Would you like Salsa with your Bagel? Shakin’ a leg at the Festival of World Cultures

I witnessed a unique and beautiful thing today. A couple of hundred sober Irish people engaged in the communal act of dancing. It was glorious! I was a member of the crowd and I clumsily shook both legs and whatever other bits were kind enough to co-ordinate, in my awkward attempt to master the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 rhythm. The sounds were great, lovely dubby baselines got you in the solar plexus and the clack, clack of marimbas and nice jazzy cords made the whole Salsa experience go down really easy. I am hungry for more and will dust off my latino fusion tunes and bust a groove in the front room of my house regularily now.

Trans Global Underground are playing tomorrow and I hope to make it, I am a big fan and love the stuff they did with Natasha Atlas. I like dancing. I have adapted my own kind of silly dancing that makes me feel good. It has its own unique rhythm and style and there are no rules. Works for me. My missus (who is naturally a great dancer) thinks its hilarious and reminds me of how daft I look at every opportunity, so I get self consious and don’t dance 😦

But nevermind, I am not one to cow tow to the critics, so dance I shall and to hell with the consequences 🙂

I could not help but notice how great many of the dancers at the Festival of World Culture, in Dun Laoghaire were. Its all in the feet and the hips, if you can free your toes the rest will follow, never mind your mind or your ass, its all in the toes. Your feet send signals to the rest of you and act as a kind of conductor telling the rest of you what to do. I was also wondering (while joyfully shaking my thang) if animals dance? There was a lady who has a small King Charles Spaniel that seem to have synchopated its tail in time with the funky rhythms, is this co-incidence or do animals bust a groove?

Answers on a postcard please.

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Flying with Scary Girl at 30,000 feet

What fun we have had in Argentina!!

The land of tangos, exotic women, beautiful breathtaking scenery, coked up taxi drivers, bag snatching, and visits to Argentinean Police stations where we met very friendly and helpful police men and women. But the zenith of the whole thing, in a rather perverse manner has been our airline going bust, and then not, as VARIG has been bought. Then we heard VARIG have stripped their service and are laying off 8,000 members of staff, which is awful. But then no!! They are not stopping their service and we may be able to get home, hurray. But we are very suspicious, and do not trust Lufthansa, who have not been very helpful through all this.

It seemed to us that we really could be stranded in South America, but we did feel reassured that our (extra) travel insurance that we took out with VHI in Ireland, may help us. No chance. We found out that we are only covered for the last leg of our flight home (Frankfurt, Dublin) but not for situations such as industrial action, withdrawal of service or any damn thing that might actually happen to you when traveling. Useless. We did learn that ACE insurance is the best as it covers you for any eventuality, so we are wiser and it is best to be philosophical at times like these (after the waves of anger and frustration have subsided. of course)

To add to fun and games, over the Andes, we have had some of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. I should explain that I am not a nervous flyer. Over the years I have made peace with the simple fact that I have to completely surrender my control when I step inside an airplane. This was not an easily won state to achieve, as I feel that a fear of flying is a rational thing. You are in a tin can flying at vast speeds and the wings of the plane don’t even flap, so in this instance, what’s irrational about being afraid? Anyway, I can deal with it and it’s statistically safer than driving etc now we are all assured, right? No way.

I challenge any man to sit beside my beautiful lady wife Lorraine during a moderately bumpy flight, and not, by casting one glace at the anxious terror in her eyes feel the cold creep of fear and doubt about the whole thing enter your heart. She will fidget in her chair, claw the arm rests and sip water from the ever present bottle of Ballygowan in such a nervous manner that the simple act of drinking can become a matter of life and death.

And then there are the pre-flight rituals.

She wont touch the plane before she gets on, nor will she look into the cockpit lest the the sight of the “Wizard of Oz”, will cause the whole machine to fail. Maybe she is right, however, and it is sensible to be afraid. I listen to devotional Bengali music, and she wrestles with the bottle of water. To each their own. But the Andes, oh the Andes.

We have all had some bumpy flights. Once coming back from Nepal we had nearly an hour of gut wrenching bumps, but this 5-minute white-knuckle ride put that into sharp perspective. It was so bad the plane seemed to fly sideways and the wail from the engines as the pilot desperately tried to fly lower fast, was deafening. I actually think the pilot lost control of the plane. Now I know why we have seat belts as most of us would have been scraped off the ceiling of the plane without them.

It was over very fast, but it was intense, also watching the movie “Alive” in an attempt to “face the fear” didn’t help. Thanks Hallmark!!

Afterwards in a great little Italian restaurant in Buenos Aries, called Broccolinos, we had a chat with a very nice Texan who told us not to worry about turbulence as he had taken a turbulence class, being a nervous flyer himself. Its thunder storms you gotta worry about. He plane was hit by lightening going to Miami once and the storms near Japan can be very bad. The pliots have storm detectors so they can weave in and out of storm hot spots.

In the wake of the new terrorist attack fears, I feel so sorry for Lorraine who now may have to give up the simple consolation of her bottle of Ballygown. Doesn’t seem fair.

Its all fun and games until your airline goes bust

Oh South America! A magical land of Shamans, Llamas, great dancing, breathtaking mountains, and an unhealthy addiction to beef. My better half, Lorraine, and myself have been looking forward to this much-needed trip for nearly six months and as usual, we had put a lot on our plate. The itinerary was Frankfurt, Sao Paulo (Brazil), Santiago (Chile). Then Santiago to Mendoza (Argentina), Mendoza to Buenos Aires, then Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls and back with a couple of days in Uruguay for good measure before we make our return flights home via Santiago. That is the plan until we find out in Frankfurt that the airline we are due to fly with (Varig, one of south Americas oldest and largest) has gone bust. Well that’s the word on the street, or airport terminal, as we gather with a considerable crowd of very unhappy and worn out looking people trying to make there way to their respective homes. We talked to a very nice South African couple who were stuck in Mexico but managed to get a flight to Frankfurt as they await a connection to Johannesburg. We bought our tickets with Lufthansa and they did not seem keen to accommodate us saying the problem was with Varig. In fact Lufthansa have been pretty useless and not helpful at all, as I write this blog post from a hotel in Mendoza we still do not know how we will get back to Europe and Lufthansa are not replying to my mails. So we find out that Varig has been bought by one of its subsidiaries, and is not allowed to file for bankruptcy. It is offering a skeleton service and the official line is that is will resume its trans continental routes by the end of July. The news as of the 24th of July is bad. The airline is having trouble paying for landing and departure fees and fuel for its jets. More than two-thirds of its planes are grounded as leasing companies demand their craft back and Varig cannot pay for basic maintenance. This does not fill us with confidence and we are really annoyed.

But what about South America and our holiday?

We are however ,managing to have a good time with lots of relaxing being done, though the problem with our flights has cast a shadow over the trip.

Relaxing ,for me, is at the best of times a black art that I find very difficult. I find my most peaceful moments when I am in the middle of some task or other and can reach the quite “zone”, where I melt into what I am doing. If I take away these toys then I feel like I am stranded and I can get restless looking for distraction. So I have to train myself to relax, and I can find it psychically draining.

South America is a land apart. It has a wide, varied, cultural and geographic landscape. We had a fantastic visit to the pre-Columbian museum in Santiago, which has a bountiful collection of artifacts dating back many thousands of years. It really shows how advanced the native people here were in terms of their architecture, belief systems and general psychology. It reinforces my belief that mankind is not now reaching the zenith or apex of our creativity or evolution. It is to my mind the greatest crime we can commit to ourselves to label our ancestors as primitive Neanderthal idiots, incapable of advanced thought. I have a sneaking suspicion that we are going backwards and only wave the flag of “progress” to keep up our moral, as the world seems to go to hell faster than you can say “Windows”. The pieces in the museum are beautiful, sophisticated and vibrant. Many were Shamanic tools and implements used by “brujos” to connect with other more subtle realms. Others were playful day-to-day utensils that I could imagine being used around the house or for other more esoteric ceremonial purposes.

But maybe that is the point? Maybe these early cultures had a closer connection to the esoteric and spiritual, maybe it was not something separate from their day to day lives but and integral part of their essence and identity? In our modern life where we are rapidly loosing our identity as we all become pasteurised in the soup we call modernity, do we need to reconnect with these ancient parts of ourselves more than ever?