Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Chilean food

Posted: April 8, 2015 in Food, Travel
Tags: ,

I like Chile but their food sucks. Lots of people ask me what Chilean food is like, and I have never had an accurate explanation really until it hit me today: It is the expert addition of so much bread into anything so as to obscure its initial flavor by 99% or more. And not even good bread at that. I don’t know if it’s because they use coarser flour or do not knead or leaven the bread enough but it’s a tough, heavy, gritty bread that lacks finesse and dries the mouth. Surprising considering the German influences here; the Germans know their bread. The Chileans, sadly, do not. And yet they still put it in EVERYTHING.


Posted: March 19, 2015 in Life, Real estate, Stupidity, Travel
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Same Old South American Shit (SOSAS) hooray for fun acronyms.

I came here to do a few small select things.

  • Remove WifeBob from the Chilean medical insurance policy.
  • Get the car’s paperwork renewed for another year.
  • Go on an awesome road trip through Patagonia.
  • Pack up my things into storage and rent the Volcano Lair out as a furnished short-term rental.

Even the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. We are, dear reader, once again in South America…

Let’s start with the first simple thing. I contacted my medical insurance rep months ago to ask how I might have WifeBob removed from the policy since she no longer wants/needs it. “Oh, all we need is your signature,” I was told, and so that’s what I went on. Months later, here I am in Chile to meet and sign, and “Oh, we need your divorce certificate.” Gee, would have been nice to have known that when I asked months ago, right? So I would have time to get a copy and bring it down with me? So now, in order to take care of this crap, it will cost me several days which may eat into my road trip and possibly make it a no-go.

Then the car. I keep, in my opinion, one of the best-maintained little shitboxes in all of Chile. Yes it often sits unused for long periods of time but I keep it in such a high degree of operational fitness that after 6 months of non-use, all I need to do is turn the key and it comes back to life. And so, I figured, it should be a piece of cake to take it into the inspection station, get my papers, and off we go on our road trip. Not so! I was rejected flat-out for “visible blue smoke” which does not exist. Not only am I mechanically inclined enough to know that this is bullshit, but I took it to a mechanic for further inspection, whereupon we both scratched our heads as to what they could have possibly seen to make them think it was so bad that they failed it outright and did not even bother to give it the emissions test. Oh, and they also failed it for having improperly-aligned headlights, even though nothing has changed since last year when it passed with flying colors and perfect emissions. Weird.

So anyhow, I have to “fix the problems” and then bring it back for re-testing. Which will eat into potential road trip time and may make it a no-go.

As to the possibility of the road trip at all at this point, it teeters on the edge.

The only potentially good thing in this little to-do list is the prepping of the place for rental, which is really just a matter of boxing a few things up, upgrading the locks on a closet, and handing the keys over to my chosen AirBnB rental manager (who I have dealt with in the past with excellent results). But, alas, he is on vacation right now and won’t be back until about a week before I leave. So if the road trip is delayed I may miss my window to do my dealings with RentalBob. In my opinion doing the rental stuff is more important than the road trip, and so the road trip plans are being squeezed from two directions.

Ahhhhh, life in South America. It is content to leave you alone completely, until you decide to do things.

In other news, I learned that since October, our citizenship file in Uruguay has finally passed muster (2+ years of waiting) and is now in the hands of the bureaucrat who will actually make our passports happen. Whatever that means. Nobody who is supposed to know seems to know, and they don’t answer emails or phone calls. The only information we have is that the next step should take 8 months (since October 2014), which means that in theory, in April, if all goes to plan, I can wrangle someone who will give me my goddamned passport. But, Uruguayan time being Uruguayan time, 8 months really means another 4 years. There is actually a formula for this:

Let Z = real time in months. Let Y = time promised by Uruguayan in months.

Z = Y (6 +- 48000)

Back in Chile

Posted: March 17, 2015 in Life, Travel
Tags: , , ,

The BobMobile lives.

It sat for 6 months in the parking lot, with the battery disconnected, having collected a thick sludgy layer of condensed Santiago Air Slime, into which the local kids had carved finger graffiti with increasingly-desperate pleas of “Lavame” (Wash me!). I wondered if it would start, but BobMobile roared to life on the first crank.

I am getting BobMobile ready for another legendary BobQuest journey. This time I will hit the southern half of Chile in the hopes that I reach as far south as roads go, on the “Ruta Fin del Mundo.”

It really is the best little piece of shite car I have owned. I might just drive her up through the entire continent and bring her “home” to the US once my dealings in Chile wind to a close. If that becomes home again. You see, I can’t fucking make up my mind.

It’s weird being back here after a 6 month absence spent back in the old republic. As FrenchBob said to me a couple weeks ago, we expats are, “Avoir le cul entre deux chaises,” which means, “To see ones ass perched between two chairs.” It’s an excellent saying for folks who just can’t figure out where they belong anymore. I feel perfectly at home here in Chile, and I don’t miss the US. Yet.

I don’t know if it’s a “tolerance battery” that wears down, or if it’s just itchy feet. A few months in a place and then you can’t wait to get back to wherever you were before. All the same, I like to rearrange my furniture in an equal timeframe. Are we just wired for a necessary change of scenery within and without?

Jacksonville, Florida: a nice place to spend New Years’ Eve. The Jacksonville Landing downtown is an excellent public space for festivities, as it links two sides of waterfront promenade by bridge and water taxi. There is a music stage and giant christmas tree, and bars and restaurants. There are public docks along the entire run, most of which are free for 24 hours, in order to encourage boaters to stop by, bring their guests, and engage in commerce there.

I arrived around 10pm by boat, but I was too late to get a good spot to tie up; most of the other boaters had probably come in way early and had been partying for hours. I spied a spot right under the giant christmas tree, which I figured was not taken because of the proximity to the sound stage and the noise and music, and started to pull up.

A guy came up and shouted to me that I can’t tie up there. I couldn’t hear him so I popped my head outside the cockpit for clarification, and he pointed to something. “You can’t tie up here,” he shouted.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It’s for public service boats only,” he shouted, “Read the sign.” That’s what he was pointing to. So I looked more closely, and indeed there was a sign. Hidden behind a large pile of trash. And so would be my first encounter that evening with Paul Blart.

So I took a spot near the end, at an area that had signs, “30 minute zone” for loading and unloading passengers. OK, I’ll tie up here, and if anyone gives me trouble, I can just move. Everyone seems in a festive mood, I’m not hurting anyone, there’s no shortage of space here on this end of the dock, I’m not blocking anything, and so I tied up around 10:30. It’s all good. Or so I thought. Paul Blart was on the prowl.

I headed out with a fine cigar and a vodka cranberry, and prowled the promenade for a while. Came back to help some other boaters tie up to the dock, have some drinks and conversation with them, and generally have a good time. Forgot about the 30 minute limit, but there was still space at the dock, cops were everywhere and hadn’t said anything about it, and everyone was enjoying themselves in a peaceful fashion.

Around 11:30, Paul Blart showed up and started shouting at me and the other boaters, simply saying, “You can’t stay here, you have to leave.” No explanation, nothing, just an absolutist authoritarian attitude.

“Why?” I asked him.

“Because the sign there says you can’t stay here,” he answered.

“Wait, the sign there says 30 minute zone, that’s it,” I told him.

He immediately put space between us and loudly called into his radio, “I have some boaters here who don’t believe me about the loading zone. Can you send someone?”

“Hey, wait a minute…” but he kept backing up and calling frantically into his radio for people to come out.

So I shrugged and returned to my boat to listen to the radio, chill with my cigar, and people-watch. A few minutes later some real cops showed up.

“Is this your boat?” they asked.


“OK, what’s the problem here?” they asked.

Paul Blart came up and, avoiding eye contact with everyone, started in on his routine about how this area is for loading passengers only and that I did not have permission to be here.

“But it says I can be here for 30 minutes, yes?” I asked.

“You’ve been here longer than that.” he answered. He was right, but then I asked him:

“What time did you mark me down for when I came in?” to which he had no answer. And so, in a vain attempt to fill the void in his lonely soul, I offered a solution: “Tell you what… the fireworks start in 30 minutes. When they are over, I will pull out and leave anyways, and so now that you know I am here, and that 30 minutes are starting, now you have a valid excuse to write me a ticket if I stay too long. Is that OK?”

To this, he backed up again to avoid listening to me, continuing to call to other units on his radio. The cops that were there shrugged and said it sounded reasonable to them. They were normal sheriffs, and said that the marine patrol had jurisdiction over the boat parking.

Paul Blart came back and started badgering everyone at that point, telling the 5 boats at this particular dock that we all had to go. At this point it was 15 minutes until the fireworks started. I tried to reason with him, but he was clearly not interested in hearing anything any of us had to say. The cops could have cared less about him; they had better things to do. I was clearly not being a belligerent threat, and they all knew it. I think it made Paul Blart mad that I was keeping a level head and not yelling at him, but clearly I had no respect for his lack of authority and it was just what he needed to go postal.

After receiving no word on his radio (at this point Marine Patrol was out in the river keeping boat traffic clear of the two barges which served as launch platforms for the fireworks show), Paul Blart came back and shouted that we all had to leave, now. We were to all leave and go anchor out on the other side of the bridge, or Marine Patrol would come and arrest us all. I turned to the cops, and Paul Blart, and explained that leaving now would be a major safety issue:

With congested boat traffic, in the dark, 5 boats untying with 10 minutes to go to the fireworks show, full tide current pushing us towards the barges, and marine patrol already cordoning off the area we had to pass through. Let alone anchoring in the dark in an unfamiliar area. We could not, even if we organized it well, at this point, orchestrate it all before the fireworks started. Then moving these boats during the fireworks show?

“Look, man, I don’t want you to feel like I’m stepping on your shoes here, but I believe that to be completely unsafe. Look up there, they have closed the bridges to traffic because of this, and you want to send us out into the river right this moment? I’ll stay here and take my chances.” I told them, “I think it’s best for everyone that we just stay here until the fireworks are over.”

The beat cops agreed. Paul Blart was furious.

“Hey, if it would calm you down and make you feel better, just write me the parking ticket. Cheaper than paying for damage to my boat.” I told him. Which made him even more angry. It would seem he didn’t have that power either. And so he called even more furiously on his radio to Marine Patrol’s deaf ears. He stalked off somewhere, never to be seen again.

I joked with the cops for a few minutes and then went back to my boat.

The fireworks went up, everyone had a peaceful time without wrecking anything, and once the show was over we all untied in an orderly fashion and went where we had to go. Nobody got hurt, nobody collided.

I’ve seen the same sort of Paul Blart behavior in abused, frightened dogs– they bark and snarl on their leash at anything that goes by, and the moment you try to be reasonable with them they back up towards their masters unsure what to do. You try to mind your own business and go past them, and sometimes they still try to take a chunk out of your ankle. It’s a sad, sad thing. Thankfully I didn’t get stuck with other Paul Blart cops with any real power, because I know there are a lot of them out there.

Beautiful Barcelona

Posted: October 16, 2014 in Food, Travel
Tags: , , ,

It’s in a nice weather zone with very mild winters, it has beautiful architecture, beautiful people, great affordable food, nightlife, enough city infrastructure to support things like an aquarium and parks and arts. It’s surprisingly clean. It’s conveniently located. It’s got a coastal location on the Mediterranean. It’s a vibrant, bustling port city. It has affordable real estate. It has a population of about 1.5 million, which is “just right” in the ExpatBob Goldilocks Urban Population Count (TM).

It even has an excellent subway system that smells like OPM (Other Peoples’ Mierda), and several seedy old style districts with narrow streets that smell like OPM, both of which always get the ExpatBob Seal of Approval (TM). These seedy old areas are cleaner than anything in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. Why, I don’t know. The South American stuff seems to have an old worn-out carnival/circus quality to it, like they are trying to put shine on a 100-year-old turd and make something out to be like it’s more valuable than it is (Viveza Criolla bigtime). Here it’s just kind of left to age gracefully, because it’s been around for several hundreds of years, and there’s plenty of Old Europe to go around.

And despite the mishmash of That’s-Not-Spanish (TM), a puree of Castellano+French+Portuguese (Catalan and Gallego), folks seem to revert to the standard Spanish Spanish or French, and, failing that, use English as an intermediary. They can understand my Rio Platense and Chilensis just fine.

Commerce is not met with derisive looks and unwelcome leering, as is common in South America. Folks here want your money and know they need to smile for it. There is the standard lazy Spanish service but it’s about 500 times faster and more efficient than what I am accustomed to. Even the lazy beach bum vendors will get more done in an hour than the average Uruguayo will get done in a lifetime.

There’s free wifi everywhere.

It took me all of 5 minutes and 10 Euros to buy a prepaid cel phone card with enough data to last me the week. Movistar was all out of sim cards, but the Vodafone place next door had plenty. Into the BobPhone (TM) it goes, and it works right away.

Ohh, and there just happens to be one of the best maritime museums in the EU here, and oh, look, there’s an international boat show going on this weekend at the port. This is all stuff that rates top marks on the Bob-O-Meter (TM). Maybe I actually made it to Heaven. I’m certainly not in Hell, because that will involve waiting in an endless line of grey-faced people in a dimly-lit government office in Uruguay, just so I can be told, “No, you can’t do that.”

BobPros (TM)

  • Port city (water exit for Zombie Apocalypse)
  • Mild winter weather
  • Beaches
  • Sunny most of the time
  • Friendly People
  • Beautiful People
  • Good public transit
  • Good airport
  • Tourist attractions
  • Good internet
  • Good mobile networks
  • Great food
  • English spoken here
  • Clean
  • Areas with old architecture

…So what’s the catch? There’s got to be a major buzzkill hiding here somewhere.

Holy crap, have a look at this–

Total trip price: $933.35
Airfare: $330
Taxes and fees: $603.35

2014-09-04 09.47.59 pm

Return to the Death Star

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Travel

I’m back in Emperor Palpatine’s domain for a few months. Nothing much has changed here. Folks are just as oblivious as ever to the shite that goes on behind the curtain. Or maybe they just don’t care anymore. There’s a sort of glaze that falls over their eyes whenever the term “crisis” sounds on the news. I don’t blame them; they’ve been in Code Orange Terror Alert with a side of Economic Crisis, and a garnish of Green Shoots. Nonstop. For 14 years.

WHEE Fireworks! ‘Murka!

Mmmm, sweet corn on the cob for 10 cents an ear, fresh shrimp caught last night, barbecue, apple pie, and strawberry shortcake. The smell of burnt gunpowder in the air. These things are indeed wonderful.

Immigration in Miami has been replaced with the Looming Big Brother Camera of Doom. Which actually rises up to loom over you when it takes your photo. Not just a rotating camera on a stick, no, they went full on and made the whole thing rise up on a pedestal in front of you. Completely unnecessary but that’s pork for you. I was flagged by said looming evil robot with a big giant X, which I guess meant that I would receive the anal probe in the customs line. Not once, not twice, but at 3 separate points I was asked how much money I was carrying. In fact it was the first question I was asked by the passport stamper guy. They must be instructed to ask weird questions that throw you off; questions that already assume an answer from you… or, perhaps, it’s just the jet lag–

“What’s the name of your band?” he asked, noting my banjo case.

“I don’t have one,” I answered. “A band. I just play.”

Then he asked again how much money I was carrying. “$20, I told you.”

Through the customs lane and I was told to follow the damned line through the anal probe section. Where they went through all my stuff and continued with the money questions.

“$20. Unless you want to count the handful of leftover Chilean pesos I have in here, and probably 10 other currencies?”

“Yes, we need a total of all of them,” CustomsLady demanded.

“Do you have current forex charts for Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and Japan?”


So I filled in “$100?” on the form, and showed it to her, and she rolled her eyes and took it.

Then went the cavity search through my luggage. She was especially interested in my 3d printer.

“Why are you bringing this with you?”

“Because I already have one in Chile and I want one in the US too.”

“What’s it worth?”

“Nothing. I made it.”

“The whole thing? You made this?”

“Yes.” I don’t think she believed me. She rolled her eyes.

“Why did you go through so many countries while you were gone?” she asked. Since I had put in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile on the form, which was true.

“Because I was gone for 6 months and I did a road trip across the continent.”

“That’s weird, most people don’t do stuff like that.”

“I’m not most people.” Probably not the right answer for GI thugs, but hey, it’s 4:00AM and it just came as a natural response.

“How long are you staying in the US?”

“I don’t know. A couple of months?”

“Well, you should know. Are you planning to stay here?”

“I don’t know. Why does it matter?”

“Because it says here you are a resident of Chile.”

“Yeah, but I’m an American, I can stay here as long as I want.”

To which she rolled her eyes again.

Then she went through every last little pocket of every little thing, and then signed the customs declaration form, and sent me on my way. The whole process took about 45 minutes. Oh, and I had a connecting flight, which didn’t matter to them.

But hey look now WalMart has STROOPWAFEL!!! 65 cents each! NOM NOM NOM NOM

2014-07-08 13.45.54