The meaningless ramblings of a meaningless man.

I'm George, a 21 year old Arsenal and music fan. I've never really written anything of note that I've been really interested in, so don't blame me.

Vilcabamba: Nappies and all.

After a very uncomfortable sleep (although any bed would seem fit for a king after the seat on a bus), we woke up, refreshed and ready for a day which would be spent relaxing.  Needing bags of energy for this, we tucked into the included breakfast of beautiful home-made bread, delicious strawberry juice, exquisite coffee and some questionable scrambled eggs, and then set off to explore which was cut short upon the sight of a local market.  Fruits and Vegetables twice the size of what you would expect them to be, or half the size judging by the papaya and watermelon, we found a definite treasure-trove.  Local coffee and chocolate, which we bought without a moment’s hesitation, followed by herbs for a local infusion which Ecuadorians call Horchata (not to be confused with the Spanish drink made from tiger nuts) and for Silvia (Ada’s and my travelling companion, Katia’s mum) a flour made from toasted maize, something which would delight her, ever interested in different flavours for the kitchen!

One hotel stop for depositing our purchases and a trio to the Tourist Information Centre later, Katia decided to explore, and, ever the social butterfly, I offered to join her on what turned out to be a very beautiful walk through the surroundings of Vilcabamba.  Crossing a bridge over the Vilcabamba river (which is said to bring life – someone should have let Nicholas Flammel know) we noticed people washing their clothes in the river, and the women obviously doing the cooking (we’re still in South America, remember).  Stopping to take a photo, we spotted something that might not be one of the reasons for the river’s mystic status, and the reason we decided not to drink some of the water, a used nappy.  Whilst we didn’t stop to check if it was used, I can’t help but question the judgement of someone throwing a clean nappy into a river.  So obviously, coconut man came to mind, but I assume he’s still at the border, hunting for someone to open his coconut.  Harrowed from that experience, but still eager, we  came across what appeared to be a research centre, with people seemingly waiting outside.  Asking them the purpose of the centre seemed to be a mistake, as we were subjected to five minutes of shouts and deliberating when one of them said confidently that is was a school, and another undermined the first, explaining that they were anything but local.  More lovely surroundings, and extremely and unsurprisingly cheap hotel passed, we came across a man selling deck chairs and hammocks at $25 a pop.  Declining his offer and walking away seemed to spur him on.  No hard sell here, he lowered his price, and after more declining, we got as far as $15.  Still uninterested, we kept walking, smiling to each other.  Coming back into the village, passing more smiling faces (a testament to “smile and the whole world smiles with you”, something that seems to be forgotten in Peru) we arrived, refreshed and ready for the rest of the day, relaxing by the pool.

Lessons Learnt

1.       Don’t assume that people “waiting” outside an institution will know what it is for, or when you ask them will give you a straight answer

2.       Instead of bargaining, a much easier way is simply to walk away and sincerely say you are not interested in the slightest.  Note: this may only work on hammock salesmen in mountainous regions of Ecuador.

Travelling. The sights, sounds and coconuts

Almost 12 hours of mind numblingly tedious bus-journies and waits in various bus stations, which dragged the question, kicking and screaming into my mind “how much exquisite scenery can one take before judging it all as boring?” brought us to Vilcabamba.  On the way, the first incedent happened after the uneventful border cross, and we stopped in the Ecuadorian city of Macará.  After a massive sense of dejá-vu (already having sampled the menú of the restaurant we dined in), we decided that to kill a few minutes, Katia and I would get to know the little corner of Macará that we found ourselves in.  We came across a square, and, sitting down were spotted by a strange-looking Ecuadorian man with mildly racist ideals wielding a coconut.

Something that seems like the beginning of a comedy sketch turned into something more uncomfortable as he passive-aggressively asked, as I am a Gringo and therefore know everything (his words, not mine), I must know how to get into the aforementioned coconut.  Feeling as though any answer would play into his hands, I sheepishly suggested that a good way of entering a coconut (another comedy sketch?)  would be with a machete.  Bafflingly he asked me, a man less Bear Grylls and more Teddy Bear, if (not carrying a bag at the time) I had one.  More obvious, and similar to the answers of “Does Piers Morgan have a brain?”, or “Does Justin Beiber ever stop and think before making misinformed and arrogant comments in the museums of young dutch holocaust victims?”, the answer was a definite no.  And so off he went, coconut in hand, presumably to ask another cuddly gringo if they had any offensive weapons on their person.  All in all, a baffling, and unsurprisingly delicious lunch.

5 hours, and what seemed like an eternity of annoyingly breathtaking countryside later, we arrived in Loja, Ecuador.  Only 1 and a half hours to go.  After replenishing the water stocks, and devouring an extremely cheeky hot dog, we set off on another uneventful journey through the mountains.  This time bathed in a strange blue light, that bathed the bus at night time.

Finally, we were in Vilcabamba, the Valley of something about eternal youth.  Part 2, having been here the last time the old visa was up for renewal.  This time, we deceded to change it up a little bit, and opted for the hotel room two doors down.  Crazy, I know!

Lessons learnt:

1.  Don’t explore the main square of Ecuadorian border towns, especially when it comes with it’s own coconut wielding Ecuadorian.

2. A “shared room” in a hotel means sharing with strangers, not between the two of you.

3. However well you know your girlfriend’s sister, it’s still awkward when the hotel staff assume you’ll be wanting a double room.

Travelling Blog

So last week, I had to renew my Visa and so I went to Ecuador.  The following posts are the log of that journey.

Los Miserables and how to combat them.

Unless you didn’t know, I’m currently in Peru working for an organisation called SKIP - Supporting Kids in Peru. It’s brilliant on one hand, and really hard work on the other, trying to help underprivileged children in one of Peru’s poorest urban areas, El Porvenir in Trujillo.  The challenge is to do it whilst having to work with some underprivileged people too… Americans.

After working here a year, I have come up with some things that the Brit needs to get rid of whilst living with Americans. 

1.  Their accent.  The amount of times I have either been asked in a really patronising way to repeat what I have said 20 times due to either it being incomprehensible or just “too darn funny” is too many to count. Another reason is to stop so called “cultured Americans” doing an awful stock “British” accent (lack of cultural awareness we’ll get to in a second), and then asking if they did it well.  Reply “It’s definitely getting better”, even if regressing into a hideous cultural stereotype you tried to avoid by coming out to a foreign country in the first place

2.  Tea Drinking.  Apparently it’s either really quaint and reminds our Atlantic neighbours of that one time they were in Europe (like it’s a country of it’s own), or just some stupid custom that when adding milk turns into the most disgusting part of things you do. You could defecate on the floor, but if you’re adding lactose in your tea, it’s not the most repulsive thing in your vicinity.

3.  Words and Spelling.  Unless you’ve seen them used on the ridiculous ”let’s add laughing to show you when it’s appropriate” US comedy (which is apparently the only comedy that exists, sorry Messrs Bird, Thomas, Buckley and Harrison (better known as the Inbetweeners actors), they are off limits, and never, whatever you do, use the word Aubergine.  Americans will loose their minds and question whether you are French, completely forgetting that Rosemary for them is an ‘erb and cows are ‘erbivores. You also shouldn’t write, as that will bring up endless trouble over added zee’s and rubbed out u’s.

4.  Sense of humour (not humor, but we’ve covered that).  Americans don’t “get” sarcasm.  Talk to them as you would an autistic person, but without the added Rain Man intellect.  Also try not to make light of uncomfortable situations, as this will just be “inappropriate”  However, a joke about farting is perfect whatever the situation.  A good “Pull my finger” gag never goes amiss with out colonial cousins.

5.  Manners.  ”It’s a cultural difference” has been a phrase I have used many times, and maybe it’s a good thing that Americans are more direct… less waffling.  But still, when they never say please when you’re used to it, or they use it to be paytronising, it grates.

6. Last, but by no means least, never, ever point out their mistakes.  For however you put them, Americans will always find it offensive and claim that they have “improved the English language” (a direct quote) . Yes, that language of Shakespeare, of Shelley, of Byron, of Conan-Doyle even dare I say of J.K. Rowling (OK, a bad example).  They will point out anything their country has ever done in response.

I don’t know if you made it this far, but I must mention a disclaimer, that this isn’t really fully what I think, and there are many things I like about Americans.  Only Mila Kunis comes to mind now, but there must be others…

rotidepavo:

Танцы Королева

Dancing Queen

rotidepavo:

Танцы Королева

Dancing Queen

Enter Shikari… Reminiscing?

Enter Shikari have evolved as a band, there is no doubt. From Take to the Skies to Common Dreads, there was a stark difference.  There was less heaviness from Rou Reynolds and co. and some of the songs they created were actually able to be played on mainstream radio.  The St. Albans rockers have come so far since their initiation, playing at house parties and touring round pubs in Hertfordshire.  They have sold out Rock City in Nottingham later this month (October) and their new album is reportedly finished.  The latest single, Sssnakepit was previewed on Radio One in September and the video has been released on Youtube.  And this is the point of this blog post.

When I first watched the video, I saw it as a throwback to “Sorry…”. That video shows the Shikari boys in their adolescent stages playing at what can only be described as a mental house party the cast of Skins could only dream of (the old ones, the new ones are just Tesco value cider compared to the original Kopparberg lot).  The SSSnakepit video is essentially the same video with a few thousand quid thrown in.

The song itself reminds me of the songs from Take to the Skies.  It appears after 3 hit albums, the Hertfordshire lot are going back to their metal roots with a much heavier vibe to their music.  This fan is most impressed.

(Source: youtube.com)

Something doesn’t seem Right

After moving in to my new house, I felt rather cut off from the world without the Internet.   Without any news for a week, I imagined lots of speculation about Transfer deadline day.  When the Virgin Media guy left yesterday, I immediately went on BBC Sport and viewed the news and the blogs on the site.  There was only one, by Alan Shearer, explaining how Arsenal weren’t title contenders, something which, let’s be perfectly honest, was something everyone knew.  Hoped it wouldn’t be so, but at the bottom of every Arsenal fan’s heart, we all harboured doubts about this young side with Sebastien Squilacci as back up centre back and one of the most injury prone central midfielders starting as first choice in Tomas Rosicky.  Deadline week was brilliant to say the least.  We might not have adequately replaced the talent we lost, but now there is no doubt to the strength in depth and experience to Wenger’s squad.  In deadline week, Arsenal signed two men who have regularly captained their country, the centre back fans were shouting out for, a Brazilian left back with Champions League experienced and a technically gifted, experienced Spaniard (sound familiar?).  Only at 5pm will we have the first signs of whether these signings will do the trick.  Obviously one game is not going to be the be all and end all of the squad, new players need time to adapt to the squad. However, they do need to stand up and be counted, something that hasn’t happened in the past few games, barring some exceptions.

Really, at the end of the weekend, Arsenal should have 4 points.  Surely we can score against a team that has been unable to put a ball in the back of the net for 3 games?

The Vaccines

—Norgaard

This is one of the songs I was talking about in my previous entry.  Beautiful, I think you’ll agree.

Reading and Leeds

My first post about music, and to be honest, I thought my first post would be a review of some kind (of which I am in the process of writing).

I love indie music above pretty much all other types of music.  I’m not one of these people who starts disliking a band when they have become popular, not one to preach the “Sell-Out Gospel”, I’m a socialist at my core, but let’s be honest, if you’re good at something, you’re going to be recognised more times than not.  That’s not to say that there aren’t any unknown unsigned bands that are quality, not at all, just that to better yourself through obtaining more money is a core part of this capitalist society (I’m not bitter, I just seem it).  Rant over, this morning, I somehow decided to my subconscious that I would wake at an unholy time and then be unable to return to my slumber.  To combat this, I decided to watch sets from some of my favourite bands at Reading and Leeds (well, only at Reading). It worked, I wasn’t bored for the duration, but it made me sad that I wasn’t there.  It also made me think, the shortest of songs are usually quality.  Case and point, The Real Thing by the Maccabees (who weren’t there, but were absolutely brillaint last year), Norgaard by the Vaccines and Something Good can Work by Two Door Cinema Club.  I have no idea why this is, it may have something to do with attention spans, but those three songs are brilliant.