Ezeiza Airport, Buenos Aires. August 9th

There are full scale riots in Santiago, Chile, competing with London and the impending financial meltdown for the headlines here in Argentina. God knows how far it can all go; if the feral kids of the UK really wish to they can take the country down for a few days - every crap town and soulless city could have fighting on the streets by the time I get back. So far it is just London and Birmingham, but surely it will spread? Eventually there could be deaths and it would all go way, way out of control. Or maybe stop and begin again next year.

The Argentine peso seems to have devalued overnight by a few percentage points, while the Buenos Aires stock exchange experienced the biggest fall on the planet, over 10 percent in one day. They are not panicking here. In fact, they are brushing it off, because Argentina has been here so many times before. But, the global markets are a mechanism largely of evil, not good, and Argentina, which has one of the lowest credit ratings on the planet, could be seen as a weak animal, and taken down by investors who care nothing of the consequences of their selfish actions. There again, these things happen and the world somehow returns to its status quo, and all is forgotten a few weeks later…

I am experiencing this kind of strange peace in Ezeiza international airport, shortly before I fly to Sao Paulo. It feels very safe here and removed from the problems of the world and my own not insignificant personal issues.  

It is 6 weeks today that I left England. I swear it feels like months and months. Travel is like that - every day, even the most mundane, has something new and memorable either for the good or bad. My god, 6 weeks, how can it be possible? I feel like a different person to the one who drove through London on a National Express coach on his way to Heathrow and then South America, reflecting upon what a grey, miserable and ****  place the English capital is. I am not surprised this is happening to London. I am only surprised that everybody else is surprised.

Somebody has switched channels and there is some boll**** about Britney Spears. Escapism? No, this is the bullshit that got us here in the first place; a society with no society, a society where the only God isn't money itself, but wanting things; wanting false dreams. It is Saturday night Britain's got Talent, Ipod players, cosmetic surgery and kids wanting to be somebody else rather than themselves.

Hilariously I thought I’d treat myself to dinner in a decent airport restaurant as I have a few pesos left and my head is spinning.  The chef has made a worse mess of my ‘noquis’ and spinach than I thought possible. FFS, you have got to laugh. After last night's experience on the streets of Buenos Aires, it would be absurd for me to care. Those lovely people all sleeping on the street, happy for a blanket and a cup of soup.

And, shi*, I just realised I need to board after 30 minutes. Why did I have the idea in my head I had to check in after 30 minutes, when I have already done that? Red wine& spinning head clouding my judgement?

A long overdue blog:

Buenos Aires, August 8th

My friend Mariano from the excellent Vi Luz y Entre hostel has agreed to take me on a mission to one of the Buenos Aires slums. We want to meet a local priest who has set up a successful community project supporting the local kids. We haven’t been able to get in contact with the priest so we are just going to stroll into the slum and hope we can track him down. It isn’t without risk.

We park the car up at a supermarket a few hundred yards from the slum, leave most of our valuables in the car and walk into the shanty town. This isn’t particularly clever but it is a calculated risk. If it starts to feel too dangerous, hopefully we can backtrack.

Mariano has done his homework and we manage to find the small chapel and community centre without too much trouble. It is mid-afternoon and we don’t seem to have attracted too much unwanted attention.

The priest won’t be around until after dark and one of the workers from the community centre is scolding us for our foolishness. He says that walking in here without members of the local community with us is dangerous and foolhardy. He tells me I can take a couple of photos but then we need to leave promptly because they cannot guarantee our safety. We have ten minutes. If we stay twenty, we could get problems. Mariano swaps phone numbers, I capture a couple of images of the slum sports pitch project and the community centre, and we make tracks back to the car, watching our backs along the way.

I am very disappointed to not meet the priest and get full details of the slum project to share with you. In the evening, however, I do get the opportunity to witness first hand a very special project in Buenos Aires. Started just a couple of years ago, the project is both simple and effective:

Meeting at 8pm each evening at a designated spot in downtown Buenos Aires, volunteers meet, split up into around a dozen groups, and follow a designated walking route, meeting the homeless of the Argentine capital. The project is coordinated by the good people of Red Solidaria. During the winter months they give out blankets, cups of hot soup, provisions such as shampoo, but most importantly perhaps, they show a genuine sense of caring, concern and love towards the people they meet on the street. I have to say the experience is totally humbling and gives me a new insight into the plight of the homeless. The volunteers I accompany seem to possess more individual empathy than a dozen people put together. They are lovely human beings who give up each Monday evening to help improve the lives of others. Gorgeous Gi (who is in the band Profuga de Agua) is fortunately fluent in English and helps me to communicate with my other new friends over the course of the three hours we spend together as well as with those we meet during the evening, less fortunate than us.

The nights are cold in Buenos Aires during the winter and there are plenty out on the streets struggling to keep warm. We meet a couple with two young kids, a group of teenage boys, a large group of individuals with drug and alcohol problems, an extended family living in temporary tents, a former top lawyer who sleeps in a door way, a lady who sifts through rubbish every night so she has enough to pay for her daughter to go to school. The stories of how they all got here are all so different. You understand that short moments and seemingly unimportant decisions end up shaping the whole of your life in ways in which you could never imagine.
I will bring you detailed information about this project at a later date but I think it is important to realise that this project can be adapted to any city or town that has a homeless issue, of which most do. Get together with a couple of friends and set out to try and help and get to know the homeless one night. If you feel you have gained anything positive from this experience, then try to go back a week or two weeks later and maybe encourage others to join you. Before you know it you will have made a massive positive change to the lives of others and I am sure you will feel fantastic in yourself for having done it.

You can read more about Red Solidaria by following this link. Most internet browsers now offer language translation options, so although the site is in Spanish, you will be able to instantly translate it into English through Google Chrome, for example.
You can also read more about the other organisations that More Than a Game likes and supports by following the link to our 'Projects we like' page.

Photos (c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011


(c) Justin Walley/Morethanagame.info 2011


Photos (c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011

El Calafate airport somehow escapes the worst of the winter storm that left my bus stranded on a mountain pass the previous night for 8 hours. It is time to leave the remoteness of Patagonia behind. I will certainly never forget my time here...

Photos (c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011

As the weather began to set in on our journey back from the Fitz Roy mountains, you just knew that we were going to struggle to get home. An hour into the journey, the bus came off the road and left us stranded on a mountain top with no emergency phone coverage and very soon no heating or power. The snow kept falling and it was 8 hours later before we were rescued, cold, tired but very relieved. We eventually got back at 5am.
A personal congratulations to my good friend, Rupert, who has just announced he is getting married to his lady, Baiba. Congratulations to you both!
Please enjoy these photos of 'Bar De Ruperto', in Puerto Natales, Chile.
PS I tried to get a pint to toast your news but they were closed :))
What is it with the Argentine 100 peso note? It is worth the equivalent of 20 euro and yet any attempt to change one or ‘break’ one very often prompts panic in Argentina. Paying for a hostel costing 30 peso – no chance! Lunch, 15 peso – are you joking! Taxi, 40 peso – driver asks to keep the change. Then I decided to pop in to the country’s biggest multinational supermarket chain, Carrefour, and break one of my hundreds for a bottle of drinking water…only to be almost marched off the premises by the supermarket’s security.  You’d understand it if the cost of living was low in Argentina but prices here are generally at the lower European price levels you find in the peripheral countries such as Portugal, Turkey and the Baltic states. Can you imagine there being panic every time you tried to break into a 20 euro note in Portugal?!

They keep their ride very real up in the mountains of Patagonia in the town of El Chaltan

(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011

This icefield is believed to be the world's third largest reserve of fresh water. The ice is 170 metres deep in places.

(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011

The Perito Moreno glacier as seen from its glacial lake