Saturday, September 30, 2006

toe the scratch?

che, these photos are for you. condors when i was trekking outside bariloche on mount tronador. great hikes down there, and you can spend nights on the mountain at refugios (similar to mountain huts in colorado). if you guys get down to bariloche, you've got to stay at this hostel ((la morada)) the views are breathtaking. take a look at their gallery photos. easily the nicest hostel i've ever stayed at.

seen yesterday here in yangshou china:

toe the scratch? i think the translation is more confusing than the chinese lettering. by the way, the second phrase translates to Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Para Condoritas

Our side trip overnight in the wilds of the land where condors roam. Above are some photos. As you see, i couldn't catch a condor, despite seeing about 30 of them. But within the photos, i tried to capture the condor spirit. If you can figure it out, let me know. What a great bird, though. With their immense wingspan I couldn't count one flap of a wing for the many hours I watched. What hell, ya might as well let the wind just carry you for as long as it can. Who knows when it's gonna stop?

There were some interesting thoughts going around about how the white man can exploit these winged beasts . Yes, i'm sure you already guessed it: WI-FI. These days it's all about WI-FI. And condors are our answer to bringing wireless internet to the remote mountain ranges and desert plains throughout our dying globe (sorry Teddy, but in the new age, it really makes no sense to kill them off for trophies any more). In the far-off distant lands, internet communication makes its way only through myths, or folk tales passed on since the VP days of Al Gore. But not anymore. What if we attach a light-weight titanium solar-powered transistor necklace on the condor as it flies throughout it's vast terrain (over 400 square miles!). People dream about connecting the entire world. Now here's our chance! (Yes, those lonely nights when park ranger Hank has an emergency call and brokeback Bill needs an extra day, all he has to do is email the excuse to his wife back home).

Friday, September 29, 2006

300 club

Today signifies a big milestone in my travels. It's day 300 of my voyage.
Actually it's not that big of a deal, it's just a slow news day here in China.
But for no reason other than to pass time, (and maybe pass some suggestions and advice on some of the places i've been to) here's my last 300 days, starting with day 1 on December 5th.

day 1 :: San Francisco to New York to San Paolo to Rio de Janiero, Brasil. Long day.
day 2-8 :: Rio de Janiero, Brasil. Great city, beautiful. Dangerous because the nightlife is incredible, but have heard of crime stories from others.
day 9-10 :: Ouro Preto, Brasil. Ouro Preto means Black Gold, not to be confused with the Oscar winning film 'White Gold'. By the way, this is where the idea for travelling while shooting films originally came up thanks to a Dutch guy I met. Wish I could remember his name, but my sketchbook got stolen which had his info in it (see day 26).
day 11-12 :: Ilha Grande, Brasil. Favorite island/beach in Brasil.
day 13-15 :: Paraty, Brasil. Hi David and Jimena.
day 16-20 :: Florionopolis, Brasil. Second favorite beach. Good surf.
day 21-23 :: Iguassu Falls, Brasil/Argentina. Christmas in Iguassu. Massive falls. Breathtaking.
day 24-40 :: Buenos Aires, Argentina. The start of my love/hate affair with this city. Getting robbed on Day 26 was the worst part of the trip. Was bummed and numb for 10 days straight.
day 41 :: Colonia, Uruguay. Pretty little town, but very touristy. Got a new passport stamp though.
day 42-50 :: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Took a break on Day 46 and went to Tigre.
day 51-53 :: Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Incredible wildlife. Killer whales, seals, sea elephants and penguins, oh my.
day 54-57 :: Bariloche, Argentina. Greatest hostel in the world, La Morada. Incredible view of Lake Manuel Nahuapi.
day 58-61 :: Cerro Catedral and Mount Tronador, Argentina. Incredible hikes in Patagonia. Que linda!
day 62-65 :: Bariloche, Argentina. Introduced to the backpacker's card game of choice, 'shithead'. Travel has never been the same.
day 66-69 :: El Bolson, Argentina. Hippies and trance fest.
day 70-71 :: Trevelin, Argentina. The most incredible sunset I've ever seen, and I never took a photo of it. Doh.
day 72-74 :: Los Antiguos, Argentina. Unless you're crossing over to Chile, never ever go here past one day. Trust me. We played paper football, cards, coin hockey and basketball to pass the time. We were about to slit each other's wrists.
day 75-79 :: El Chalten, Argentina. The greatest single peak I've ever seen, Mt. Fitzroy. Well worth the hike.
day 80-81 :: El Calafate, Argentina. Touristy, but the Perito Moreno glacier is incredible. You can fit the city of San Francisco in it twice.
day 82-85 :: Puerto Natales, Chile. Got stuck waiting for a friend to do the 'W' hike in Torres del Paine.
day 86-89 :: Torres del Paine, Chile. Easily South America's greatest National Park. Can you believe another backpacker/camper stole our fruit and vegetables? Bad karma.
day 90-91 :: Punta Arenas, Chile. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.
day 92-96 :: Ushuaia, Argentina. The most southern city in the world. Got a last minute trip to Antarctica. 24 hours of initial sticker shock.
day 97-104 :: Antarctica. One of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Hard to put into words.
day 105-106 :: Ushuaia, Argentina. Start heading north.
day 107-113 :: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Oh, you again.
day 114-117 :: Mendoza, Argentina. Lots of wine.
day 118-120 :: Salta, Argentina. Pretty, but needed to get out of Argentina.
day 121-122 :: Tupiza, Bolivia. Back to the real South America.
day 123-126 :: Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia. One of the most incredible landscapes I've ever seen.
day 127-130 :: Sucre, Bolivia. City has a nice feel and scale to it.
day 131-134 :: La Paz, Bolivia. Back to the crater city.
day 135-141 :: Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. Jungle and pampas. Played chicken with a crocodile.
day 142 :: La Paz, Bolivia. Heading back north again.
day 143-144 :: Puno and Chiclayo and Piura, Peru. Skipped through Peru and Customs thought I was smuggling contraband.
day 145 :: Loja, Ecuador. Ehh, it's ok.
day 146-148 :: Vilcabamba, Ecuador. Really liked this relaxing little town.
day 149-151 : Cuenca, Ecuador. Rained a lot here. Actually, in all of Ecuador.
day 152-153 :: Riobamba, Ecuador. In transit after hopping a ride on the top of a train. Try doing that in the States.
day 154-156 :: Banos, Ecuador. 2 months after I visited this town, supposedly it got smothered by a volcano. Or at least the surrounding area did.
day 157-162 :: Quito, Ecuador. Second greatest hostel in the world is here, 'The Secret Garden'.
day 163-178 :: Las Palmas, Ecuador. Spending too much money. Needed to plant myself and work for free room and board.
day 179-184 :: Quito, Ecuador. Also went to Cotopaxi volcano for a 2-day mountain bike trip.
day 185-220 :: San Francisco and Long Beach, California. OK, so I cheated. I went home for a month.
day 221-223 :: Buenos Aires, Argentina. I can't believe I'm back here again.
day 224-229 :: Bogota, Colombia. One of my favorite countries in the world.
day 230-234 :: Salento, Colombia. Charming coffee town. First introduced to the gun powder-horseshoe-like game of tejo.
day 235-239 :: Medellin, Colombia. Man, do I love this city. Can't recommend the nightlife enough.
day 240-241 :: Cartagena, Colombia. Beautiful in the touristy area. Crack ghetto where the hostels are. Typical tourist town scenario.
day 242-244 :: Playa Blanca, Colombia. Great beach, secluded and devoid of civilization.
day 245-248 :: Taganga, Colombia. Cool little fishing village. If Colombians didn't throw trash in the streets and the beaches, it would be so beautiful.
day 249-252 :: Ciudad Perdida trek, Colombia. Saw hidden ruins, slept with M-16 carrying military, and learned how to make cocaine.
day 253-254 :: Bogota, Colombia. I really wish I could have stayed in Colombia longer.
day 255-283 :: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Again?!?! Worked on the Global Transmission multinational conglomerate projects.
day 284-285 :: San Francisco, California. 24 hours at home.
day 286-289 :: Beijing, China. Mao, Mao, and more Mao.
day 290-291 :: Xi'an, China. Does anyone speak English?
day 292-295 :: Chengdu, China. I said, 'Does anyone speak English?'
day 296 :: Guilin, China. I gotta get out of the city and into the countryside.
day 297-300 :: Yangshou, China. Touristy, but if you get away from the herd, beautiful Karst mountain scenery.

Phew, that's it. I hope this doesn't come off as snobbish or anything like that. I keep a travel journal/sketchbook to help maintain my memories of places I've visited. Sometimes places start blending into one another, and this helps keep everything unique and special.
Anyway, the thing that has been on my mind since I've started travelling, from the very start of my trip, from day 1, has been, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

ice cream in china. it's just not helado.

i had my first ice cream since leaving argentina, and to be honest, it felt like i was cheating on my girlfriend.
helado, if you're out there listening, i want you to know that it meant nothing to me. it was just 5 minutes of sensory pleasure, nothing more than that. in fact, afterwards i wanted nothing to do with it. i felt cheap, used and dirty. i was immediately turned off to the lack of class and taste.
you see, you're so far away from me right now.
some 15,000 miles away. and i'm merely a man.
a man with needs and weaknesses.
i tried so hard to stay true, but with the thermometer peaking at high temperatures out here, it's hard to ignore the carnal call of frozen dairy products.
listen, it's not you, it's me.
it's not that i don't love you, it's just i need some space to explore other frozen dairy possibilities. but i still hold you dear in my heart. if it makes you feel better, honeydew and watermelon flavors could not come close to being the full bodied magnificence that is dulce de leche granizado or tramontana.
as much as it pains me to say it, i think you should explore other possibilities as well. i think if you let other people in on your good licks and taste, you might find out if what we have is real. i mean be honest, even when we were together, i saw you flirting with other guys.....and girls........and children.
but hither, i don't want this to be a blame game. it's water under the bridge.
i just want you to be happy, and to know, even though you're on the other side of the world, i think of you always. i miss your creamy goodness and sugary sweet mannerisms.
but for now, i need to explore other hot weather treats around the world.
for how long you might ask?
i don't know love.
i just don't know.

but when i do come back, i hope that you will be there waiting for me with open arms....and a spoon. right now i'm going through helado regret. i'm sitting here in a yangshou bar drowning my dairy sorrows in spirits and alcohol.
by the way, look at what i saw in this bar.

no, look a bit closer.

the saga continues Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Our Culo's Came Off

Okay, need to set a few things straight here. Apparently, our audio guy, Alex Theodoropulos, is catching some flack from loved ones over some of our blog postings. Those close to above mentioned Alex believe he is spending the majority of his time on this side of the equator partying, which I could understand given the postings of Ren Jose and myself. But here is the truth: we are working our culo's off on the films down here (look up "culo" here). Thing is, it seems more fun to write about transvestite bartenders, sunrises and an Argentine friend who brings six young, single female friends to our parties then about the details of shooting and editing video. But here goes:

Here is Alex half way through a four hour session recording some music for one of our pieces in a small court yard at the Peperina Hostel. Notice the maté cup (Argentine tea).

This is a shot of Mateo and Alex... I don't know what they are doing. There is so much work involved in these films that there is always something to be done. Nice hats (they bought them here in Córdoba).

We make Andrew edit in the closet (just kidding Andrew's mom and dad). No, this was his choice, in the closet; we are open minded here at Global Transmission Media.

And this is me on the top bunk, power cord draped over the door to the outlet. Just another day at the office.

This is something I have been working on: transcribing interviews Andrew and I did with Charlie, a British guy who apprenticed an Argentine dog walker for a week.

And here is our family away from our family: Soledad and Nicolás. They made us lunch this afternoon because... you guessed it: we were working so hard.

It will be difficult to find a way to thank these two enough and the rest of the kind folk at Peperina Hostel for their hopitality. They basically let us turn their hostel into our post production facility. A nicer group of people would be hard to find.

Well, its 3:00am and the boys and I have to get up in an hour and a half to go hiking and camping in Condor National Park with Soledad and her sister Cynthia; working hard!

osama has a posse

in china, osama has a posse.
and it includes harry potter and a couple of colorfully clothed stickmen.

but does he know Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lots of Ash in Córdoba & Banned in China

Nice, just found out from Ren Jose, GTM member scouting future projects in South East Asia, that the Global Transmission Website is censored in Guilin, China. You know you are making a difference in the world if the "central land," as the Chinese call themselves, censors you.

We are hiding out in Córdoba, central Argentina, editing the four projects we shot in Buenos Aires. I am logging the Dog Walker piece and Andrew, who is finally feeling better after being down for three days with a nasty flu, is converting the Factory footage from HiDef to standard definition DV files for the edit.

Putting in exhausting 10 and 12 hour days. There are forest fires about 40 km away from this city and ash is falling all around us, covering our computers as we edit on the outside deck. I am using the camera lens blower to keep the ash off of my keyboard.

Here is a frame from the dog walking doc of Charlie, a British journalist in Buenos Aires. He apprenticed with seven year veteran dog-walker Fabricio for a week in order to write an article about dog walking for the Argentimes.

I want to thank our regular readers. I have been getting many emails from family and friends regarding our blog. I put a good amount of time into the blog because it makes me feel connected to those who care to be connected to us. Thanks for the feedback, both on the blog and via email.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

trains in china

i love travelling by train.
in china, it's probably the best way to travel. busses hit a lot of traffic, planes are quicker but more expensive, and nowadays, all of a sudden it's not politically correct to have a little chinese dude pull you around on a rickshaw.
i love looking out at the countryside, i love the rocking back and forth to put you to sleep, i love riding on rails. i guess i'm an old fashioned sucker for train love.
train travel is a great way to meet interesting locals as well. out here in china, finding someone on a train who speaks english is a rare find. in fact, i've only met a few who speak about 20 words of chinglish. on one ride, while struggling through language barriers with 2 young mechanical engineers from xi'an, i broke the barrier by introducing them to the easiest game of cards i could think of, that being the game 'spit' (spit by the way is a whole subject in itself in china. i'll save that for a future blog. it's a real doozy). as many of you know, it's a fast paced, riveting game. i'd explain it to you if you don't know it, but i'm afraid i might rupture my spleen from explaining all the fast paced excitement. anyway, i played for a while, then let them play against each other. they had the greatest time shouting, yelling in chinese, and taunting each other. this was one of the highlights of my chinese journey. i felt like i left something behind that they picked up on, and i was left with great memories of 2 nice guys (who i couldn't understand) who tried their best at making me feel had to be there....
anyway, on my last 32 hour journey, i was taken under the wing by an older chinese couple. they spoke 15 words of english, and understood about 5 of my words. i didn't try to introduce ebonics, that might have confused them further. however, they spoke a different dialect along with this other guy, and i swear to god, they kept saying the 'n' word. i think they use it the way we say 'ummm, ummm, ummm' when we're thinking of what to say....they kept saying 'nigganigganigga...blah blah blah, nigganigganigga...blah blah blah'. the first two times, i looked over with my jaw dropped. the last few times, we busted out some wu-tang shaolin sword style at each other (shout out to 'dependable skeleton' and the whole o.s.c. click, still nasty and sick in 2-thousand-sick). but they kept offering me fruit, they made sure i got off the train at the right stop (they literally got out of their seats and waited with me at the exit), and they kept asking me if i was ok. i know i say this all the time, but they were some of the most generally nice people i've met in my travels.
in general, it's a very communal feeling on the train. i've been taking hard-sleepers which consists of 6 beds in a berth (3 bunks on top of one another). everyone shares food with one another, buys food to share, and takes a general interest in who you are. especially being a foreigner, i was treated like a rock star (or maybe they recognize me as maxi rodriguez, the dashing, debonair, helluva badass detective). they kept asking me 'you art, you art'. i think they meant artist after they looked at my sketch book. or maybe, i was some dude named art in a past buddhist life. they loved hearing about places i've travelled (at least i think they did. but then again, they probably had no idea what i was saying).
but there are a few bad things to the communal layout. my last two rides, i've had the bottom bunk. this is the preferred bunk because you can put your bags underneath your bed, it has the most headroom for sitting, and because of this, all the chinese insist on sitting on your bed next to you. so sometimes if you want to lie down, someone's in your footsie space. on my last train ride, i had an annoying guy who kept invading my personal space (you know, that unspoken forcefield 6 inches around your body where no person is ever, ever allowed to penetrate except for pro-creation). he would keep hitting me and yelling 'engrish, engrish!' whenever he read something in english in a magazine or when an english song came on, on his mp3 player. he didn't understand english, so i would just laugh and smile and go 'ha ha ha, i don't give a shit, ha ha ha' with a big smile on my face. he would then laugh with me and hit me and keep saying 'engrish, engrish!'. anytime i was lying down, homeboy would try to sit at the foot of the bed. for future notice, unless your gonna give me a foot massage, don't do this. the best is when i was playing solitaire and he would tell me what to do each time. in fact he'd lean over me violating the forcefield with his nasty smokers breath, and would pick the cards to be played. i guess homeboy didn't get the memo as to what the game 'solitaire' means. he must of thought that the game was called 'duets' or 'groupcard game' or 'annoy-the-person-next-to-you-trying-to-get-through-this-32-hour-deathride'. but aside from homeboy, the ride wasn't that bad.....well no, actually, the worst part was all the second hand smoke you inhale, especially when trying to sleep in a train car without any windows open. there are even signs that indicate no smoking. but the chinese smoke anyway, and worst of all, they don't smoke pelotas. at least those smokes are smooth and silky.....ohhh, and then there's the spitting. i'll save that for another day. i know you're thinking this is me trying to be gross or trying to shock you or i'm running out of things to say or i'm trying whatever, but it's a real cultural mainstay out here. as an outside observer (and occasional participator), it's quite a shock. but i'll save the national pastime for another day.
today is about trains, and it's still my favorite way to see the countryside and to view all the chinese billboards that say Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Brain Fart

32 hour train ride from Chengdu to Liuzhou.
Followed by a 2.5 hour train ride to Guilin.
Then had to cross the street to the nearest hostel from the train station. Believe it or not that was the toughest part.
Ate 3 bananas, 1 apple, a bag of raisins, 4 greasy muffins and a bowl of soup on the first train.
read an entire novel, ray bradbury's 'fahrenheit 451'
used up the entire battery on my mp3 player.
Now I am a piece of jello,
or tofu,
or butter,
or mush,
or slurry.
One more 2 hour bus ride to Yangshou tomorrow to chill for a week.
Can't write. Mind is like silly putty right now.
All it keeps thinking right now is, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?',
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Monday, September 25, 2006

Video? kinda

We are working with our content providers to get some quality video on our site, but until then, enjoy this loose collection of clips accompanied by lyrics and beats from Argentine hip hop star Wadaki.

There's a bunch of ads and you may have to wait a short while depending on your connection speed, but the compression is better than YouTube and YahooVideo. Thanks for your patience. Full stories to come.

belated bye-bye to BA

At 13 million, the greater Buenos Aires area is the largest city that I’ve spent that long in – about a month and a half. As with many big-city dwellers, I have the love-hate thing going on. As much as my entire time in BA on the whole was quite excellent, and as much as she offered us, especially in terms of raw material for films, and as much as I will miss all of the good folks there, it is good to be gone from the concrete and the smog. But… she lingers in my mind, her traffic-, pedestrian-, construction-, trash-, art-, and fair-filled streets still have inroads in my subconscious, and they show up behind my eyelids before I sleep.

I’m gonna miss that flair, that edge, that constant surprise that only such a massive city can offer...

...with its bizarre juxtapositions and unexpected idiosyncrasies.

And man, oh, man, the art in that city: playful, political, angry, challenging, delightful…

...from purportedly genocidal statues defaced... classic murals overlooking subway stops...

 pasted-on paintings (oh, and I do disfrutar (enjoy))... the craziest stencils I've ever seen
(I mean, I had heard that Nike was exploitative and that He was coming back, but jeez).

Our full last day in the city was the first day of Spring, and we joined the Argentines in the park for a little soccer and soaking in the sun. Beautiful.





They don’t call this guy “Pelotas” for nothing.

Many thanks to all those porteños and wannabe porteños that made this stay so sweet – and specially bombastic thanks to…
…the folks at the Argentimes, for letting us swipe all their material.
…the folks at Fear Factor, who gave us invaluable info about contracts and supplies.
…Kate and Chris, for housing this poor vagabond.
…that dude at the bus station that kept telling us everything we already knew about how to get out of Buenos Aires – though, admittedly, that town has a way of keeping people in the pull of its vortex, and we appreciate any help no matter how extraneous.
…studio Buenos Aires, especially Eduardo, for the language classes, the use of the classroom as a set, and the package help.
…and of course, the lifeblood of our documentaries: Fabricio, Roma, Wadaki, Poeta, Nicolas, La Base and Metal Varela, Carrica and all the Che interviewees… so many with so much.

Hasta la vuelta siempre.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

global transmission music

okay, somehow my first blog never published. or maybe it's somewhere between the lines of the war and peace epic ren and morgan are writing. anyways, check out our myspace music page:


First 24 Hours in Córdoba

The thirteen hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Córdoba was one of the easiest bus rides any of us had taken. For less than US$30 we got a seat that almost reclined horizontally on the second floor for the double decker (Alex had the front seat with the big window to his front and left side), a dinner of beef, chicken rice, mashed potatoes, dulce de leche dessert, a roll, Coke and a Styrofoam cup of whiskey "on the rocks" as the Argentine man serving the food told me in his best USA accent (not "American" accent because everyone in North and South America are "Americans." They get very angry down here if you claim to be an American if you are from the USA but don't consider Argentines and other South Americans Americans).

Now if you are caught drinking on a Grey Hound bus in the States you get kicked off. They won't even allow you on the bus if you have alcohol on your breath. But on these buses, not only do they let you bring beer on and drink it at your seat, they serve you whiskey as part of your ticket price. A guy walks around with a bottle and Styrofoam cups with ice cubes and pours you a whiskey. wow.

Got to Córdoba around 7am, ate some breakfast and came to the Peperina Hostel. They have WiFi and had an available room with two bunk beds that we could "own" for the duration of our stay so we took it over other hostels in the area. Little did we know that it was also staff by some of the coolest people we have met to date. Soledad was working the front desk when we checked in. Nicolás worked the desk later that afternoon. We would end up going out with both of them later that night, but more on that soon.

There was a group of 10 women in town from Santa Fe, Argentina for a translating convention. Alex had no problem making friends with them. We all ate dinner together, an Asado, or barbecue, prepared by Nicolás. Beef of course, which I was told was extremely good. Nicolás was kind enough to make me grilled red peppers with cheese, egg and spices cooked into the bowl like halves of pepper.

After dinner about ten of us went to a bar. It was me, Alex and Mateo (Andrew was down with the nasty flu he caught from me), Nicolás, Soledad and Marcel from the hostel, Soledad's sister, Cynthia and about four others. Bars in Córdoba are non-smoking, a welcome change from the smoke filled bars of Beunos Aires. After a number of beers and good conversation, mostly in Spanish, we went to a very crowded night club. There was a line to get in but Marcel whispered something to the over-stuffed doorman/bouncer and the velvet rope was lifted for us to enter. I wasn't really into the music. Mostly jock rock and oldies but the Argentines loved it, singing out loud and swaying and hopping around as opposed to dancing. It was more like an excited karaoke than a dance club. Mateo and Alex danced with our crew while I monitored the beer quality.

Left the club at 3:30am and someone had the idea to keep going. We went to a seedy "underground" club that looked illegal called El Ojo Bizarro, The Bizarre Eye. The place was packed with underground types - punks, alternatives, transvestites, gays - and the DJ was outstanding. Traded in our drink tickets for beer with the transvestite bartender and got down to some serious electronica dancing, a good time had by all.

Stumbled out of the club at 6am and decided to drive up into the park to watch the sunrise. I'm surprised none of us saw it in Buenos Aires where it is a weekly ritual for the Porteños (to be up for sunrise, not necessarily make it a point to go somewhere and watch it ascend). Got back to the hostel, made some eggs and got to bed around 8:30am; fhew...

Woke at 12:30, ate some lunch and got to work. Its a long process, converting the high definition video we are shooting to DV compressed files but the footage looks GREAT! The Panasonic HVX200 is an outrageous camera (and Andrew, who has done 90% of the shooting so far, is a great cinematographer).

1/6 of the world lives here in china

There are 6 billion human beings on the planet.
1.3 billion of them live here.

And all of them seem to be moving at the same time.
And everything is go here.
Cars, busses, trucks, bikes, scooters and motorized bicycles (thank god most of them are electric), and pedestrians all are constantly in flux.
And there is absolutely no order to it.
All of these objects come from every direction. They come at different speeds, some hidden behind others to throw you off, and the only direction that they don't come at you is from above. However, thanks to China's insane construction spree, objects can fall from the sky to throw you off your game plan. As a bonus, construction projects are rarely sealed off. Pedestrians and vehicles alike go through the dust, the dirt, the welding that's going on. I guess public health and safety take a back seat to progress. A couple of years ago while in Vietnam, I posted a blog equating crossing the streets of Hanoi to being caught in a game of 'Frogger'. ((read here))
At least in Frogger, cars and other vehicles come for you from only one direction. Walking in China is more akin to a game of 'Asteroids', but with the third dimension element to it. Things are coming at you from every direction, and for some reason, even if there aren't any other people around, people seem to choose to interfere or get in the way of the path that you're taking. I know I've got a magnetic personality, but in China, it's almost literal. I even think I got dabbed in a crowd by an old Chinese guy. Rather than take the path of least resistance, the path with the most absolutely difficult route that can hopefully cause gridlock, a massive traffic jam, or a straight up crowd frenzy is usually taken. The Chinese seem to multiply all around you as you walk. I'm convinced they've learned how to breed while walking. Similar to South America, traffic rules, lane dividers, yellow lines, are mere guidelines. It's all part of playing the game, only there's 1.3 billion players involved.
Feel free to go on red.
Feel free to bike or scooter across the crosswalk or even on sidewalks.
As a pedestrian, don't get frustrated with it, but think of it more as a giant game of keepaway against 1.3 billion of your newest friends. However, don't expect them to play in English. I've travelled to many countries on our planet, and I have to say without a doubt, that China has been the most difficult. Now don't get me wrong, it's a great and real interesting country to visit. It's quite safe, and I've never once felt like I was in danger. But communication is so difficult here, especially when travelling solo and without a guidebook. Plus some areas speak Mandarin, others Cantonese, and they don't neccesarily always understand each other. The language barrier is the biggest obstacle. It's a tonal language and words pronounced incorrectly can have totally different meanings. Fortunately, I'm avoiding this problem by learning only 2 phrases, hello and thank you. Even that, I can't pronounce right. At least while travelling in Latin America or Europe, even if you don't speak the language, you can read or recognize signs, and try to pronounce the words. Even other Asian countries, the language barrier wasn't such a problem. Here it's a totally different set of letters (supposedly over 5000 characters), numbers are sometimes written differently (older generations don't know what the symbols we're used to for 1,2,3...etc. mean) so if you're lost, even if you've got a map, even if you ask and get directions, you're not gonna understand a damn thing. After all it's all in Chinese. One time, it took me an hour to find a youth hostel which was a mere 30 meters away.
And being a vegetarian has proven to be difficult. They put meat in everything out here, and some of it isn't recognizable. I'm so happy if I can find something on the menu (even happier if I can read the menu), or something in a street stall that I can eat without converting back to the dark side. I don't even bother asking for soy sauce or hot sauce no matter how badly I want it. It's challenging enough just getting a straight up meal. Other than hostels and hotels, no one seems to speak English out here (but then again why should they. Chinese is difficult enough to master for one language).
To add to the challenge, gestures and hand movements tend to be different here. Even indicating numbers with your fingers is different. 1-5 is pretty much the same universal signs. 6-10 is a whole new language. 6 looks like the Hawaiian 'Hang Loose' sign. 7 looks like a snake if you were playing shadow puppets. 8 is your pointer finger and thumb pointed up. Don't get this confused with indicating the number 2 which is pointer and middle finger up. I've made the mistake of ordering 8 muffins when I only wanted 2. The number 9, I can't remember. Henceforth, I refuse to do anything involving this number. 10 is forming an 'x' with your two pointer fingers crossed. Don't worry, I'm just as confused as you are.
But what are you gonna do. I can't complain, it's all part of the fun and the adventure. These little challenges are part of the magic of learning other cultures (sappy silver lining, glass half full, moral to every story, optimismal type bs) while travelling. To remedy this, I've tried to reach Dharma by visiting the largest Buddha in the world shown here.

At 233 feet high, and one of the largest sculptures in the world, the Leshan Grand Buddha is one big, bad mother youknowwhat'r. What you don't see here are the 1.3 million Chinese trying to do and see the same thing. But through the frenzy, I managed to achieve my own personal Zen by sketching the Giant Buddha.

Since I was there, I even asked the Buddha, 'How do I achieve Enlightenment?'
And as is typical in Buddhist culture for Buddhist monks to answer a question with a question, the Buddha replied, 'My son, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blogs are insipid, juvenile, and derivative.

Here's my contribution to the youth movement of today.
I'm an uncle again!
Dawson Christopher Zahn
Born on September 20, 2006 at 10:35pm
7lbs, 1oz. 20" long

My sister Mary Ann keeps spitting them out like hotcakes. Keep up the good work sis, didn't realize you'd grow up to be a big breeder. You too Dave, all that triathalon training has given you a bunch of swimmers. See you and the boys in the spring.
Also, let's not forget Hamilton in the second shot. He's their first child and he just said his first words which were, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Living in Palermo (read: can't leave Buenos Aires)

We've moved neighborhoods, from San Telmo to Palermo. We're staying at the wonderful SoHostel. It is about five blocks from our favorite Peña and seven blocks from a square where we like to eat. It is centrally located in Palermo, one of the hippest hoods with night clubs, bars, restaurants, etc and it close to the largest park in Buenos Aires (Alex bought a soccer ball).

The great folks working here gave us a good deal on a nine-person dorm, the whole thing. We need a room we can lock because of the gear (not because we are trying to avoid sleeping in the same room with stinky-feet Germans who snore real loud).

We are using a 500w halogen shop light that Andrew built as a room light as the single 60w is just not cutting it.

The WiFi is good so we are able to watch streaming video.

Alex finally found some time to play guitar while Mateo tried to get the rap Wadaky and Alex recorded up on

Breakfast at a cafe down the street is included with the price of the room. Three pastries and a drink. We usually get café con leche (coffee with milk) and medialunes (half moons or croissants) but Andrew was brave one day and tried the strangely heavy chocolate donut. He quickly found the reason for its weight problem: its filled with dulce de leche (very sweet caramelized milk). It is difficult to find a breakfast item without it.

We actually leave the hostel today, and Buenos Aires (hopefully- there is a curse that keeps people from leaving). We obviously have too much stuff for mortals to carry. Our friends at the Argentimes are going to let us leave some gear at their office, thanks Kristie, Lucy & Kate.

We are heading north to Córdoba were there have been two earthquakes this last week, each over 6.0. Never a boring moment with Global Transmission Media. We hope to finish at least three films in the seven days we are there. We are taking an over-night bus that has seats that recline nearly horizontally, serves dinner (I'm sure it will be meat) and whiskey (which will be my diner it looks like). Next transmission from the education center of Argentina (7 universities), 715 km (444 miles) north of Buenos Aires.

p.s. we found this very mini van outside the hostel two nights ago. Thought of our friend Andy Ristaino.

Dateline :: 21 September 2006 :: 15:53 China Time

right now, for some reason i am happy. i don't know why, i just am. i'm sitting in the train station, an hour before my overnight train to chengdu. there are hundred if not a thousand chinese people going by.
i have no idea what anyone is saying.
i have no idea what any of the signs say or what the train schedule board says.
hell, i'm not sure if i'm even getting on the right train.
but i'm sitting here watching. just watching. the screaming, the yelling, the announcements on the speaker in mandarin. none of it makes sense, yet it all makes sense. i am here, but i feel removed from it all. i'm an observer outside looking in, but i'm in the middle of it.
it's wonderful.
it's as if at this very place, at this very time, i should be right here, right now. everything is in it's right place at the right time.
throughout the hectic, fast paced scrambling happening around me, i am calm, i am contemplative, and i am happy. there is something special about being alone in a place where nothing makes sense. your senses are more keen to what's going on around you. you absorb so much of your surroundings, and you are caught up only in this exact moment in time. this must be the road to buddhist enlightenment that i've only heard of.
because for right now i am happy.
and i will continue to ride this wave as long as it lasts.

although, only one thing could make it better,
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

chinese haze

did you know that 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities are in china?
china is consuming at an alarming rate, and in the future will be the next super power. fortunately for me, it's still pretty cheap to travel here, cheaper than i expected.
this photo was shot directly into the sun. thanks to a coal induced haze, you can look directly into the sun, and probably not worry too much about sun poisoning. the lung cancer will probably get you though.

traffic in chinese cities is crazy. cars and busses and bikes are sometimes at a dead standstill for god knows how long. i was fortunate enough in these shots that i didn't have to ask anyone to pose. they were all just stuck there.

on a side note, does anyone know about the whole military coup thing in thailand. i'm supposed to fly into bangkok on the 3rd of october and then head for the laos border. is this something i should be concerned about? there's no bbcnews allowed here on the internet in china, so i'm a little lost. my guess is that everything is ok, because no one in thailand would want to lose the tourist dollar. or the threat of missing, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Sneaking into a UNESCO World Heritage Site

This is the terracotta warriors in Xi'an. They are 2000 years old and located 1.5 km from the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The warriors were discovered by some local farmers in 1974 digging for a well. The site consists of three pits covering 16,000 square meters, 25 meters deep and totaling about 7,000 soldiers, a bunch of terracotta horses, and also chariots which disintegrated because they were made of wood. Most of the site has yet to be completely excavated, and piecing all the soldiers takes and incredible amount of painstaking work. Each of the pits are enclosed in a columnless pavilion, with the first and second pits being the largest, about the size of a small college basketball arena. The complex itself is very sterile looking, it looks like a community college built in the 80's. The site was first opened to the public in 1979, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission is 65 yuan during the low season, and 90 yuan (about $11.25 USD) during the high season such as now.
When I arrived this morning, I only had 76 yuan on me. Mind you, it's a dirty, dusty one hour bus trip from the city of Xi'an. Crap, what am I to do. To the right is the ticket booth where I found out the bad news (if it were low season, I could buy admission, and still afford the bus ride home).
I started thinking, do I beg the next English speaker I see. No, that would require looking pitiful.
Do I try to sneak in with one of the tour busses. No they probably wouldn't let me on.
Do I try to sneak in with one of the military? I did just get my haircut short, but was not in military fatigues.
Do I call it quits, and just had back???
No way, never. That's not the Global Transmission way.

So Plan B. To the far left, I noticed people with press passes walk in through a side gate. It looked like no one even checked their ID or ticket. Right next to this gate is a bag check. I decided to drop off my bag and get a ticket. They must have assumed that I already had a ticket because I walked right past this guy sitting on a chair right on in. Nobody said anything. I was shocked it was that easy. I took in all of the terracotta warriors, and left with money in my pocket.

Now in no way, do I condone crime, or stealing or line hopping or cutting backsies or frontsies, or even jaywalking for that matter. These were dire situations, and there was no way I was going to go back home, and then back out there again the next day. I would like to think of it as maybe being resourceful, adjusting my environment to changing conditions, maybe thinking one step ahead of the competition, not panicking but letting the game come to me, or maybe everyone else that went in and paid were a bunch of suckers (the site is pretty impressive, but maybe 45 yuan impressive).

Either way, if you're heading out here, this course of action might work for you as well. Now hopefully, Chinese authorities don't get wind of this until I've crossed the Laos border. They're already on the trail of the trailer preview of, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

El Jardin

We can't leave the city.

Today Alex and I took a nice walk across town to look for some new digs. Our San Telmo apartment is really nice, don't get me wrong, but the time's up.

Alex and I struck gold on our first outing with Casa Jardin in Palermo. This place had almost been crowned GTM home base from the get-go, as Alex had researched it from the States. Unfortunately for Casa Jardin, they didn't make the cut for required antique shops nearby. The minimum was 25, so San Telmo it was.

Okay, there's no antique shop requirement as of yet, but if there's anything on my mind it's a Wi-Fi connection. Sharing one cord between heaps of research, emails, and online communities can drive anyone into eating dulce-de-leche.

Wi-Fi? Check.

How about a renting a ten-person room for three people? Check.

And a rooftop patio? Yup.

Finding Casa Jardin definitely made up for the 8 peso "milk shake" we had for lunch. The milk shakes here must be called "shakes" because they mix water with chocolate milk, and shake.

Monthly blog entry? Check.

The Box of Hard Drives is In

This was a huge effort, not to mention a serious hit to the treasure chest (sorry, its international Talk Like a Pirate Day), but with the help of many, we are now making movies on the move with 1.92 terabits of external hard drive space (2.144 TB if you count our internal drives, thumb drives, and MP3 players). Sorry, geeking out here but Andrew and I are very happy. We'll get back to you after carrying all of this hardware on our backs for an extended period and tell you how excited we are then.

Here is a blurry shot of some of the paper work. Some said it would take us six hours at customs out at the International Airport, others said two days. But with Mateo's Spanish and a few flashes of the pearly whites, we did it in one hour (or two hours door to door).

But just so you know, we had to go from Security -> room #2 -> room #1 -> room #3 -> the warehouse -> room #3 -> room #2 -> room #1 -> room #3 -> room #1 -> loading dock #4 -> security. Sign on the X, five different spots, in triplicate (remember carbon copies), get a stamp from room number two, get a form from room number one, go to room number three so the guy playing solitaire on his computer can ask you if you are with CNN or National Geographic.

There were many steps but every single person greeted us with a smile. I was surprised.

Here be all the booty (Talk Like a Pirate Day, 'member).

And the gear in action, just minutes after ripping it from its bubble wrapped shipping womb.

This was all possible due to the hard work of:

- Vân Nguyen
- Kathy Paar
- Thea Paar (and I'm sure Rolando Torio was roped into doing something)
- Mark Montgomery (and I'm sure others at Videomaker magazine)
- Eduardo “El Tiburon” Renebaldi, director of Estudio Buenos Aires (and appearing in the upcoming film Dondé Está Che Pelotas)
- Andrew Burke and Mateo Hinojosa of GTM

Thanks all!