Back from the Abyss

Well, I know it has been a while since I have written anything here. Goodness knows that there was more than enough things to write about…

* Buying a new laptop and digital camera in one of the cheapest cities in Latin America.
* Making it through the anal-retentive Argentine customs with this new laptop.
* Losing my new Sony Ericsson telephone with my only copy of everyone’s addresses and telephone numbers.
* Getting broadband internet access (from Arnet) from my bedroom here in Corrientes.
* And I am now about to go on a “Survival Camp” or something like that called a “NIKO” from the greek word which means “to overcome”.

So let me treat each of these one at a time…

New Camera and Laptop
You would not believe it. I never intended to go out and be a big spender. It is not like I have a money tree hidden away in a closet that keeps generating more money and the more I prune it the more it produces. Oh that something like this could be true. Nope, that is not my situation. There are savings of course, but every purchase takes me one big step closer to broke.

Now if you do not know the camera story it goes something like this. My original camera, a cute little stick-it-in-your-pocket type of thing that served me oh so well, finally gave up the ghost some time ago. The lens only comes out if you grab hold of it and pull with an alarming amount of strength, and the LCD screen burnt out when I used the thing in a massive downpour that caused local flooding. I guess the water got in even though I was using my hand as a rain-cover.

So with my little camera next to useless (I was still able to take some basic photos with it however) I decided that it was time to get another camera. So that was my reason for going to the Eastern City in Paraguay (Ciudad del Este). I finally found the camera I wanted. Not some small stick-it-in-your-pocket camera either, but a whopping big 12x optical zoom super-duper does it all camera. Not as convenient, but the photos are great.


“And the computer?” I hear you ask. Well, when I saw how cheap they were here compared with even the prices in Australia, I decided that it was time to pick one up. I had collected over 16,000 photos and countless other things too, so a computer would help me to store and sort all of this out. I dug around the shops and found something with a big hard-drive and lots of battery life.

So by the end of my time in the Eastern City I was armed with a very nice laptop computer in a very discreet looking backpack made for the job of carrying it around incognito, and a very awesome camera with a great zoom. The camera is very effective in destroying any form of discretion that I may have gained with the new backpack, its huge lens and large body showing off in my hands as though it should be a professional wielding it. Cool.

Argentine Customs
Now to enter any other country in the world with so much new electronical stuff would not be any sort of problem at all. Not so with Argentina. Still aggressively protective of their heavily taxed electronics industry, they search out offenders and make life extremely difficult or highly expensive for each one found.

So when I entered the country with a brand new laptop, even though I was a traveler (with almost a dozen Argentine customs stamps in my passport already mind you), there was the strong possibility that my life could have been made very miserable by some uncooperative officials. There appears to be a bit of a reputation in this country for this sort of thing happening even to us “gringos”.

Not only did I carry with me my two new highly valued items, but stuffed in through my clothes was also a number of other smaller but equally electronic types of devices. All new. They were things I had bought for other people still back at the base. In some ways I felt like a smuggler, even though I was not in any way. Just the knowledge of possible difficulties put me on edge a little.

Amazingly, when I went through the checkpoint at the border, there was only a quick inspection to view my laptop and I was through. No interrogation, no pulling me aside, no problems whatsoever. I was thrilled, and continued my journey like that all the way back to Corrientes, through seven other equally vigilant checkpoints.

It was only when I arrived at the YWAM base in Corrientes that I discovered that the border crossing that I chose to cross at has a big reputation for being one of the most difficult and troublesome crossings to make with anything electronic. It looks like my guardian angels were working with me that time to get through so effortlessly.

Sleeping On The Job – And Losing Your Phone
The journey back from Paraguay was an exhausting one, and I should never have thought about heading into town that day. But I did, and that is where the trouble started. On the bus into town, a local bus that starts in a rough neighborhood (our neighbourhood actually), I fell asleep.

It was not the first time that I have fallen asleep on this bus before, but it was the first time that I fell asleep with my mobile phone still in my hand. It was not there when I got off, and it was two hours later that I realised it was missing. By this stage the bus had made several rounds of its run back and forth.

After contacting the bus company and checking the bus and asking the bus driver, I still could not find my phone. So I decided to call my number. Surprisingly a man answered the phone, and after a short discussion, agreed to return my phone to me that very day. I was thrilled, and thought about how I could reward him for something so upright as this.

Most other people had told me there was no chance of finding it, but I had found it. How wonderful it was to prove them wrong. But in reality, I should have listened to them. My phone abductor never turned up, and never answered my phone ever again. He is now the proud owner of a very nice telephone, or a happy recipient of the sale of it. All my information is now lost. All of my hopes are all but dashed. My new phone is gone.

And the moral to this story? Do not fall asleep with a telephone in your hand.

Broadband Internet Access in Bed
Only yesterday I was able to get our internet connection up and running. Broadband internet. We now are connected 24/7 to the internet and our costs will end up being a lot less than before. It is a wonderful thing.

Now that I have internet all of the time, I will be more available for MSN Messaging, Skype phone calls, and emails too. Hopefully my updates will also become more consistent too. The best thing is that we can now communicate a lot easier. Very cool indeed.

The Survival Adventure Weekend
Kept in a cloud of secrecy, this weekend is said to be something very amazing and worth doing. So I am doing it. Within hours I will be on the way to some unknown destination with only a toothbrush and sleepingbag, ready to face the dangers that lie ahead. It sounds like fun.

As to what it is, and what we do while on it, even when I return I cannot tell you. Trying to get information out of people that have been through it is almost impossible. It is a code of secrecy. If the people that want to do it actually find out what it is all about, it will not have the desired impact on them. So old participants are sworn to secrecy. I will however share some of my experiences during the whole thing (if I may).

No more for now…
And that my friends is what has been happening here over the last month. Working on websites, fixing up my photos, and sorting out lots of stuff, combined with lack of sleep and low levels of motivation to continue working on the computer after work is over. I am still exhausted, still tired of working on the computer, and still fixing all of those things. It just seemed time to bring you up to date on what was happening.

Regards, Rob.