as much abundance as I did in Monte Hermoso. With people from all over the world (countries represented include: USA, Argentina, Japan, Germany, Colombia, Canada, Australia, Great Britain), there was buena onda to spare.
Katsu's solemn rendition of the Japanese National anthem

I'd never played beach ultimate before, but I'd certainly witnessed enough of Sandblast to be excited. Unfortunately, excitement didn't translate to accurate throws as it's hard to calculate just how much more slowly people run on the sand. Furthermore, I'm rusty as hell. But my team played really well, and we ended up 1-1 on the first day. More importantly, after each game, we jumped into the South Atlantic and frolicked. In sum, it was a really good day.

However, it was not without minor concerns. My knee felt great, and running at a slower pace on the soft sand was probably the perfect place to really break it in. Unfortunately, that meant getting my knee brace totally gunked up with sand. At one point while jogging over to the line, an Argentine teammate said, "Andrew, you are squeaching." Worse than that were the ampollas (blisters). The sand was so hot that nearly everyone had blisters on their toes. I ended up with five, which I think was the tourney record.
Mmmm.... Knee brace burn.

After brief respite at the apartments, we headed down to the main square for a "beer fest." Walking through town, if you could tune out the Spanish and just focus on the basics, Monte Hermoso would look very much like any beach town in the world. There are video arcades and ice cream shops (to which I made two trips), and a boardwalk-ish main drag. The festival was rather small, but totally crowded. Getting food or a drink was a challenge, as was maintaining our reserved tables. After a goofy, "German" act (sung primarily in Spanish), they played more traditional Latin music and we took to the "dancefloor" for the rest of the night.
Welcome to Beachtown!

On Sunday, the blisters were very problematic, and without any bandaids or athletic tape, I chose to simply gut it out. But the sand was even hotter. For our middle game, I donned a brand new pair of black dress socks, and it alleviated most of the problems. Our team had trouble getting in synch and lost our first two games. But we bounced back in our last contest, flowing like champs and toppling the second-place team 8-1 (honestly I think they were tired, but is was certainly our best effort as well). Temporary roommies Josh, Nick, and Nick went on to win the tourney championship, but once again, buena onda ruled the day.

After watching the sun set......we quickly showered and headed to the group asado. With our own private room at a country club, hungry mouths were filled with roughly an entire cow's worth of meat. For some reason, I was most drawn to the salad (but still obliged when the waitress insisted I take another helping of chorizo). After giving various awards to teams and individuals, the party was on with dancing, night-frisbee (played using glowing headbands and a lit-up disc), stargazing, and of course, arm wrestling:We returned to the apartments after 4am, not that late for Argentina. After some brief palling around which some spent briefly napping and others spent eating peanut butter straight from the jar, it was decided that we should hit the beach again. Monte Hermoso being the only beach in Argentina where one can watch the sun rise and set, we decided to take advantage of the situation. So with a guitar and a ewer of water in tow, we encamped on the sand, awaiting the dawn. After about an hour, however, our peaceful group was disturbed by the policía. They demanded to know where we were from and proceeded to kick us off the beach. Maybe it was for the best. We were tired and shivery. And I've seen enough sunrises here in Argentina anyway. Still, the cops didn't have to be jerks.

Monday was rather chill. The girls the apartment next to ours had put together an amazing spread of food. Tuna salad with avocado, chocolate milk, peanut butter, dulce de leche, fruit and all kinds of other goodness. Then Martín and Ian arrived with two heaping boxes of empanadas. Dave, for some strange reason, had a tube of Vegemite on his person. OK, well, I should note that he's Australian, so perhaps that's the reason and perhaps it's not so strange, but I don't go walking around town with barbecue sauce. Anyway, I was glad he brought it because I tried some on bread and found it to be quite delicious. I have no idea why the condiment gets such a bad rap.
Dave, powered by Vegemite (photo by Mike)

After a quick stroll through town, it was time to depart. This time the bus ride was far more low-key, but I got to know a few other folks I hadn't had much time to talk with earlier. I had an upper-deck front seat with was a bit trippy, but provided great views of the flat countryside. When we stopped in Azul to grab some food, we were there for nearly an hour. Part of the delay was the fact that the fifty of us caused the small outpost to be overrun. But then we lingered longer anyway. While in line, one of the more jovial members of the group, and Argentine native who speaks mainly in Spanish, said to me and another American, "I'm learning more English. You are a showerbugger!" We exchanged puzzled looks and he said again, "Showerbugger!" as he gave us high fives. Not wanting to stifle his progress in learning the language, we waited a minute as he said, "Espera... Shower - duchar.... Duchabug?" "You mean douchebag?" "Yes! Douchebag!" More high fives. "What does it mean?" "Uhhhh...." Well, we gave him the colloquial meaning and saved the literal one. He wheeled around to the other English-speakers nearby and said, "Douchebag! You're a douchebag!" After a beat, they exchanged gleeful high fives. I mentioned the "d-bag quotient" in my last posting and this was of course the term I was referring to. Here's the Urban Dictionary definition. My favorite is #4. I should also note that unfortunately, most douchebags are not only well aware of the term, they use it liberally, unaware of their own bagginess. So McRae informed me in Chicago that they had taken to calling them Delta Bravos so that they can't figure out when you're labeling them. I felt that took too long to say, so we shortened it to simply Bravos. "Bravo! You're a bravo!" And now I give you the requisite high five.

We didn't arrive back in BA until nearly 2 AM, which is roughly four hours after everyone lamented the extended food break in Azul. We parted ways at Plaza Italia as people figured out how to get home. Lucky for me, I was able to hoof it. Unluckily for me, I had work early the next morning. But I wouldn't have traded the weekend for anything. The trip definitely has a place in my top three events of the Buenos Aires experience so far, and I know I'm going to get more time with all these great people in the near future.

As an added bonus, someone from a local TV program was there and filmed much of one of my team's games. At the 4:40 mark, you can see Josh outrace me to Nick's brilliant throw for the game-winning point (hint - I'm the one in the kneebrace):

Speaking of great people, you've no doubt heard in the news that the sitting governor of my home state, is not a great person in the normal sense. He is a great something, but I'm not sure what word to use. Douchebag? Yes, that's the word. High five. Rod's campaign slogan was "Getting Things Done For People." You have to give him some credit for honest dishonesty. He simply never declared who the "people" were. Turns out it was him and his wife. When I tell people here that my current governor was just arrested and my former one is busy serving a six year sentence, the normal reaction is, "So it's just like here. Except at least you throw them in jail!" Ah, something for the good people of Illinois to hang their hats on.

But unfortunately, as pathetic a public servant as Rod may be, he still can't hold a candle to our dear, departing president. Lest we forget that Blago's crimes are merely the sort of graft we expect when politicians go corrupt, it was announced this week that a bi-partisan Senate committee with zero dissenters declared that the systematic and brutal torture committed by American troops in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and lord knows where else was approved by none other than George W. Bush. The same George W. Bush who at first blamed this kind of thing on "bad apples," and on many occasions declared, "We do not torture." The man belongs in prison or worse. There is no statute of limitations for war crimes. I hate to bring down all the buena onda in this posting, but of all the horrible things that this man has done, I don't see how any of it can top this. We have a moral responsibility as human beings to condemn the man, regardless of political or religious affiliation. Because this is downright evil.

Certainly, I'll go on living here and not let it ruin my days. Right now, my biggest problem is that I've met too many cool people. I realize that is a wonderful problem to have, one for which I am grateful. In other news, a headline in today's Chicago Tribune says, "Forecast: 20 below windchill coming". So think of me while you're shivering. And plan your visit. I and the warm, southern air await you:


Joe said...

I'm jealous...a little bit about the warm weather, but mostly about playing Ultimate. I'm glad you finally played on the beach!

Lahill said...

Tailgate parties last year, now beach parties till dawn. You deserve it.
El Viejo.

Linda said...

What a wonderful post! I envy you all the new friends you made, especially such an international group. The atmosphere in such a group is always "buena onda." Everyone cares about one another and welcomes each person as a friend. We really are one people, and events like this truly show it. Thank you again for the upbeat, hopeful post. I'm so glad you're enjoying BA. -- Linda (your mom's cousin from CA)

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