Archive for the The South America Tales Category

Paragliding

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on March 27, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

It’s my birthday. I’m turning Old Man. I’m in a fourwheel-driven crosscountry Jeep on a thinstripped road leading up, up, up the mountain.

It’s me, M, two guides and their tattooed little helper, and an italian guy who’s also supposed to strap on a saftey-seal and soar like an eagle. The Jeep is one of concentrated silence.  I’m looking over the verge. We’re so high up now it has become ridiculous. It’s to unreal to make you nervous.

We have to wait for a few minutes on the top due to strong winds. Me and M walk up to the steep end of the jump-off ground. I catch a glimpse of Merida way down there between two mountain peaks.

I get strapped to the safety-seals. My guide, Pablo, says it’s his first time as well.

His giving me instructions. As soon as the chute starts to fill with air, run for the edge. The chute is thrown, it starts to fill, I take half a step before both me and Pablo gets jerked a couple of meters back, I have a split second to think “this can’t be right?”, but then we’re picked up by the strong mountain currents and we’re away.

I can’t describe it as anything else than peaceful. I compare it to meditation although I’ve never tried it. We’re up, away, a roaring river beneath looking like a line of spit, the city of San Jose like a puzzle.

We hardly say a word during the forty minute flight. It’s unnescessary.

After the flight, on our way back to Merida we stop at Pablo’s little childhood village and after a few beers everybody becomes a lot more talkative. After a while M gets nervous, she’s wondering who’s gonna drive us home and when she raises her concerns with Pablo he only half-jokingly dangle the car-keys in front of her, galantly offering her to shoulder the part of the designated driver.

M:s pissed off, Pablo is a little bit ashamed and grabs a couple of Pilsen for the road and off we go.

The whole way home Pablo talks about how much it would cost him in bribes if there was a police check-point along the way, and also stressing the dangers of south-american traffic in general and Venezuelan traffic in specific.

Then he smiles and swipes a gulp from the 90% saliva remainders of his last Pilsen.

And poof, just like that, we’re home.

The Interrupters

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , , , on January 19, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

I saw a documentary last night, called “The Interrupters”. It was centered around a Chicago-based group of ex-cons, trying to mediate in the violent conflicts constantly flaring up all over the poor, almost war-torned streets of innercity neighbourhoods.

I´m aware that every method got its pros and cons but if the participants are trully dedicated and committed, and able to disect their troubled past in a clear-eyed manner, I believe it to be a more effective system than an whole armada of trained social workers. Just like a recovering drugaddict have a far better opportunity of establishing contact with someone still intangled in the chains of abuse; and make no mistake, violence can be every bit as addictive as any chemical substance.

Travelling in Venezuela, there´s a lot of focus on safety and security. At the busterminal in Maracay, the afternoon news plays out on a tv-screen, reporting 59 murders during the weekend in Caracas. But the underlying structure of violence is the same, from Caracas to Chicago to Mumbai to Stockholm. It manifests itself in varying degrees, correlating to the level of despair and the sheer numbers of the ones who´s got nothing to lose and nowhere to go. And in an economy of perpetual greed that equals the poor.

I´m not trying to be the preacherman, but as I see it there´s a straight line of oppression stemming back to Machiavelli and beyond, that old ABC of hardwhip governing of divide and rule; if the hate and frustration by those at the bottom is constantly turned against their neighbour, there´s really no need for the ruling parties to adress the system of rotten roots sustaining it.

You could claim it´s in their best interest to keep this train a-rolling, since bigger jails and longer sentences is a strong foundation for the campiagn-trail, a reaccuring theme: play the card of fear.Everybody else is a rapist/murderer/terrorist/thief, a shortcut to a couple of million of votes, trust in nothing but God and your sawed-off shotgun and a government who swears to lock up for life any genetically warped monster they´ll get their hands on.

The Interrupters are adapt to the fact that their street interventions isn´t a solution. It´s an emergency exit, brought on by extraordinary circumstances when thirteen year olds both are the ones who get shot at as well as in many cases doing the shooting. When an ordinary day contains another funeral, another bed of flowers marking a crimescene on the curb outside of your house, with handwritten notes of good-byes flapping in the wind.

The Chicago-kids are just an extremely physical expression of an understanding of power that is deeply woven into the fabric of our social core. Violence isn´t some random display of isolated outbursts, it´s not a by-product of nothing, it´s a by-product of societies constructed with it as one of it´s most essential cornerstones. But just as economic crime is done with a gun or a knife on the streets, the only trace the Wall Street thug leaves behind is of paper; moving up the ladder, the assault charge is somewhere along the line transformed into sanctioned acts of heroic proportions, whether you´re a soldier or the guy behind the desk giving the orders.

Safety and security are supposed to be sustained with a state monolopy on that violence. Our history is that of colonized and colonizers, nations are founded with brute force and borders are upheld on a balancing-scale on who´s got the biggest potential of, basically, destroying the earth.It´s not a far stretch to picture that monopoly being abused.

It´s like a politicized version of the big kid in the sandbox, stomping out your castle of sand if your refusing to play the game his way.

So the irony of it all is the white collar presidential candidate shaking his head in disgust over seemingly random acts of youth gone wild, and at the same time refusing to see the dots of systematic violence connecting it to the two marines urinating on the carcasses of their taliban counterparts.

As the teenage gangs of Chicago struggle to define what the conflicts really boggles down to, and not really caring, they conclude that turf is sufficient. One crew is from Altgeld Gardens and the other one is not. It´s plain to see that it´s that old desperate clinging after an identity, and stripped of options they go about it the only way they see how, grabbing on to making that all important name for themselves with the means at hand.

You could take a stroll in their garden of broken family trees,; of dads and aunts and uncles and cousins, so much time spent in the penetentiary it would take several generations to fill the gaps of suspended life.

Follow the yellow brick road. The biggest industry is in winners and losers, us and them. That is the deepest social construction of human kind. And there´s a lot of money invested in keeping it that way.

I need a dollar, a dollar is what I need

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , , on January 10, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

You´d better bring a healthy stash of that soughtafter green if you´re planning on going to Venzuela. They´ve got an official exchange rate of 4 Bolivares to a dollar, so that´s what you´ll get if you take it to the bank, or the ATM, but nobody is interested in the official rate; in Choroní we head on down to Usamas little surfshop with a wad of cash strapped to various parts of our sunburned bodies.

The unofficial rate is somewhere between 7 or 8 Bolivares to a dollar. They´ve got a different way of doing things here. The buses depart once every hour, but when that “once” occurs nobody knows. It´s a hassle to book anything in advance; hostels, hotelrooms, any kind of ticket for transfers.

At the goverment-run busterminal not far from the La Bandera-station, the last remaining tickets for the busy christmas holidays are being auctioned out at 6 a.m on the very same day you wish to travel.We´re here a day to early, a little click of touristy misfits in the midst of a chaotic environment of holiday-stress and a blur of bodies rushing from one ticket vendor to the next.

Overseeing it all is a group of security guards in bright yellow vests, military boots and big guns.

I really wouldn´t wish to attend one of these “socialist ticket auctions”, knowing the level of stress and aggression the slightest mishap or delay in our own public transportation system instigates. If we didn´t have such strict gun regulations, the constant breakdown of the railroads would probably be prone to much more tragic outcomes.

We´ve been schooled that time is money, so ten minutes of tardiness can cause chestpains, and an hour will make you see red as the veins in your forehead goes snap, crackle, pop and the blood seeps into your eyesocket.

Peak Oil

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , , on January 7, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

There´s an exposé about the Venezuelan oil-business at the Bolivar Plaza; right next to that quaint little park residing in front of the house of parliament, with children feeding peanuts to black squirrels; they gently tap the nut against the tree, and soon enough a little rodent head pops out of its sheltered existence in the crown, making a halfway dash down the base, pausing for a second, playing hard to get, until another little tap makes it go all the way and snap the food right out of the childrens pinches.

The exposé boasts on reserves making Venezuela the largest holder of that black liguid gold in the world, sporting some 300 million barrels it´s the swing producer in troubled times to come. Only problem being they´re not likely to swing the way the West would like them to.

But numbers are politics, and fossil fuels are what the politics and the numbers are all about. So whether or not you question the statistic, fact remains that it´s a non-renewable and it will run out, all the while we put blinders on and scramble for the final frontier of the arctic; because in times of economic hardship, longevity and sustainability and those others words of the day quickly fade into oblivion.

Remember the Kyoto-agreement? The Copenhagen negotiations, which was put on rotation seemingly twentyfourseven, whenever you flicked the switch there was another suit with a grave face at least being forced to acknowledge there was a problem.

Remember Durban? Who does? It passed by like a sneaky fart, we just whiffed with a slight frown and then it was dishelved downwind. Suddenly we europeans are threatened with a future that isn´t automatically spelled constant growth, and we´re faced with third world ratings of desperation and despair in countrys pushed to a threshold that we´re suddenly contemplating on raising; but we shouldn´t be surprised, because the Union was never about solidarity, it was about marketshares and protectionism. It was about the golden days when we had Khaddafi bidding our dirty work, creating incarceration-camps so our borders weren´t swamped with useless labour.

Now we´re left dealing with diseases we thought extinct, or that we at the very least had rendered ourselfs immune to the repercussions of.

But if the economic walls start to crumble, the curse of oil won´t be a tropical fever for long. We put our hands together and hope for a technological renewable solution somewhere along the way, in the meantime the oil-industry and the powerplayers connected to it can have its final heyday in the northern hemisphere, making Stavanger and Murmansk the new Klondyke, offering a quick-fix of a booming market, but it´s still a dragons-fly, it lives for a day, and I bet a chunk of Swedish state bonds that the knowledge of it being the very last drops, will also bring an unprecedented amount of corruption and greed into the hearts and guts of the goverment bodies even in our little sensible corner of the world.

Santos Malandros (Holy Thugs)

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , , , on January 4, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

If Simon Bolivar is the patron saint- not only of Caracas and Venezuela, but of the entire state of former Grand Colombia- his Caraqueño sidekicks are the santos malandros; a gang of barrio-hoodlums operating back in the 60´s and 70´s, elevated into martyrdom when a sufficient amount of years has passed by to extend a bit of glitter and glamour to their everyday business of robbery and theft.

Ismael is the kingpin, the leader of the pack, depicted in clay-figurines with a cap turned sideways and a sizeable gun tucked in his waistband, a Venezuelan Robin Hood who supposedly never failed to share his violent riches with his cradle community. Constantly with a cigarette whipping from the corner of his mouth, people wallow to sacrifice by his final restingplace, bringing him some cheap rum to satisfy that eternal longing for a stiff cuba libre.

It´s him the modern day malandros go to to bow their head in hope of a succesful carjacking, kneeling next to a single mother praying she and her next of kins won´t fall short of a stray bullet, or for that matter, a bullet with their name on it.

Steamy armpits

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , on December 30, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

It´s dirty, grey, rowdy, rough and loud; there´s a million and one reasons to hate this city but it wont listen to reason. Everyone from the waiter at the patio-restaurant at our little beachresort, to the snorkling guide with slightly fascist tendencies, questioned the logic behind ending our trip in the countrys capital since all it´s known for is grime and murder.

And I´ve got to admit, one of the allures is the bad reputation, related to that not so flattering Vulture-esque human notion of a crowd gathering on the outskirts of a crimescene, hoping to catch a glimpse of guts and gore, so close and yet so far away, It could have been me, just basking in the aftermath of danger.

But it´s more than that, this city of officially four million but unofficially who knows, possesses its very own brand of a twisted charm; it´s like tap-wiring someones wedding-woes, beauty and paranoia goes hand in hand.

We start off every morning at the breakfast/bakery up the street from our hotel. It´s got an overview over an intersection; you got every vehicle with a combustion engine roaming the streets and I sincerely doubt the Celac-summits held here just prior to our arrival had any enviromental issues high up on the agenda; here you´ll swallow an oil-barrel of carbon dioxide just by a quick walk around the block, and although the streets are constantly flooded with a mass of thickskinned bodies there´s still plenty poison left to add to the already dense layer of smog.

 The marketplace sprawling out just beside the metro-entrance of Bellas Artes shows off pirated merchandise from all over, displayed in tiny container-booths, caps, t-shirts, underwear, jewelry, movies; it´s all packed together tightly, the paths between the booths are at most two persons wide, it´s a labyrinth, everything starts to close in on me, it´s as humid as in the rainforest, all that bodyheat and the vendors going ala´orde, ala´orde, which means something like “at your service”, but the way it´s used its just a repetatory phrase, a loop that goes round and round, etching itself into your spinalchord, there´s a roof of corrugated tin covering this whole homage to the free market and I can hear the rain start to pound on it, each heavy drop a bathtub, I´m looking for a way out and I´m gasping for air as I find it.

We walk around. We take the subway. It seems to have a train coming and going every two minutes, but nevertheless every chart is jam-packed, you have to muscle your way in and ride armpit to armpit until it´s time to muscle your way out again.

There´s no tourists here. We get a lot of looks. This is a place where you get to your connecting flight and be on your way. I love it. I walk around with my tongue hanging out.

Beauty and the beast again: seeing the barrios creeping in between the Chrysler-building and the bank; a brickhouse on its knees, pieces of clothing hanged to dry in the wind, tied in knots around the protective-bars shielding the windows. And then the glass facade of the skyscraper, reflecting everything and revealing nothing.

The barrios are far from being just crackpots and criminals, it´s where the working stiff resides, the schoolteachers, the waiters at our hotel, the busdriver. And just as its inhabitants, the architecture isn´t just that of a slumdwelling; it´s a place of ingenuity and beauty, well-crafted, miniature mansions with a ramshackle bunking on top.

That´s all for now.

Dog Eat Dog

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on December 29, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

Every morning in Caracas, before dawn, we´re awakened by riveting explosions, one is so close it rattles the bed, making the windowglass shiver.

The first night, this being Caracas, me and Brown Eyes suspect the origin of it being some sort of violent act, but as the dust settles and the night shrinks back into relative silence from the cacaphony of alarms set off by the blast, I hear a faint sound I recognize, a series of beeps, like a foghorn, counting down to yet another blast, which in turn orchestrates a new symphony of protesting car-alarms in its wake.

It´s my wake-up call. As Brown Eyes falls back to sleep I go up to the window, making a small gap between the curtains, peering out, waiting for daylight.

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