Saturday, March 29, 2008

An e-mail fom my Dad.

Hey guys,

This is a note of response to Austin’s concerned email which is copied below. I am sending this to you three and a small circle of family and friends who I think might enjoy hearing something from us in Argentina.

Yes Austin, the news question you noted a couple of weeks ago was a story about the start of the highway blockades by Argentine farm groups. It has been interesting to follow the issue. Today’s paper notes that the blockades will lift in preparation for talks between farm groups and the government starting Monday. There was one large demonstration in BA which contained a couple of fist fights but for the most part Buenos Aires demonstrations have been peaceful.

On Tuesday night, after a televised speech by the Argentine President, Christina Kirchner, we witnessed a uniquely Argentinean phenomena. People were out on their apartment balconies and front steps with a ladle and sauce pan in hand banging in protest or dissatisfaction of the current situation. We were in an upper class neighborhood of BA but you could tell from the volume that literally thousands of people were joined in the protest. Whole neighborhoods were outside talking to one another. The last time Argentineans protested like this it led to an overthrow of the governing leader. A was a rather moving display of civil disobedience and peaceful civil protest.

The AR President tried this week to deflect the political pressure back onto the farmers by saying that her government would not negotiate with “a gun held to their head”. She took the risk of channeling city dwellers dissatisfied feelings about rising food prices into political pressure on the four major farm groups. Some commodities like milk and eggs have doubled in price since early March. There have been some reported meat shortages in grocery stores but I have not been able to see evidence of that. It also seems nearly all restaurants have adequate meat supplies. The city population seems to be evenly split as supporters or non-supporters of the farm communities issues.

I will be meeting with one of the largest farmer/ranchers in Argentina next week. He has a wing of his family which emigrated to ND when his father emigrated to Argentina. It will be interesting to hear the view from the farm side. My impression is that they have a pretty good life here in AR. This is probably due to some very productive soils and access first world agricultural technology. At the heart of this unrest is a surprise announcement that Argentina was imposing an Federal export tax on the export of soybeans. The announced beneficiary being Argentine social welfare programs. They are collecting about 45% of a bushel’s value at current prices and, on a graduated scale, the tax rises to 95% of a bushel’s value at soybean bean values of $600/mt and higher as was seen earlier this winter. The farm groups call this confiscatory and I think they are right.

I noticed that a couple of the international grain companies had to call into effect what is called a “Force Majer” clause in international grain contracts. It allows some delay in delivery and substituting of a grain shipments point of origin. With Argentina being such an important export country this probably had a large ripple effect on world markets last week. To invoke the force majer is an unsettling situation for already volatile worldwide grain market. World prices are at record levels and farmers who take the production risk to should have access to markets to capture their profits. No mater what flag they farm under. Markets can and do work well. As the old saying from Macro Economics 101 says “Nothing cures low prices or high prices like… low prices and high prices”.

As I said to you guys over the dinner table many times, food production and distribution is a very dangerous business in this world. Surpluses and shortages send people to the streets, topple governments, prompt people to war, and worst of all….kill innocents. Unfortunately, we in America are often shielded from this fact. We are spending way more on our dog food than most of the world has for human foods. We have this unique luxury in the First-World economies. The last 16 months of travel have changed our perceptions and solidified our convictions in many ways. We are so thankful that we are Americans but also more aware of the responsibility which that brings.

We have been completely safe during this period. We know better than to venture into a protesting crowd. We are, after all, guests here in Argentina. Know that if we ever felt our personal security was at risk we would take steps to move on. Don’t forget that your Mom & Dad have spent lots of time in Cuba. As economies on the edge go, Cuba is way more volatile than Argentina. It would take several days or weeks to empty the pipeline of foodstuffs here. Whereas in Cuba the margin between OK and a very bad food shortage (and the ensuing rioting) is hours or days. Their pipeline is less adequate and poorly stocked. You need not worry about us.

Enough rambling from here AND you boys need to get back to your college studies;) Hey Austin, by my calculations your email was sent at 4:30 am in England. Did I misread the time stamp or are you having trouble adjusting to the time change there at Oxford?

Love,
Dad
(Brad to my friends looking in on this email)

From: austin fay [mailto:a_fay21@yahoo.com] Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2008 6:23 AMTo: lisaSubject: be safe

farmers rioting in the street? be safe. have you seen anything? i suppose dad would be very interested in the motives behind it. probably right up his alley. i also didn't know argentina had a woman president...

be careful,

-austin

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dr. Chapman's Lectures.

I'm taking courses from a very well-renowned Oxford professor, Dr. Alan Chapman. 1-4 lectures per day. Here are a few:
The World in 1450- Basically, preconditioning us to abandon any notion that the Middle Ages were backward as well as a crash-course in Constantinoplian (?) history.
Italy as an Incredible Power During the Renaissance- outlined the conditions for the Renaissance. Overall, an incredibly Libertarian Ethic towards the accumulation of knowledge. Spoke about the importance of the powerful Italian family the Medicis and how they contributed to the proliferation of high arts in Florence, the (generally speaking) center of the Renaissance. Other things of course, like medieval science and navigational techniques (he's fashioned some ancient ones by hand), the Tudors, History of England, that sort of thing. Very interesting, but exhausting. Information overload sometimes, no doubt. His mind is a steel trap, and while I'm here I'm going to try and get as much information as I can from him.

From the Hand-written Journal.

3/15/08
Drinking cappucino in the Maison Blanc on a rainy Sunday morning with Cassandra. Had some wine last night in my room with friends and went to The King's Arms, a popular local pub. Matt (a classmate and good friend) had Hoefgaarden, or something like that. It was a really spiced up Belgian lager with lots of clove flavor.
3/18/08
Went to London last night. It took a while to get on the road because one girl was lagging behind. I don't really like to travel in big groups because people lag behind and you also appear more inapproachable to the locals. I'm also more apt to be more shy and timid about interacting with the locals. Went to Waxy O'Connors, a massive multi-level Irish pub in downtown London. There was a tree growing out of the middle of the pub. Really fun, though. Drank some Guinness, had good fun with friends, met a lot of Irish people. One named Donald. About as Irish as you can get. Later he was dancing around with a metal pot on his head and throwing empty glasses against the wall. Then, we danced in the street with three really beautiful Irish girls. Matt got in touch with his Irish roots when we were singing,
"Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall,
Shoulder, to shoulder,
We'll answer Ireland's call!"
Really simple but we sang that verse 100 times in the streets of London. With an Irish accent.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Correspondence.

This is a copy of correspondence with my mom's brother, Brian. It's got some information and whatelse in it so i thought it would be useful.

Hey Uncle Bro!


yeah things are awesome. i'm going to be here in Oxford for the next five weeks. (minus the one week in barcelona) then, three weeks touring continental Europe. Paris, Rome, Prague, Florence, Rhotenburg, and Amsterdam. We take the Euro rail around; should be fun, there's a group of about 20 from MSUM and we have classes 6 days a week. Then, after the tour of europe, my classmates are leaving from amsterdam to go back to the states while i stay behind. hoping to make my way southwest to spain. or maybe italy, depending on how much i like florence.

you're thinking of taking a trip to europe, that's awesome. as far as having guests while i'm in wycliffe hall, no. my quarters are pretty small but i have only about 4 hours of class per day so i have a lot of free time to explore and go to pubs. but after the program is over (which is may 8th), i'll be roaming, staying in hostels, camping. so that would be a really good time to make a trip if you were thinking of it. marcus and i were talking about him maybe coming to visit, too so we could definitely make something work. My return flight from amsterdam is on july 22nd so i have to make my money last that long.

speak to you soon.

-austin

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wycliffe Hall @ Oxford University.

Wycliffe is a very old building. It's an Oxford Christian theology school and I'm staying in somebody else's room right now, he left all his books about martyrs and prophets and books about the individual books of the bible in my room. It's about the size of a monk's quarters.
http://www.wycliffehall.org.uk/index.asp?id=1
Went to an Anglican palm sunday church service this morning. Very beautiful old gothic architecture and there were people buried in the floor of Christ's Church. That was the name of it.
Heading to London tomorrow after classes. We're going to take the bus there and celebrate st. paddy's with some guinness and killian's probably. Then, on Wednesday we go to Barcelona for 6 days. Can't wait to be on some Spanish beaches. Also, every stereotype about England is true so far. It's cool and dank and haven't seen the sun yet, but Oxford is a town of academics so there are 43 colleges in all of Oxford. It's not exactly set up like American Universities, there are builidings and faculty members all around. It's as if the school is the town.
Went for a run tonight as well, got lost about five times! It's a really good way to explore the city landscape and get the layout of the town in my head. Spotted a second-hand bike workshop and I think if I have time on Tuesday I'm going to scope out the possibility of being hooked up with something to ride around on. If there are any good touring frames I may see what I can do to getting towards making it my primary form of transportation when the rest of the group leaves. Looking forward to doing more walkabouts in other great European cities.
Time to get some rest, my legs are sore.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Night before I leave for Gatwick International Airport, London, England. I'm writing letters and watching videos about Barcelona on geobeats.com. Probably won't sleep well tonight, sometimes on nights before I go on a trip I lay in bed for a few hours. Next post will be in England, probably at Wycliffe Hall @ Oxford University.
I'll let you know how everything is going once I get there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

March 6th

The streets look hard and grey today. No sun, but a high ceiling, with a slight breeze. Got cold tonight, too. Minus 19.
I wanted this to be an introspective journal/blog as well as a rather introspective summer, too, what with my family dispersed and roots pulled up. I sit down at my computer to write and I think to myself, "show, don't tell what my days are". Relay/transcribe/show/point/incur/give my experiences as best I can through words.
My dad called yesterday from Mexico City. They're on their way to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It becomes more of an example of how tangible and interactive the rest of the world is because them buying tickets and traveling to Argentina started from snippets and opinions they have collected living abroad. My dad says all the beautiful women he's spoken to since he left home were Argentine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Bismarck for a few days.

Spending some good time back at home with Grandpa and Eilene for three days. It's going to be the last time I see them in a while. Grandpa's doing better, which is good to see. He wasn't doing too well these past few weeks. They've been keeping me full since I got here. Enormous peach muffins, a banana, coffee, milk, a bowl of cereal and toast with Brummel and Brown butter all for breakfast. Eilene thinks I have a bottomless stomach. Good home cooking though. It's really nice not to cook for myself. Plus, I wouldn't get my yearly fill of butter if I didn't go and eat at Eilene and Grandpa's!

Going off guerrilla traveling techniques my dad taught me right now. Stepped into a new Sheraton hotel in Bismarck and gained the wireless network access key and I'm typing in the lobby of the hotel.

To those of you to the East:
I'm going to try and make it to the cities before I go... not making any promises right now though.

Hemingway's House

Hemingway's House
In Havana, Cuba.