Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Problem: How does one worship the sun god and mother earth?

Solution: Build temples to their magnificence, and maybe execute a few virgins.

So I am wrapping up my South American adventure with a trip through the magical land of Peru. You ever see the Emperor´s New Groove? It´s just like that movie, complete with llamas.

In three days I have hit three major ruins. I have basically run the gamut of the Incan empire, and I gotta tell you, I like what I see. Here are three things that the Incan Empire and I have in common:

1. We hold a grudge against the Spanish.
2. We like hiking.
3. We have a penchant for paying tribute to the past. Like for instance I have a scrapbook of my life and times at Wells Elementary. Or at least my mom does.

So that´s about the extent of it. Go to Machu Pichu. It´s rad. I can post pictures when I get home in two days.

Am I about to sign off from my South American travels? Yeah, I think so. Maybe I can write another post that sums up all my feelings and stuff. Are you excited? Me too.


Friday, July 3, 2009

¡La Gripe Porcino!

Swine Flu!

It has hit, and hit hard. Argentine schools are being let out for Winter Break two weeks early (because right now its winter. How´s your mind? Blown?) Judges are canceling their hearings. My roommates had their study abroad program canceled. I am sweating more than usual. What is going on???

It is very weird, because it was dismissed comparatively casually in the United States, but here lines at the pharmacy are out the door, and people are walking around with masks. Is it because we Americans have superior immune systems? Yeah I think it is. Which is why I am going to brag about that to some mask-wearing South Americans tomorrow.

Happy 4th of July! (Cue fireworks)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Viajeros, contd.


So at school the next week, my buddy Will, a Texan, pointed out all the concerns about the Iguazu trip and the group that I just raised to you. We are on the same page. So we throw caution to the wind, and buy bus tickets to Mendoza, which everyone has told us is the PLACE TO GO. We have few goals in mind: 1-See the Andes. 2-Drink wine and ride bikes. 3-Escape the summer school group for a while. Other than that, we didn't really care...we were traveling, man!

Will goes to UT law and lives in my building in Buenos Aires. He is my age, and hails from Houston. He likes baseball and quoting funny movies. We even were at a couple of the same wrestling tournaments in high school. Good guy. Seemingly a good travel partner. However, one interesting thing about "traveling" is that the few people that you do travel with, you end up getting to know really well--maybe a little too well. (Good example: When traveling in Europe post college, I learned that my friend Aaron LOVES Harry Potter, Noonan LOVES Lord of the Rings, and Brian CANNOT GET ENOUGH of the Dallas Cowboys. He even knew that the won a Super Bowl on my 9th birthday. I did not know this about any of them pre-traveling. So very interesting.)

Anyways, one thing I learned about Will is that he likes to go 0 to 60 with emotional conversations at a speed I am not comfortable with. It's like, yes I know we will be sitting next to each other on a 14 hour bus ride, but I don't need to talk about my fear of rejection right now, OK? Let's at least wait until hour 3. Additionally, alcohol increases his emotional velocity, so on a weekend where we would be drinking wine the entire time, you could say that we were one flex capacitor away from singing Johnny Be Good. (Shut up, it too me a while to think of that metaphor.)

Apart from Will, we were meeting other "travelers." We stayed in a hostel where there was a dinner one night. Typical bad beards. Typical convos--no I have not been to Bolivia. Yes I have been to Iguazu. Will you pass me that beer? One other aspect you might see about travelers is that some are over anxious to talk about politics. One guy I sat across from was from Holland but his parents were from Iran. He says to me, "So, you are from America. It means we are at war, yes?" Obviously I handled the convo with the grace and delicacy of any patriotic American, but the point is that I was stuck between two extremes. On the one hand, I am talking about International politics (which I don't know very much about) with people I am never going to see again, and on the other I am talking about my deepest feelings (which I also don't know very much about) with a guy that I am spending every second with. Sometimes you just want to make fun of people for complaining, you know?

It appears you are damned if you do, damned if you don´t. People---they´re the worst!


We first arrive there and go right to the tourism office. They tell us to get on a bus and go see Mr. Hugo. This man rents out bicycles to travelers and gives out directions to where the wineries are located. As Will and I trek out to the farthest one (using some strategy which will put us closer to home the drunker we get, bc we are geniuses), a cop waives us down, and for a brief moment it appears we are gonna get arrested. I think to myself: ¨Cool down, DuRoss. This guy doesn´t know anything about your public nudity, and if he does, there has got to be a statute of limitations on something like that.¨ Turns out he was there to tell us that a dust storm has caused the wineries past that point to be closed.

Plan B consists of the cop escorting us to a winery a little closer to home. Will and I pull up and see absolutely no one. Totally empty. I would be lying if I told you that the thought of the cop leading us to our impending, wine-soaked deaths didn´t cross our minds. Finally a woman lets us in, escorts us upstairs to the bar, and introduces us to the ¨wine maker.¨ Young guy, dressed like a gigolo, and extremely happy to see us. (Side note: I should have explained this in a different post, but it is Argentine custom to greet with a kiss on the cheek--even the men. With that said...) The wine maker plants one on my cheek for a solid 10 seconds. Call me old fashioned, but I don´t think any kiss on the cheek should top 7 seconds. What is the need? As I contemplate this, wine maker moves on to Will, plants one for a solid 15, and then starts serving us up some vino.

The three of us spent the rest of the afternoon getting, as the Mendozans say, ¨totally shnockered.¨ So this story is going on for way too long so here come bullet points:

-Seeing the natural beauty of the Andes: incredible.
-Waking up and realizing that someone had taken our cash in the middle of the night: sucked.
-Witnessing the theft of Will´s backpack as we sat at an outdoor cafe 9 hours later: also sucked.

Feelings Afterward

On balance, between the emotional rollercoasters, various thefts, and kissing of gigolos, it might seem like traveling to Mendoza was a worse experience than being a tourist in Iguazu. BUT--I think on the whole I liked it better. First of all, Will is a solid guy and I get ornery, so that is a wash. Second, we didn´t lose that much cash, and the robber dropped Will´s bag 10 feet away because our waiter saw him. Third, I conducted international diplomacy between Iran and Texas. Finally, the gigolo got us wasted.

Basically, there are no losers in this contest. Except maybe you, the reader. Sucka!!

Viajeros y Turistas

Problem: Is it better to be a traveler or a tourist?

Solution: Unclear at this point. More analysis needed.

Well I have had some wild times of late, let me tell you. Two weekends ago, I went to Las Cataratas de Iguazu, these huge, famous waterfalls on the northeastern tip of Argentina, near Paraguay and Brazil. And this morning, I arrived home in Buenos Aires from an excursion to Mendoza, Argentina's wine capital, located in the far west of the country, just over the Andes from Chili. Both experiences were totally rad. Both were very different. Shall we examine them together? No? Too bad.

The primary difference, it seems to me, is that I played different roles on both trips. I think these roles can best be encapsulated by the terms "tourist," and "traveler."

I might be splitting hairs here, but a tourist is someone who goes to a different place with a set agenda, with more than a few people, who takes a lot of pictures, and who maybe tries new things but nothing too crazy. Tour guides are usually involved. Safety is usually a pre-arranged non issue. Tourists spend money on touristy things. They are the primary actor in the "tourism" sector of the economy. The stereotype is the Asian tourist at Epcot. Dig it?

A traveler is someone who goes to a different place with no set agenda, usuually in small groups. There are places that she would like to see, but these more serve as things to be checked off a list, which is arranged in no particular order. Travelers rarely work with time limits, or if they do, they are very broad. They carry all their belongings in expensive backpacks. They go for long periods of time without showering. They grow bad beards. (Sometimes they have beard growing contests, and these are often tims rigged becase the competitors have had previous relationships with the judges. I digress.) They stay in hostels, places where they are never short on company, but in which the conversations inevitably turn to questions like "Where else have you been? Peru? Yeah me too. No I haven't been to Brazil yet, that's next on my list. Maybe sometime next month. No I don't have any pot." It is a romantic existence, but not a perfect one. Things go wrong. Travelers have horror stories, and love passing on new warnings and information to other travelers: "Yep, I got my passport stolen in Cambodia. Don't buy pot there." That sort of thing. Rick Steves is the stereotype. Am I painting a picture? Does this make sense?


This is a trip that I had paid for months in advance and that was totally arranged by my summer school program. Knowing about a trip well in advance is a big element to being a tourist. (Side bar: The waterfalls are prominently featured in the movie "The Mission," with Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. In that pelicula, the first scene is of this Jesuit strapped to a piece of wood and getting sent over these falls that are ridiculously huge. I showed this clip as part of a presentation at my Jesuit high school in 10th grade--I don't have to tell you it caused quite a stir. B plus material. No big deal). So how were they in real life?


My group consisted of 20 kids from my program, 33.1% of whom I actually enjoyed spending time with. Lots of complainers. Good amount of partyers. Also, there were 2 adult women coordinators who work for the program who catered to every complaint and allowed us to party pretty hard. Leading this crew was a series of tour guides from some Iguazu company who knew broken English and made bad jokes. We traveled on a plush bus to get from place to place. It was apparent to anyone that we were American. We were a force to be reckoned with.

One thing about my group that I did not expect was that there is a significant amount of kids from Texas. This puts the Southwestern kids at about 50% of the group, and Texans comprising the other 50%, with me straddling the gap in the middle. I am like the Henry Clay of this crew--ready to facilitate compromises (i.e. Who is better, Rockets or Lakers, compromise being the Mavs, etc.) and ready to hang out with almost anyone. If for some reason we had run out of things to talk about, we all had the common bond of being in law school. The point here is that I was in the middle of this 20 person bubble. This was great because I never ran out of things to talk about, but I was trapped if the LA girls started to complain about the weather or if the Texans started chanting for secession. My social circle was contained, for better or worse.


Iguazu is the most awesome natural sight I have ever seen. But it felt like Disneyland. The economy in that area of the country is totally dependant on the massive amount of visitors who come there to see the falls, and wind up paying for things like blow dart guns (which I did, and which is totally awesome). For this reason, the country has built up the area around the falls to make it accesible to anyone, so much so that you hardly feel like you are in the jungle. For instance, there was a tram to the top of the falls, which felt a slightly more rustic DART rale. There was a wheelchair accessible path that lead to the top of "La Garganta del Diablo" (Look it up). There was a boat tour that went underneath the falls, driven by a captain who looked like the fishsticks dude if he started giving the jungle cruise tours and suddenly became burnt out from the job. Does that make sense? At night we stayed in a really nice hotel just outside the park. They had cheap drinks, they had American tv (we watched the NBA championship), and if we needed taxis to go to town the front desk ordered them up for us. We were totally hooked up, totally safe. Even the complainers were running out of things to complain about---but they never went totally dry in that department.

Feelings Afterward

By the end of this trip I was tiring of the group, the food, the blow dart guns...ok not the blow dart guns. Every meal was a huge buffet, pre-paid. Much of it was gourmet. However, if variety is the spice of life, then logic dictates that monotony is the ...I can't think of an analogy right now. But it isn't spicey. There is only so many times you can eat deliciously seasoned meat in one day, ok? This situation lead to the complainers complaining even more, which led to the texans complaining about the complainers, which led to me complaining about compromising, which led the group coordinators to complain to our tour guides, which I am sure caused them to complain to the waterfalls. When I got home, I thought to myself, what just happened? The waterfalls don't care. Why do I feel like I had a bad time even though I witnessed pure awesomeness?

OK this is going to be really long, so I will include the second installment in a second post.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Problem: How does one maximize one´s time in a foreign country?

Solution: Travel all over the place.

Tonight I leave for Mendoza, the wine producing capital of Argentina. I am hopping on a bus that leaves tonight and arrives at about 11:30 in the morning. 14 hour bus rides arent typically my thing, but then again neither is almost getting hit by them, but I still have managed to do that a number of times now. (Just kidding, don´t worry, Mom.)

So this place is gonna rule. Google it: Mendoza, Argentina. More blog posts upon my return.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Problem: What is one to do when they run out of money?

Solution: Move to a country where the dollar actually kicks ass.

I´d be lying if I told you I was a frugal man. I live large. Ralph´s Brand Soda?...No thank you. I´ll stick with RC Cola. You feel me?

So, I obviously ran out of money a lot sooner than I thought I would. I applied for a student loan to support myself when I was in SudaAmerica (Because if there is one thing this recession as taught us, it is to take out money now and worry about paying it back later because nothing can possibly go wrong). The loan, however, takes a while to process, and, though you may find this hard to believe, I was a little tardy with filling out my papers.

Not to worry, I think to myself. I´ve got Family Feud Money. For the last several months, I have been ¨having fun¨with the money that we won on the family feud last year. Here is a short list of things I have bought with my winnings: a digital camera, a flight to Boston, a book by Garrison Keillor, beer, wine, beer, a ¨Buster¨costume that I wore once and will never wear again, more beer, pizza, a ticket to Argentina, iPOD headphones, an iPOOD, running shoes, and beer. My attitude towards this has been pretty cavalier. I went on a game show--obviously I should go nuts. For this reason, I have been heard to say after every purchase, ¨Let´s FEUD!!¨ (or something similar).

Well ¨Let´s FEUD¨ doesn´t translate well into Argentine. For the last week, I have been almost out of money and the loan had yet to be processed. How was I going to survive?

Well, I´ll tell you. The exchange rate here is 1 American dollar for every 3.75 Pesos.

Isn´t that nuts? It is the exact opposite feeling I had while traveling through Europe. For example, eating is totally easy. The empanada is an Argentina pastry filled with meat and all sorts of good stuff. It´s like a Hot Pocket. (Side Note: Try to come up with a joke involving Jim Gaffigan as a latino man. I can´t do it right now--I just ate an empanada and can´t think. I bet it would be funny.) The empanada is very filling... and they cost like 3 pesos. Eat 2 of these things and you will be good until dinner. That´s 6 pesos---less than 2 bucks. ¡Que Fantastico!

Or drinking, for example. There is a bar near my house that guide books like to advertise as a place where ¨ex pats are drawn like Bees to honey.¨ Basically it´s where American college students hang out. It´s called ¨Shoeless Joe´s Alamo,¨ sort of like the owner just wanted to take the most American sounding things and combine them to create a bar where Americans would get drunk and feel at home. They could have also called it ¨Abe Lincoln´s Astrodome¨ or ¨Clark Gable´s Angioplasty.¨ Anyways, pints of beer are 5 pesos. Do the math. Yep. Awesome.

So basically the cost is another reason why this place kicks ass. Some attribute it to rampant inflation. I just call it fate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Problem: How does one capture the hearts of a nation, or at least avoid getting shot by angry fans?

Solution: Score a goal for your national soccer team.

Remember hearing about that dude who, after scoring an own-goal while playing the U.S., went back to Columbia and was promptly shot? That shit was crazy. That's what was going through my head on the way to the Argentina-Columbia soccer game on Saturday night. Am I about to see a riot? Will there be tear gas? What happens if I don't look good in baby blue, the Argentine national colors? WHAT THEN??

Soccer is a serious undertaking in Latin America. When I was a kid, I played for the Dragons. (One time I scored a goal left footed. No big deal. I digress...) We had this kid Brett who was a ball hog. We all thought Brett was a jerk, or as close as a 5 year old gets to being a jerk. Then one day, Brett's dad shows up at the game, screams at Brett during every play, jumps up and down, and almost had a heart attack when Brett scored a goal. I remember this vividly. I remember a vague feeling of 5 year old empathy for Brett, sort of like when Little Foot's mom died in The Land Before Time. Remember that feeling? OK, so we are on the same page.

Basically, all soccer fans in Latin America are like Brett's dad.

Apparently the Argentine authorities have learned from the experience of trying to control millions of "Brett's Dads". There was barbed wire separating the fans from the field. The Columbians had their own seating section with their own entrance, an oddly smart form of discrimination. Periodically, the announcer would get on the PA and give directions as to when which sections would leave first. The powers that be had this thing on lock down.

The game itself, however, was surprisingly tranquil. Argentina scored the only goal sometime in the second half, and I managed to get a video of it (which I will post on facebook when I return home, eager beavers). Yes, the crowd went nuts when this happened. But for the rest of the game, the fans were forced to get psyched about tackles and throw-ins. Not as loco as I would have anticipated, or even would have preferred. Don't get me wrong, it was still pretty wild, and I can understand why fans just lose their freakin minds when really good games happen, but how often do they see them? How good can a game get of the natural limitations of the sport limit scoring to 3 or so goals? I might be sounding like a conceited American, but give me the raw United States excitement of Dirk Nowitzki any day of the week.

I never liked Brett. I never really liked Brett's dad. Maybe I just don't like soccer. But did I have a good time trying to get as loco as possible? Si---even though no one was shot.

P.S. Also, someone spit on us from the second or third level of the stands behind us, and it landed right on my friend Vance's hand. Now THAT shit was crazy.