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Learning Spanish The Hard Way!

Hello everyone and welcome to my very special travel log, written by me for you, mis amigos. This will document the highs and lows of my life travelling in Central and South America. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed living it!

Simon Doy's Travels -
Baker's Travels -
Pete man's Page - /peterhsburton/

My Job -
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Diary Entries

Friday, 06 October 2006

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

I have just found the coolest website for anyone looking to travel

I have long been trying to find a good dedicated travel page written by travels for travels. There's no crap advertising and plugging hotels with flashy banners, just good accurate information. The beauty of the wiki is that you can edit and update the information, so it will just get better.

Friday, 08 September 2006

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

In a vein attempt to keep my sanity whilst at work, I have embarked on a new project - Nestor Kirchner - The Muscial. For those not plugged into South American politics, Kircher is El Presidente of Argentina! The next national elections are due to be held next year and this little ditty is a victory song to the mucic of Rice and Webber's "Dont Cry for me Argentina.


Every damn day in this city there is some sort of demonstration or "Manifestacion." At first these were quite interesting and would find myself stopping and watching them. Now, as anyone who lives in BsAs will tell you, they are a pain in the arse and generally quite pointless. What usually happens is that a bunch of poor people get dragged into the centre from the villa or provinceS and made to stand there or bang drums. This service is in exchange for their government benefits. So, in a nut shell - if I am right - the government ends up paying people to demonstate against them or for them, as was the case with El Presidente not so long ago. He filled a 6000 person venue with his supporters one and a half years before the election is due. God helps us in 2007! I remember one occasion when they were demonstrating to legalize an illegal lottery. The lottery owner would sell tickets to his lottery and use the numbers from the national lottery. The government tried to ban the illegal lottery, so they spent a day protesting in the centre. I am pushing for the legalzation of Armed Robbery, may be I will start something big.

These professional protestors are called Piqueteros and they are very vocal supporters of Kirchner and the basis of the song.

Don’t Cry For Me Piqueteros

It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
That I still need your cash after all that I've done
You won't believe me
All you will see is a man you once knew
Although he's dressed up to the nines
With cars and a helicopter or two.

I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at Santa Cruz
Soon they would realize that I had misplaced all of their funds
So I chose Peronism
Running around, promising everything new
But nothing helped me at all
Especially my association with you

Don't cry for me Piqueteros
The truth is I never liked you
All through the crisis
And the resistance
You kept protesting
I kept my distance

And as for elections, and as for votes
I never pretended its fair
Though it seemed to the world that I won legitimately.
They are illusions
And I’m not the solution I promised to be
The answer was here all the time
Vote for Christina not me

Don't cry for me Piqueteros
The truth is I never liked you
All through the crisis
And the resistance
You kept protesting
I kept my distance

Have I said too much?
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you
But all you have to do is look at me
To know that every word is true
Don't cry for me Piqueteros

Thursday, 06 July 2006

This page is dedicated to the Choripan.
My friend and the best hangover cure in argentina.

The Choripan is a big thick Chorizo (sauasage) in French Bread. It's ia best served with Chimmi Chori a herb and spice and vinegar sauce.

My favourite place to buy such a tempting treat is round the corner from my flat in San Telmo near the market. The owner is rude, rat tailed and has a boxers nose. But he makes the best Choripan in the world which have nursed me through some pretty bad hangovers.

Out of respect I have written my ode to the Choripan Man.

The Choripan Man

Who can take a sausage
And put it in a bun?
Drown it in some sauce and stick it in your tum?
The Choriman can, he’s the choriopan man
The Choriman can, ‘cause it mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

Who can take a Vacio
And serve it up with pride?
Soak it up with blood and make your stomach turn inside?
The Choriman can, he’s the Choripan man
The Choriman can, ‘cause it mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

The Choriman makes
Everything he bakes
Satisfying and delicious
He swears that all are son’s of bitches
He even spits in your food if he wishes

Who can take ten tetras
And drink them in a day
Spark a cigarette and tap ash upon your plate
The Choripan man? The Choriman can, the Choriman can
The Choriman can, ‘cause it mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.

Friday, 30 June 2006

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

I think someone important might have died Buenos Aires today, but I’m not sure who. Faces are long, conversation is muted and warm greetings are surprisingly hard to come by, especially if your English and still in the World Cup finals. Argentina is a country in morning. They have just been beaten on penalties by Germany, and the shock of this defeat has broken a country. For my friends the realization that they will have to wait another four year to go to South Africa is just sinking in.

The country has been on the edge of its seat for the last three weeks watching its beloved national team hit magical form against Serbia and Montenegro with a six goal spanking and then finally bow out in the worst way possible: The dreaded penalty shoot-out.

Football in Argentina is very different from that in the UK. I consider the English a footballing nation and on the whole we have very passionate if not sometimes, stupid fans. But, it isn’t a way of life like it is here. Football is part of the every argentines national identity and psyche and nothing has been more important over the last few weeks than watching Argentina play in the World Cup. The country has literally ground to a halt as everyone has stopped what they are doing and crowded around the nearest TV. Offices shut, traffic stopped and the homeless gathered with shoppers around the electrical store window to watch the televised game. At work we had a TV put in the office and as I write this I have just come back from a three hour lunch break with the entire office to watch their unfortunate exist.

Last Saturday I watched the Argentina vs Mexico game in a bar. When the game ended 2-1 in Argentina’s favour, the city exploded into life. The win got the team into the Quarter finals and an encounter with Germany. I had expected only a moderate celebration, people would be out that night talking about the game and enjoying the win. But in Argentina, just getting there was sufficient to draw over 30,000 fans into the city centre and for the police to close off three main streets to traffic for four hours.

My friends have described the scenes they witnessed when the national team won the ’86 World Cup. They said the streets packed with hundreds of thousands of flags and jumping fans. They celebrated for weeks and the whole country got a well need boost in confidence.

I imagine things will be pretty quiet here for the next couple of weeks and any talk of football will be shunned. The national mourning process, as with any other, will go though the usual stages. The initial shock, as we are in now. Walking back from my watching the game I saw people with there head in their hands and hugging each other, their faces full of disappointment. Then denial – I assume this takes the form of reaffirming that they were cheated and that Maradona is still the best footballer in the world ever. Finally comes acceptance and the outpouring of grief. I expect this to come when the valiant lions of her majesties England hold aloft Jules Reme for all to see. If there’s one thing Argentines hate more than losing, its Brazil or England winning.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Location: Buenos Aires


Learning a language is about making mistakes and learning from these so as to improve. Some mistakes however, tend to be more embarrassing than others. Below is a list a errors I have made in the course of my time in Buenos Aires:

Pajaro = Bird
Pajero = Wanker / Masturbator
His one didn't go down to well on a park bench with an elderly lady sitting next to me.

Te Estoy Cachando = I am kidding
Estoy Cachondo = I am horny
Not a good line to use when you meet a girl for the first time in a bar and try and tell her a joke.

Concha = Shell
Concha = Argentine slang for the female sexual organ. However, shell for most of South and Central America. Hence the error. Equivalent to c#@t in English.
Again, families on the beach don’t really appreciate this kind of comment, especially with young children around.

Coger – Verb to take? So I thought.
Cojer – To f@#k in Argentina.
Once again, not one to use in the bar after you have already said estoy cachonda and then try and say “I take it back.”

Tengo Miedo – I am scared
Tengo Mierda – I have shit!
Used once in office as a joke and received a lot of laughter. I thought I was being humorous until I was told by someone what I had said.

Basta – Stop!
Bosta – Horse shit!
Not a great plan to stand up in the middle of a busy bus when you have just missed your stop and run to the front shouting Bosta! Bosta!

Te da fiaca - You are lazy
Tetas fiaca - Lazy tits
This gem was said to my co-worker. I had mispronounced the phrase and directed the comment to a completly different and wholely inappropriate thing. She laughed it off.

I am sure in the process of my time learning Castellano there will be plenty more humorous cockups on my behalf.

Tuesday, 07 March 2006

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

U2 could help end poverty, just as long as the poor are willing to pay for it.

Could Bono be the new son of God? Energetically beating his drum to a screaming hoard of adoring fans, the front man of U2 whips the porteno crowd into a frenzy not seen in Buenos Aires since Robbie Williams bared his arse from the balcony of the Four Seasons Hotel . As the atmosphere intensifies people begin collapsing all around me and are carried out by Bono’s minions. His message is simple - coexistence and tolerance is the answer to the world’s problems. Muslims, Jews and Christians living together in harmony. Is Bonology the answer to your prayers?

The vertigo road show landed in BsAs this week to thrill expectant crowds with the usual U2 flair and extravagance. The River Plate stadium overflowed with almost 70,000 cheering fans, some of which had queued up over night to be the first in.

I bought my ticket for the concert just before Christmas determined not to miss out on the opportunity to see one of the best live acts in the world. Opportunities of this kind in the UK are always few and far between and it’s not uncommon for an entire tour to sell out in a matter of hours.

Needless to say I was extremely excited at the prospect and left work early to join the queue. Franz Ferdinand were supporting and as an added bonus I went to see them play a solo gig the night before at Luna Park, an indoor arena with about three thousand in attendance. They played an energetic gig which set a lively tone for the U2 show the next day.

The stadium was an incredible spectacle, packed to the rafters with fans happily entertaining themselves during the interval with one of the most impressive Mexican waves I have ever seen. In a cloud of smoke U2 came on to a thundering applause with Bono dressed in the colors of the Argentine flag to start what turned out to be one of the best live shows I have ever seen. The back drop of a sixty foot lights screen and TV monitors helped to vertically challenged Argentines catch a glimpse of Bono in all his extravagant glory. Like many front men of cult groups (e.g. David Karesh – Wako, Texas), Bono’s skill in manipulation and control was impressive. He had the entire stadium in the palm of his hand for two and half hours and did with them as he saw fit. He would only have to lift an arm in the air and a sea of hands followed.

As a concert in its own right it was fantastic, but the underlying political message reeked of hypocrisy. In his opening message to the fans, in Spanish, Bono said “Gracias por darnos una gran vida. Gracias por esperarnos después de haber pasado momentos tan difíciles y que han sido superados por la nueva Argentina" or “Argentines have gone through difficult times, but these have been overcome by a new Argentina" U2’s last concert in Argentina was when the peso was fixed one to one with the dollar back in 1999 and they charged around USD$50 a ticket. Seven years later they returned, and were charging the equivalent sum of around ARG$160 per ticket. If Bono wanted to show his support and help the country, he should have done so when the country needed U2 the most, during the crisis when almost 50 per cent of the population were living below the poverty line. Showing up when the job is well on the way to be being completed, saying well done lads, good work, is too little too late in my opinion.

Subliminal messages flashed on the screen, denouncing the exploitation and encouraged help and unity for the poorest nations in the world. We have all seen Bono campaigning with world leaders to help end poverty and even before the show, he was invited to visit President Kirchner at the Casa Rosa. Argentina still has a long way to go in terms of development. The average monthly income remains only ARG$800 per month, about USD$260. Yet, when U2 come to Buenos Aires they seems to be perfectly happy charge what equates to almost a quarter of the average monthly national salary as an entrance fee. How does this exactly help the poor? To me, this doesn’t sound like a man trying to help out a poor and developing nation. When it comes down to it, making dollars is still what it’s all about. You can schmooze and talk to as many world leaders as you like and even be nominated for a Nobel prize, but unless you practice what you preach you will always be a hypocrite.

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Recent Messages

From flor
fotos! fotos! fotos!
Response: sooooooooooonn
From Will Thompson
Mark, me old mukka.
You have far too much free time on your hands, hope things are going ok out there for you. Still living my life vicariously through you, so please keep up the great writing and photos.
Response: I will have more free time, once I get rid of this job. Anyway, will be replying to your email shortly with more details.

From Nati
Seriously, I think your future is in musicals! Or you might as well start a solo career, between the choripan man and the piqueteros, I can see two top hits!!! f--k FRanz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys, you are the new hot thing coming!
Response: Once again Nati, another sterling recommendation for which I thank you. Next up, I will try write a song or the Cartoneros adapted from Annie's -It's a hard nut life!
From Natalia
Mark, Congratulations on this site. You really made me laugh with "Choripan man" and the mistakes u've made in Argie Spanish. I love what u r doing, devoting your time to get to know a different country (u r a great observer) and having a wonderful time!! I would like to recommend u a book "Atrapa tu sueño" by 2 Argies who travelled from Buenos Aires to Alaska in 1928 car. Great story, u said u were looking 4 one in Hope to hear from u. Good luck!!
Response: thanks very much. I will see if I can find the book. It sounds interesting.
Speak soon
From cagsy
photies are borin as crap and I ate 'em! but putting diver jealousy aside.. you got some pretty good shots...keep it real brother and enjoy...! ;-)
Response: so boring in fact, that one was given feature homepage status!
WOOHOOO! shurup our cagsy, i ate ya!
From Matteo
great pictures my friend!
Response: thanks matteo, I hope sunny London is treating you well. I will mail you shortly. I need an excuse not to do any work!
From Baker
As a temporary crasher in Mark's apartment (again...) AND a professional photographer I can say that I was there first hand when this latest batch of diving photos was edited for posting and that no trick photography whatsoever was used. Mark really is just a badass underwater photographer.
Response: thanks fo not mentioning photoshop!
From Nati
you are crap mark, i didnt even know you were away until amy told me and also, you've been parting with her and have left me out.....really piss off at you right now. At least the Choripan Oda compensates a little for your rudeness. Anyway, the correct word is "chimi churri", and its supposed to come from english "give me curry", which was what they used to say at the begining of last century to the gauchos when they wanted some of that fantastic sause. Keep in touch, even though youre crap...
From Bel
Your photos are amazing! really i love them!
From jean shone
hello a message from your aged aunt and uncle. Sat at the computer with Steve and Fiona. Enjoyed reading your page. Its nice to see that Bono hasnt conned you into thinking hes got the answers. We are all coming to stay next weekend so I hope that the beds are made. We hope that the Spanish is coming on . I presume that Portugese was mastered whilst you were in Brazil. Any way Hywl Fawr from the undermined Welsh stuck in the caves of Leeds.
Response: Bora da Aunt and Uncle,

Glad someone supports my view of Bono.

Hope you are both well? I would wecome a visit from you. Unfortunately, the floor is all I have to offer. It is suppose to be good for your posture to sleep on hard floor.

Speak soon

From Anita
for me, every mispronouned word means arse... and

consolador = viabrator, not counsellor as one would imagine and use in front of their very catholic school friends from corrientes..

embarassada,... i didn't even see that one coming

Response: me neither...just asked my friend if she was pregnant!

She was more than a little confused. I didn't have the nerve to ask the first question. Far too personal for the office.

Have we met?
From Dana
Hey Magic Man!!!
i haven't laughed so much reading something in a long time!!!!
you are a funny funny guy!
i algo miss your magic tricks!
nos vemos pronto??
chico ocupado!
el rio te esta esperando

Response: Hey Dana,

I have been practicing my newest and most dangerous trick to date - This saturday I will attempt to saw myself in half! How's that for a bit of magic?

Voy llamarte este finde para bailar!

From Lucy
Ahhh, MARK - those are absolutely HILARIOUS!!! Laughing like I've been sectioned.

You're like the Spanish version of the british policeman in 'Allo 'Allo, but with more charm and less cape. Good moaning, Mr Burton and I hip you are wall.

Thank you for kickstarting my weekend so hilariously.

Lots of love and closed mouth kisses.

Response: Hey Luci,

Gald to have been of service and kick started your weekend, mine will start in 4 hours. Will be working on my pronunciation with my professor on Tuesday.

Miss you

From Si
Good to see that your posts are getting more regular. U2 sounded cool... I guess its a shame but U2 + there people are still a business deep at heart and thus thats why they havent come sooner.

Keep safe fella
Response: Hey Si,
If I keep them a little shorter it's a bit less of a chore sometimes. I am enjoying your tales of China. Take care and have fun.

Safe travels amigo,

From Little Lisa
Hi Mark

Its been a while since i was in contact for which im sorry about, as ever your site is a great read whilst im sat at work and of course im very jealous of your adventures -time for me to get off my bum and do some more travelling instead of moaning about it!!

In 3 wks im in Florida to meet up with Dave Fouche for his wedding -i cant wait, it'll be mad seeing him after all this time and reliving those shark diving and Sydney drinking days!

Take care my love and i look forward to the next entry

Loadsa Love
Lis xxx
Response: hey lisa,

say hi to David when you see him and wsh him all the best with the wedding. Ask him is he ever got the video footage of the shark trip.

Take care and speak soon

From Nati
Hi Mr Mark
Cool diary and superb pictures. You know what you should do to spicy it up a bit. Even the Luis XIV anecdote would do....

Lots of love, yo
Response: thanks for your inspirational words. will try to spice things up next time.

your lucky this got through the firewall!

From Rebekka
A little delayed, but anyway:
HAPPY birthday!
Still in argentina and working?
Take care, have fun and
again, I will try and write an email soon...:-)
Response: Thanks for the birthday wishes. Hope all is well with you. Not long to go...

Take are

From Russ
Dude, as always very well written and enjoyable to read. Keep well mate oh and you might consider the use a spell-checker....
Response: I have this incredinle ability to just leave words out. When you have read something twenty times your minds just fills in the blanks. It looks like i'm not the only one, Russ!
From Baker
I met Mark on my 3rd day of travelling after 2 months of Spanish school in Guatemala- last March. I feel every bit of pain, sadness, and exuberation that he has so eloquently described in this tome on learning Español. I only wonder why he insists on going on "learning Spanish the hard way" (real estate agents... the homeless??!) and why he has not had the realization that I had 8 months into my trip when I arrived in Panama: The `most effective, most fun, most entertaining, and possibly ONLY way to learn Spanish (or possibly any tongue) is to get a girlfriend (or as I prefer to call them- una noviasita). For a month, a week, or even just a night. What better way to engage in a Romance Language than through pillow talk?!

Don't worry Mark, I´ll see you in BsAs in a month or so- with a little help from a competant Wingman you will be well on your way to full immersion- linguistically I mean of course...
Response: I will be looking forward to it...Mavrick!

Dude, if you can crack the hard nosed Portena's then you are a better man than me!
Just to send you a big kiss!
Response: Why thank you!

Toda Bong?


From Elisa
Hi Mark,
I stumbled across you diaires whilst I was looking for inspiration for my own pages. I'm off to Mexico city in a a few weeks, (well its actually 18 days, yipee) and will be going overland to Costa Rica.
Reading what you got up to really made me laugh in places and take notes too. Lake atalan is now a must do.
Its a shame my ear exploded in Dahab otherwise I would have loved to dive in Honduras + belize, but my local sea life centre's underwater walk through tunnel is as close as I will get. :o(
You had an awesome adventure, I just hope I do to.
Thanks for inspiring me, i was feeling a tad scared, but now I just cnat wait to leave grey London far behind.


Elisa x
Response: Thanks for the mail. I hope you have as much fun in Central America as I did. The best thing about being on the road is that the adventure never stops, and the worst is I never have enough time to write about it! happy travels - buen viaja.
From Rebekka
hey mark
merry xmas to you, wherever you are. where are you? really sorry for not having written to you in such a long time, but being pregnant, working, finding a new apartment a.s.o ist keeping me very busy. hope you're doing fine?
will try and write to you soon.
take care,
Response: Hey everythings cool. Still in Argentina. I managed to find a spot of work and will be staying for a little longer.
From Vixxta
Querido Hemingway

Estoy muy contenta que estas tan feliz en tus viajes.

Me parece fantastico que puedes viajar al otro lado de mundo y todavia es posible comprar vestidos de Gap. Viva la globalizacion!

Escribo en castellano para que el resto de nuestros amigos no tengan celos de que tu hayas recibido un email de mi y ellos no.

Tu sabes quien soy...

un abrazo muy fuerte

Vixen xx

ps. Hola a Esther! Un beso x
Response: Si, yo se quien estas. Que tal?

Gracias por la mensaje. Podes hablar todavia en espanol. Buenisimo. Tal vez, si hablemos en espanol, vas a escribir mas frecuentemente.



ps Beso a Esther tambien
From Gustavo
seguís en Río? Hoy es el cumpleaños de un amigo. Va a haber asado en una quinta (una casa de campo) y después vamos a jugar un partido de futbol. Yo voy a ser el número 8...con la camiseta de Inglaterra!!
Espero que no me peguen demasiado...
Response: me voy a rio en una semana y vuelvo BsAs.

tengo que apprender mas espanol, porque portugese es muy estrano y no entiendo nada!

Te llamo cuando llego


From Camila
Hi baby, very beautiful the photos of Ecuador, when are you coming home ( Bs As)
Response: Hola Camila,

Yo vuelvo a BsAs en dos semanas. Espero que encontramos pronto.

Chau y besos