Saturday, June 25, 2011

Buenos Aires 2009 Part 2 - Tuesday, February 23 and 24, 2009 continued

Dear V,


Well, it was nice to talk to Alberto and Paulina and to give them the presents we had been planning all year to give them. Man Yung gave Alberto some of his calligraphy and a Chinese seal carved with a dragon figure and the words “Recuerdo” in Chinese - Alberto liked these very much because I told him that the calligraphy was describing and dedicated to his tranquil way of dancing.  We gave Paulina a scarf made of felt pieces in the form of tiny leaves in all different kinds of blue, all sewn together - scarves are great fashion accessories.

We didn't want to make our visit too long, as we didn't want Alberto to feel too tired - so it was time to go.  Alberto had a lot scheduled for the afternoon - physiotherapy as well as classes.

Leaving Alberto and Paulina's apartment, we went through the big Abasto mall to get to the other side where all the touristy tango stores were - Man Yung wanted to check out the Artesanal shoe store.  We found it pretty easily (except it was kind of hard to find our way out of Abasto - we went in a big circle because we can’t find the direct route) but Man Yung couldn’t find any shoes he wanted after just a quick look.  There was a big orange long haired cat with amber eyes though dazing on the chairs - and Man Yung woke it up and started playing with it with a piece of string he is carrying with him everywhere just in case he  encountered cats in Buenos Aires.  Fluffy cats with dark yellow eyes ….. Yummy!

We took the taxi to Lacoste on Santa Fe, about two blocks from Callao and Santa Fe.  Time to buy Man Yung’s favourite polo shirts.  They were having a sale so there were quite a lot of fussy people rummaging for deals.  Alas, the classic polo shirts were not on sale (that is because they are “the best” Lacoste products, according to the manager).  The staff actually remembered us from last year and the year before - the manager whom we saw two years ago and who was on vacation when we went last year remembered us too.  They brought us stacks of shirts with all the colors for us to choose from.  Man Yung bought four with what I called “washed out” colours - light blue, white, mauve, and one blue one.  I got a red one and blue one myself, I didn’t bring enough casual shirts this time. 

We walked back to La Madeleine and had our lunch.  I was still not feeling 100% in anything (I had a massive cold just before the trip - and the ordeal with Air Canada did not help any), so I have been really careful about what I eat.  Man Yung had a creamy ham and chicken pasta (Parisienne) baked with cheese and I had empanadas.  The empanadas were not as good as Santa Fe 1234 in that the meat was kind of like pate and there was a tomatoes sour sauce inside.  And they were more burnt.  But it’s food that I can eat that won’t make me sick… yet.  We noticed in both Santa Fe 1234 and La Madeleine that now they have a strap on the back of the seats so that people can secure their handbags and shopping bags.  It’s a good idea… and shows that things are not as safe as last year.

Back at the hotel and they’ve put us in the same lovely room as the one from our first visit, the one with the huge cavernous bathroom and waterfall faucets.  Except when we came back it wasn’t all ready because a maid and Newman from Seinfeld were installing a new tv (awwww…. Just for us).  We had to wait about 20 more minutes before we could go in and relax.

This past year we connected with a well-known, expatriate tango blogger on the internet - N.  Originally we weren't going to stay at the Wilton - N claimed the folklore dancing landlady of these tourist apartments was her really good friend, and she could hook us up.  Well, it turned out to be a bit of a fiasco.  Before we confirmed our booking, we were told there was internet - but then a little later we were told there wasn't any.  Annoying, but not a deal breaker.  We were also promised our own apartment (the landlady owned several), but then suddenly things changed a couple of weeks prior to our departure. We were notified by N that we were going to have to live with the landlady in her own apartment on the ground floor.  It smelled fishy so we asked N to tell us honestly what was going on.  Turned out the landlady found some other tenants who were going to stay longer than we were, so she bumped us out of the apartment we wanted.  Sneaky.

Hmmmmm...what other "surprises" would there be in store for us?  Just as Roberto De Niro's character had said in "Ronin" - "If there is a doubt, there is no doubt."  We just cancelled and looked for alternative accommodation.  I think we incurred around $1,500.00 in extra costs making this arrangement on recommendation and encouragement of N: we booked our flight without booking accommodation on Expedia, so we lost on the few hundred dollars in savings we would have received if we booked the flight with Wilton together.  Then, we were planning to stay 11 days, but we extended our stay by several days more to accommodate the rental period of N's landlady "friend".  Lastly, because we had to cancel so close to our trip due to the dubious last minute switcheroo, we had to book Wilton separately at a higher price for more days than we planned.  Frankly, we would rather pay more than to risk any more funny business from the shady landlady.

Despite the very inauspicious start, we gave N the benefit of the doubt and called her once we arrived in Buenos Aires to arrange to meet.  We got her machine the first time, but now, when we called her again, we reached her.  Her eye has an infection so she didn’t want to meet up just yet.  She sounds much lower pitched than I thought she did from her photos, and she was surprised that I sounded much more British than I look, heh.  We could not make plans with her until she felt better, so we promised to keep in touch over the next few days.

With all that eating and visiting Alberto and moving to the new (old) room there wasn’t much time to rest before having to go to Martha and Manolo’s milonga class at la Escuela's location at Talcuahano and Santa Fe.

We took a quick taxi trip there (taxis are much more easy to flag down this year than before, because people can’t afford taxis anymore, I guess).  This Escuela location is in a practice studio for Valeria Lynch’s show (she was the female lead and singer in the movie Tango Bar with Raul Julia) - the walls were adorned with huge glitzy posters of her mega stage productions.  The Escuela seemed like a complete afterthought - a couple of flyers on a table was all the evidence that there was of the Escuela. We sat down on one of the few couches/chairs in the "waiting area", blown about by the huge whirring standing fans that they had put up to beat the heat.

Some performance tango couple was teaching the class before M&M, and there were lots of students in that particular class, although they weren’t really teaching anything that was useful or practical on the dance floor (back ochos into front sacada - but what for?)  M&M were late almost half an hour, I think some students left, and there were only two other students apart from us who attended the class - one a total beginner.  We were worried about M&M because they are never late.  But this time they were - because they had just finished teaching a Master Class (classes for tango professionals/teachers only!!!) that’s part of a “Master’s festival” (Everyone in Toronto should take these...hint hint) at the Rodriguez Pena location, and that ran late.

So all the better for us!  Because we don’t really want to be working that hard on our vacation.  We thought that we could take it easy - but we should have know better.  M&M are very serious whenever they teach and now with few people in the class their eyes were always on us - no slacking off! We were soon practicing so hard that we were sweating again.


Martha and Manolo's class at Escuela Argentina de Tango - Martha and Manolo are doing a little demo with Manolo's signature corriditas.  The background waterfall noise is actually the noise of all the big electric fans - there was a mini-hurricane in there!


Manolo was so kind to demonstrate the corriditas he and Martha were teaching with me so we could film it clearly and practice when we got home.  The move is amazing...but what is really amazing is my hair!  How did I make it so straight, being so tired and busy on our first day in Buenos Aires?  I can't make it as straight and as glossy as in this video anymore!

We have been taking classes with M&M for three years now and still they have stuff to teach us that we don’t know yet.

After the class we walked (very slowly) together to Santa Fe 1234, which was close by.  Last year M&M weren’t able to eat anything with us because they were on a no salt, no flavour diet.  This year apparently everything was fine so they ordered pizzas with so much cheese that there was more cheese than bread.  Manolo has had a pretty bad bout of bad health, and they didn't tell us because they didn't want to make us worry even though we were constantly emailing each other.  Something was affecting the nerves in his face and head, but after medicine and acupuncture and Chinese medicine from Barrio Chino (Chinatown) he is feeling much better - just has to avoid eating stuff that is too cold or too hot.  Heaping amounts of oily cheese was ok though.  Martha had her beer, Man Yung had pizza and I had some empanadas - and we had a chat about lots of stuff. They are a lot less stressed this time because Martha’s daughter is no longer sick, and because Manolo is feeling better.  He is 77 the end of March, so he is very very old - but still in good spirits and happy to be teaching and living his dream with the love of his life, Martha.

We talked about the Villa Urquiza “phenomenon” which had kind of exploded all over Tango.  Now you were not considered authentic unless you were "Villa Urquiza". They don’t think much of this "phenomenon" at all - people are just making a name for themselves with self promotion, and tagging "Villa Urquiza" onto their resume for marketing purposes.  As for famous “Villa Urquiza Fino” - well, yes, he is a great dancer, but he wasn't from Villa Urquiza - he was from Paternal.  They concluded that the internet is full of lies.

M&M went home and we walked the four blocks back to the hotel to get ready for our rendezvous with Alberto at El Beso at 10 p.m.  We had a little rest before we went - if we didn’t take as much opportunity as possible to rest on our trips to Bs As, we would be dead.  We did way too much already for one day. 

El Beso was super quiet.  Only twenty couples.  LOTS of space to dance, yippee!  Osvaldo Natucci wasn’t the DJ that night, it was “the other guy”.  The music was not thrilling, they only played one tanda of vals all night and that’s when we were walking in.  Alberto and Paulina arrived a little later than we did, and they were hungry so they had empanadas and beer.  Alberto wanted to check out our dancing - he was pleased and generally proud of us.  Paulina said that we were very “harmonious”. But then they concluded our style of dancing was only good for "no pause" music of Troilo, D’Arienzo, Donato etc. (that’s because despite all Alberto’s pains to teach us we still dance “Canyengue” - hee!).  He didn’t like us doing “traspie” to Di Sarli milongas and got up to show us how to dance it properly.  He also demonstrated how to dance to Pugliese, his favourite.  His friend Juan Esquivel from Milonguisimo sat next to him and they were talking about us.  We could hardly recognize Juan because he is usually in a suit and looking like a “President” (we mentioned that when we saw him last year and Jorge Uzunian from the show said, yes, “like President Chavez”). Juan is a very long-winded person.  He is friendly but once he gets started you get a lecture.  Well, I did learn something - about the “three eras of tango music” and how Alberto’s interpretation of Pugliese was correct (well, much better than the other dancers there in any case).  He agreed that Alberto is a very good teacher, I guess we are “living proof” of that (heh, except we dance in everybody elses’ style except his!)

We left a little past midnight, we knew Alberto and Paulina wanted to keep us company but then it was getting late for them. As they drove us home, I asked them who was the person that they mentioned that was sucking the attendance out of Tuesday’s El Beso?  Alberto says that someone (a semi-reknowned tango personality) had a grudge and had been telling the women that El Beso Tuesdays has Milongueros who won’t ask the women to dance.  So the women went away, and then the Milongueros followed.

So that was our busy Tuesday.  The first day and we were just about everywhere, seeing everyone but N.

By the way if you read this email and you see me mention “malingers”, what I really mean is “MILONGUEROS”, but the spell check changes them all to “malingers”, which is really kind of a neat description, don’t you think?

Wednesday to follow.  Reading this is probably taking more time than your full day’s work!

Irene

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Buenos Aires 2009 Part 1 - Monday and Tuesday, February 23 and 24, 2009


Dear V,

So much for Air Canada's “direct flight” - instead of 12 hours it took us 24 hours to reach Buenos Aires.  We arrived at midnight on Monday instead of 2:15 p.m. Monday afternoon.  I was dead tired after the ordeal, even though the flight was much better than any flight I’ve had since I was wearing a pair of “compression socks” ($29.99 at Shopper’s) which made sitting still for 12 hours much more comfortable since my legs were not twitching or getting pins and needles every half hour.  I was able to sleep a few hours on the flight, and the service was exceptionally good on the flight to compensate for the good scare we had with the “attempted” failed flight earlier - ahem!  It seemed that everyone got unlimited wine and beer, so we saw lots of people with incredibly red faces.  Nothing like alcohol-fueled “Dutch courage“, I guess!

Lots of entertainment on the flight - about a million movies or shows to choose from.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to access a map of our flight progress despite all this great new fancy technology, the screen always froze when we tried.  Man Yung watched Godfather II and JVCD (the JeanClaude Van Damme movie).  Godfather II was excellent; JVCD was less so (surprised?).  Even though Man Yung watched without sound (he can’t stand the earphones) he gave me a running commentary of everything that was happening in Godfather II.  There was also the guy in the aisle seat who was trying to talk to everyone.  He spoke Spanish very fluently but with a gringo accent.  He tried to strike up a conversation with us - asked me whether I understood Spanish and I said no ;-).  Then he proceeded to talk to us switching from Spanish to English and back - well, he was one of those who took advantage of the free wine - and it was pretty boring, all about his family and son who married the daughter of a Chinese government official, blah blah blah.  The reason for the strange accent?  He is from Uruguay but lived in Canada for most of his life.  Before the plane landed water from the ceiling started to drip on him.  Pretty scary - and the steward said it was “condensation”.  Man Yung said that this… was definitely not normal.

Since we arrived so late at Ezeiza, it was a pretty fast queue at immigration and customs.  The airport was still full of people roaming around, sitting, waiting, but what for I don‘t know, surely there are no flights this late? (compared with Pearson at midnight, which was like a ghost town).  Big crowd waiting for airport taxi.  The price has gone up again.   2007 - 50 pesos.  Last year 75 pesos.  This year, 98 pesos.  Only one guy working to take the customers to the taxi - usually it‘s one guy per customer. This one was disgruntled and took whole groups of non-English speaking customers all at once - and he spoke no English.  There was a mix up and we followed the guy out to the taxi stand on the advice of the taxi agent at the counter - and he was quite pissed off for some reason trying to sort it out.  He kept on trying to explain to us and complaining, and I had no idea what he was saying, but one of the taxi drivers “volunteered” to take us anyway.  I was glad it was the old taxi driver with missing teeth rather than the young burly taxi driver.  Shouldn’t make a difference anyway but I figured that old toothless taxi drivers are kinder, and if anything should happen my “old husband” can certainly take on an “old taxi driver” better than a young one!

Not much cars on the highway into town.  Well, it was pretty late - past 1 a.m. already.  So it was  fast.  The taxi driver said the prices went up in January but now it is “better security”.  Not sure what that means, bullet proof taxis?  We talked to the taxi driver about where we were from and he was quite determined that the cold weather in Canada would “kill” him.  It’s always good to try to talk to the taxi driver - and give a bigger tip than normal.  They are much nicer to you if you do this.  When we got into town Man Yung noticed that there were less people in the street.  He figured it was because of the economy, but the whole mood on the street is a little “depressed”.  Not that we saw any of the people pushing the big carts of cardboard though like the last couple of times.

We thought we might have trouble checking into the hotel so late but no, since we notified Expedia, Expedia notified the Wilton staff and they had both a bellboy and a counter staff ready.  In fact there was another pair of customers checking in at the same time.  Richard at the counter did a double take when he saw us - he recognized us from the previous stays!  We are easily recognizable for some reason, I wonder why?  He didn’t even ask me for my credit card and passport.  However, we couldn’t get a room on the 2nd floor like we asked - it was a room on the 9th floor instead.  We didn’t unpack a lot, since we were going to be moved the day after to a 2nd floor room.  It has been so inconvenient - first the “free hotel” stay courtesy Air Canada (Delta Airport West) in which we had none of our personal toiletries and no change of clothes, and now the first night as nomads “on the run” to another room. 

After a change of clothes and a quick shower, we went out to eat.  Alas, La Madeleine right on the corner was closing, and we thought it was open 24 hours?  We asked ourselves, was it because of the economy?  We asked the guy cleaning the door at La Madeleine where we could get something to eat and he told us to go down Santa Fe “four blocks”. Since Man Yung loves wandering around any strange city on the first night and has no fear we decided to walk.  It took quite a while and we were questioning whether four blocks was really a euphemism for eight blocks.  Anyway, we were half a block from Av. 9 de Julio when we finally reached “1234 Santa Fe”, a Confiteria which was still open (24 hours).  It has a bit of an old world exterior, and patrons were still lingering outside in the sidewalk tables and inside too.  Soccer was playing on the tv, which was a bonus for Man Yung.  We had to move from one table to another though - they were cleaning the floor with a tidal wave of something that smelt rather harsh.  Not that a table close to the other remaining patrons was any better - the tidal wave was swept our way by a sleepy busboy about ten minutes later.

Only one unsmiling and rather disgruntled “no-nonsense” waiter was serving the whole restaurant.  The kitchen was partially closed so we could only order empanadas or pizzas.  We ordered a whole bunch of empanadas (they were really good, better than La Madeleine) and Man Yung also insisted on getting a pizza.  I had a pepsi and Man Yung had a big Quilmes “Bock” beer - the pizza was a bit heavy though with all that cheese, and Man Yung was not impressed with the sour pickled red pepper garnish, even though otherwise the food was very good.  Man Yung jokingly tried to grab an order of olives on the waiter’s tray - and without responding the waiter just quickly whisked his tray away from the grabbing hands.  We did actually order some  olives anyway and finished that off too.  The waiter didn’t smile at all but after we gave him a big tip he did and was actually very friendly by the time we left.

We walked all the way back to the hotel - almost 4 a.m. when we finally got to bed.  The streets were “deserted” along Santa Fe but there were still some individuals running around alone on some mysterious business.  A lone person waiting for the bus.  Some young girl walking alone on the street.  Flower stalls that were still open with all the lights on but no customers anywhere.  A dog with no collar trotting along like it was normal for a dog to be wandering around by itself at 4 a.m.   Man Yung said definitely the street showed signed of economic troubles being so deserted.  I pointed out it wasn’t exactly normal for the street to have people at 4 a.m. even in Buenos Aires.

We only slept 4 hours, our internal clocks were still wacky and in any case we were probably thinking about the free hotel breakfast.  I was dreaming that I was flying, in any case sleeping like I wasn’t in Buenos Aires yet.  I am kind of depressed this trip.  I felt kind of like this the first afternoon in Buenos Aires last year, but this time the feeling is lasting longer.  It’s like, what am I doing here, so far from home?  I feel like it is the “same old, same old” again - the stress of having to deal with all aspects of travel, having to cope with using another language, trying to accommodate Man Yung’s extravagant wishes and trying to just plain understand what it is that he wants me to do! 

And there’s also the very intense “agenda” that we have to deal with.  We were up at 8 a.m. for our free hotel breakfast.  Breakfast at the Wilton is pretty good - you get cold cuts, fruit (fresh and canned) boiled eggs, juice, tea and coffee, pastries and bread, yogurt, cereal.  I was sending you an email right from the breakfast room about our delayed flight.  By the way, exactly the same staff at the Wilton this year doing exactly the same things.  It’s like we never left.  It’s also like no one ever got a promotion since we started coming here! 

Back in the hotel room, it was time to call everyone.  We immediately made plans to see Martha and Manolo at their classes at the Escuela de Tango Argentino at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Fe and Talcahuano - a new location we haven’t been to before.  Then we called Alberto and made plans to see him at noon at his place.  My brain was working - clack clack clack - trying to see what other activities we could fit in before Alberto and between Alberto and M&M.  We also had to factor in moving from our current room to a second floor room.  Anyway, even though it is a traditional for two years now that we go to Comme Il Faut the first thing after we arrive, I had to SACRIFICE that (boo hoo!) because we weren’t going to have enough time to do that AND go to Lacoste and buy Man Yung’s beloved polo shirts. 

After resting in our room a little bit and then repacking everything back into our suitcases, we set off for Alberto’s.  The taxis are a little easier to flag down this year, and the traffic is not so bad - even the air feels a tad more cleaner than usual.  It seemed that we got to Alberto’s pretty quickly - perhaps because we were now familiar with the route?  He was waiting for us outside his building, on the leafy street right next to Abasto.  Of course he was very happy to see us, and us to see him too.  Paulina had to work in the afternoon but she had time to see us so we all sat down to chat.  We were of course most concerned about what happened to Alberto last summer in Europe.  It is a LONG story - he got very sick on the trip and so sick while he was flying back to Argentina he had to be held and stabilized at the airport in Sao Paolo.  Back in Argentina he was in hospital for a whole month while the doctors tested him every day to find out what was wrong with him.  Lyme disease was just a lucky guess and it happened to be the right diagnoses, so he was taking like a million antibiotics just to get rid of that.  His right leg still doesn’t feel the floor normally, and the right part of his face is still stiff from the neurological effects.  He was most afraid he would not be able to dance again, and he doesn’t dance as much as he used to.  It is the worst thing to happen to a dancer.  But he’s at it again - touring and teaching in Europe in April this year, with plans to teach in San Francisco as well.  Man Yung is always worried about him pushing himself too hard and keeps on saying “Don’t go!” to Alberto.

But Tango keeps him going.

We’re going out right now, I’ll continue this long winded account a little later…

Have a good Wednesday,

Irene

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Innocence

With Martha and Manolo at Sunderland, February 28, 2009
Periodically, Man Yung will ask me: "So, when are you going to write about our trip to Buenos Aires in 2009? Are you ever going to write about it?"

My answer would always be yes....just that I haven't gotten around to it.  2009 became 2010.  2010 became 2011...other posts intervened.  Other trips intervened.  Life intervened...

I wondered what was the real reason for my writer's block.

I recently took another look at the videos and photos and written records we made of that trip.  Amazing stuff!  And I know why I didn't want to write it.

How innocent we were, back then.  And it was merely two years ago! Looking at our fresh smiling faces in all our photographs, I could feel how much more jaded and cynical and snarky we have become since [What? you ask. You weren't jaded and cynical and snarky in 2009?].  Was it Life or was it Tango that did that to us?

No, we are not as we were in 2009.  We've danced with all the milongueros and milongueras we've ever wanted to dance with.  We've gone to all the milongas in Buenos Aires we have ever wanted to go to.  We already have the most wonderful teachers in the world - we wouldn't want to learn from anybody else.  Comme Il Fauts can't get more amazingly gorgeous or interesting, we've seen (and bought) all the pairs that our hearts could possibly desire.  We have even achieved one of the "Holy Grails" of Tango - the opportunity (or opportunities - we have performed several times already, isn't that nuts?) to perform in Buenos Aires - and while it is great, it isn't all that.

I am plagued by the sense that people are tired of reading about what we were up to in Buenos Aires - I could hear them say, "Come on, all you do is eat, dance, hang out with your friends having a great time - isn't there anything new?"

The only thing new,  I guess, is the cynical: some of the people we have encountered in our Tango journey, whom we trusted and considered friends, turned out not to be worthy of either friendship or trust.  Personalities we had admired from afar in Tango have turned out completely unworthy of admiration.

But even that isn't really anything new.


No, there isn't anything new.  I think that's what makes it perfect.  That's what makes Tango perfect - not the new, or the innovative, or the fancy and new-fangled and the exciting.  You don't have to escalate - the basics are your shining treasures.  Tango connects us to our feelings and emotions, our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures, our strengths and vulnerabilities.  Tango is love - and humanity. 

We'd do it - and write about it - all again in a heartbeat.  Despite the ravages of experience, nothing is really old and tired if we can still embrace it with the same innocence. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chinese Fairy Tales

I confess, my Spanish isn't that great.  I can get by ordering in a restaurant and taking a cab and even making small talk - but when someone tells me a story, you might get a blank stare that I'm trying to cover up with a polite smile and a nodding head.  Fortunately, the literary laws of Tango story archetypes means that the plot, the ending and the moral of the story are  all fairly predictable.  The milonguero gets the girl (or not) - and they have a nice tanda (or not) of tango.  It's all good - whether or not it all sinks into my noggin.

Now, I have another confession to make - my Chinese ain't that great either.  I can speak it without an accent but I can't read anything more difficult than a menu.  Man Yung has to backtrack and explain quite a bit when our conversations get serious.  I'm sure that Man Yung thinks that it's like teaching kindergarten to kids...

...And strangely, I do feel like I'm in kindergarten again - listening the stories that Man Yung is telling me about current affairs in China:

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In China, thousands of babies drank baby formula laced with a chemical that made their heads grow five sizes bigger and destroyed their kidneys. The baby formula company could skimp on actual milk by adding this chemical and make more money that way.  Many babies died.

The Chinese Government found some scapegoat underlings at the baby formula company and executed them.  The real culprits - the ones making the business decisions and the corrupt officials who were supposed to be monitoring food safety - naturally got away. The Government also supposedly set up a "compensatory fund" for the victims. None of the victim's families got to see a single penny.  When one of the parents of these unfortunate babies tried to rally the other parents in order to get justice or compensation, the Government arrested him for "inciting a disturbance" and locked him up.

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Once upon a time in China, the police beat up this guy for no reason just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The beating was so bad the guy's doctor said he was going to be impotent for life.  The guy got so mad he rushed into the police station with a knife and stabbed every police he encountered, killing seven.  When the police finally caught him, they put him on trial which lasted like, a day.  And then they executed him.  And the people hailed him a martyr and a hero.

******************
Meanwhile, once upon a time in another part of China another guy set off several homemade bombs at Government buildings around the city, killing some officials.  He had been driven off his land several times by the Government acting in cohort with Development companies - every time he relocated, they relocated him again.  The compensation was not enough, since the officials skimmed money off at every level.  The injustice drove him crazy.  The official report said two bombs went off - but unofficial channels said there were more.

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Once upon in China, prostitution became so prevalent that brothels occupied the area of several football stadiums.  Some men started to think that all women were whores and could be bought with money.  A corrupt government official threw money at a waitress in return for sexual favours - and when she refused to put out, he was outraged.  He beat her and tried to rape her.  She resisted and in the struggle, stabbed the corrupt official to death with a dinner knife.  The Chinese Government arrested her, charged her with murder and sentenced her to death.

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Once upon a time in Chinese Mongolia, big business strip mined the grasslands for coal.  The locals made their livelihood herding sheep and cattle, but the shortest direct path of the coal trucks was right in the middle of the grasslands.  They destroyed the habitat and ran over the herds of livestock with their wheels. The sheep and cattle starved because they could not access the grass.  The locals pleaded with the coal company to take a detour around the grassland and use the paved road, but the company refused to listen because they had the protection of the corrupt government officials and did not need to answer to anybody.


Some of the herdspeople tried to stop the trucks by staging a protest - and the trucks just accelerated right into the protestors, killing a herdsman and dragging his body for miles without stopping.  There was a huge, angry riot. The Chinese Government shut down the internet, and sent in soldiers, guns, tanks and planes.

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Once upon a time in China, some farmers bought seeds that grew into watermelons that burst at the slightest touch, because there was too much growth additive.  Some other farmers bought seeds that grew into watermelons that were harder than stone - you could whack the watermelon with a metal shovel and they wouldn't break.  Yet some other farmers spent their life savings and bought seeds that did not grow into anything at all, because the seeds were fake.

*******************

Once upon a time in China, there was a great Chinese leader who used to study engineering.  He decided that his big project for China would be a huge hydro electric dam - he considered himself an engineer and wanted to leave his mark.  Millions of people were displaced off the land for the project, which would immerse many areas under hundreds of feet of water.  Many wise men and scientists said that the dam would do more harm than good - but the great Chinese leader wouldn't listen.

Finally the dam was built.  The environment was turned upside-down within months.  Some areas drowned in "100 year record rainfall"; other areas turned to dust with "100 year record drought".  You can see the cracked, parched bottom of some of the great Chinese lakes - lakes that used to be so huge you could almost consider them seas.

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Once upon a time in China, a developer backed by the power of the corrupt Government gave an order to expropriate a poor flower farmer's land.  The flower farmer pleaded, please, give me one more month - so I can harvest my growing flowers and recoup my losses at the Chinese New Year flower market.  The developer laughed and ran over the flower fields with his trucks and tractors.

Since the flower farmer still refused to move off his property, the developer made the fatal mistake of going in person to the flower farmer's house to deliver his ultimatum.  The flower farmer stabbed him to death with gardening shears, and then used the same shears to cut off the developer's head.  The flower farmer then threw the developer's head into a plastic bag and brought it to the local police station to turn himself in.  The police were horrified when the severed head rolled out of the bag, but there was nothing they could do to revenge the developer's death - the flower farmer had drank pesticide and died right after delivering his message.

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Once upon a time in Guangzhou in China some government licensing officers beat up a pregnant street vendor for refusing to pay them a bribe.  The street vendor's husband tried to intervene - and the licensing officers punched and kicked him to death.  The locals were so outraged there was a huge riot.  The Chinese Government shut down the internet and sent in soldiers, guns, tanks and planes.

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Once upon a time in China a news program interviewed some kids in kindergarten.  They asked the kids who they wanted to be when they grew up.  Instead of wanting to be teachers, or doctors, some of the kids said very loudly they want to be "Corrupt Government Officials".  Because that's where the money is being made - everyone knows that.

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Once upon a time in China there was a good, uncorrupt government official.  The people loved him for taking a tough stance on corruption and dispensing real justice.

The corrupt government officials would have none of that - and made the police arrest the good official on trumped up charges.  Even before the good official was taken to HQ for questioning, it was reported that he had died a "mysterious" death en route.  He had been beaten to death by the henchmen of his corrupt accusers.  The people found out and became angry and there was a huge riot. The Chinese Government shut down the internet, and sent in soldiers, guns, tanks and planes.

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Once upon a time in China there was a wise village chief who rallied his people to fight against the appropriation of their ancestral lands by greedy developers working with corrupt government officials.  His opposition was ruining everything for the developers and their allies - so it was conveniently arranged for him to be accidentally and tragically run over by a car.  The villagers did not believe it was an accident, and a riot ensued.  The Chinese Government shut down the internet, and sent in soldiers, guns, tanks and planes.

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Once upon a time in China there was a son of a corrupt and powerful official.  He had no fear of the law because of his father's power and influence.  He was driving recklessly one night and ran over a pedestrian.  He got out of the car - and when he discovered that his victim had not died, he knifed him eight times to make sure that he was dead and that there would be no witnesses.  Speeding off, he hit another pedestrian around the corner.

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Once upon a time in China there were grieving parents of the students who died in the Tiananmen Square Massacre.  Another anniversary rolled around - this time the Chinese Government had a different tactic up their sleeve.  The grieving parents - usually sent out of town or put under house arrest during the anniversary of the Massacre so that their voices would be not be heard - suddenly received mysterious phone calls in the night.  This time, instead of threats - the voice on the line offered them money.  "How much do you want to make all this 'go away'?" the voice asked.

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Once upon a time in China there was a corrupt official who was in charge of food safety when the deadly baby formula incident broke out.  He was supposed to get punished, or even fired, but he was considered a staunch party member so of course they just put him in charge of something else.

Unfortunately, they put him in charge of a region that subsequently experienced a very deadly earthquake - even more deadly than usual, since all the schools were built using substandard materials and shaky "tofu" construction in order for the corrupt officials and their developer buddies to skim off more money from their government contracts.  A whole generation of schoolchildren died, crushed to dead under the collapsed school buildings.  How embarrassing for the Chinese Government - and how unlucky for the corrupt official.

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Once upon a time, there was a corrupt government official who amassed such an immense fortune through bribes and corruption, he had to hide his mountainous stash of cash in the fish pond - wrapped in plastic inside a big crate.  In fact, there was more than one corrupt official with lots of hidden cash - luckily, searchers started to get more experience with the hiding areas.  Whenever the Chinese Government was forced to arrest yet another corrupt official who overstepped the limit (what, is there a limit?) they would know where to look for the money. 

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I feel so helpless - it is kindergarten all over again.  And there is nothing cathartic in the telling, listening or re-telling of these fairy tales.   Where are the heroes and heroines, the moral of the story, the happy endings?  Once upon a time in China, there's only greed, corruption, abuse of power, injustice and no morals - and just villains and their victims.   How will all these Chinese Fairy Tales end?  I think it will take Man Yung more than 1001 nights to tell them all, every day they keep on coming...

...That is, until the Chinese Government shuts down the internet - and sends in the soldiers, guns, tanks and planes.

** This "Once upon a time" is not a long time ago - it is NOW, and EVERYWHERE.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Splogged!! (Or Splegged, or Splagged - not sure what the exact terminology is)



Googling our own blog today (yes, we need to get a life), we discovered that we had been splagged - or is it splogged?

We are indeed very ignorant about what this is, so let us describe the scenario: we discovered another blog on Google's blogger which had copied all our posts, word from word, since our first post in 2008 and all the way up to our posts of May, 2011.  Word for word. 

Couldn't fanthom why anyone would want to do that.

Are they doing this to attract traffic to their blog so that they can get money out of this traffic?  How odd - considering around five people read this blog regularly, and over 50% of them are called Irene or Man Yung.

Are they doing this to gain universal adoration? Doubtful - they're more likely to get universal indifference. And then again, there's the fear of accidentally stumbling across examples of Irene and Man Yung dancing - and immediately losing one's lunch.

Maybe it's a plot by the central Chinese Communist government - we haven't exactly been lavishing praises on that particular totalitarian regime.  I mean, didn't the Chinese pirate the Harry Potter sequels within twenty-four hours after publication, by taking "The Hobbit", changing all the names inside and slapping a picture of a guy in glasses waving a wand on the cover?  This is kind of like this, except they've taken all our content and tried to pass it to the general public as a "Tango Blog". Smart!

Well, the flagrant splogging (or splagging) has left us scratching our heads.  Whatever their motivations, we can say this - better to stick to reading the original!  Here, in the one and only "Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog", rest assured - we won't sucker you into clicking onto malware or viruses - who knows about that other site?  The worst you'll find are non-contagious gentle cooties of the tango kind, easily eradicated by thorough hand-washing or a bottle of germ gel!



** Man Yung raised a very good point - could it be that Man Yung has another Tango girlfriend and they are setting up their own blog together using all the content from this blog?  Has anyone seen this lady?  I swear I was keeping my eye on Man Yung all the time - even when I was playing Angry Birds at the milonga.  Mysterious.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thirty-Fifth of May

Goddess of Democracy: a symbol for the struggle for human rights, freedom, justice for the victims of the June 4, 1989 massacre, and of course, democracy in China
You won't be able to find anything on the internet if you are in China using the search phrase "Tiananmen Square Massacre" or even "4th of June" or "89.6.4".

So people have skirted around this by referring to the event as "Thirty-Fifth of May" on their websites. However, the giant Chinese Communist State Censorship Apparatus got wind of that too.

But no matter how hard the Chinese Communist Party tries to suppress, with force or threats or bribery, the people will never forget.  Every year Man Yung remembers, with much sorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Good Job, Mr. Toronto Police Officer!

 Canada Geese

Spring has arrived - which means that flocks of Canada Geese can be found everywhere in Toronto, diligently raising their young hatchlings. So cute! Although much geese poop everywhere.

There's not a lot of wild open spaces here in the city, so the geese have to co-exist with people.  This means that the geese are not only in the parks - they are also in the little patches of grass next to pedestrian walkways, on the walkways themselves, and even on the roads. The geese are often seen crossing the said roads - and sometimes even busy six-lane highways - with all their young following obediently in a row.  Our hearts stop whenever we see this, because it is so dangerous.  Luckily, most cars stop and patiently wait for the whole line to waddle across to safety.

However - and this really PISSES US OFF - some monsters actually accelerate and charge right into the geese flock, INTENT ON RUNNING SOME OF THE BIRDS OVER.  A lot of times they even succeed.

We were taking a stroll in the neighbourhood yesterday evening when we encountered some geese crossing a busy street.  The cars were whizzing by. A few stopped, but one or two did not and verged on geese murder - a few of the geese had to shuffle a little faster to avoid death-by-wheels.

About twenty meters away, a police car was parked - a speed trap.

The police officer saw what was going on with the geese.  He dropped his radar gun, and drove up to the geese line-up with lights flashing.  All traffic had to stop - the police car was right in the middle of the lanes.

When all geese and goslings were safely on the other side, the police officer made a U-Turn - and went back to making his speed trap.  Good job, Mr. Police Officer!

If only Toronto milonga organizers could hire the police to attend the milongas to protect the fragile, nascent, line of dance...we can bet you that Toronto navigation will instantly improve, and no one would need to take a single private class!  Too bad that the policing will cost $65 per hour - at that rate, Toronto milonga entradas will have to skyrocket upwards even faster than Buenos Aires inflation.  Oh well.

Alberto Dassieu

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