From Libertado San Martin, Entre Rios, Argentina

March 16, 2010

Greetings from Ed and Edith

We arrived here on February 27th at Libertador San Martin to visit our radio friend Mario and

family. Mario's English is superb and he had a bungalow lined up for us to stay that is next door

and he had dental appointments set up for Edith and I, more on that later. Mario works for the

city and Ana works at the bus station as an information officer. There daugher Ivana is studying

to be a dentist and is in her third year. They have a son Alex who I believe will soon be a teen ager.

Mario also fixes wash machines because with the daughter is dental school money is tight.

Well yesterday I finally got the problem of the Travelogues not going out solved and have devised

a method where by I can determine the travelogue really went out. I will send another travelogue

from Costa Rica before we leave for South Dakota. Thanks again to Bill N0ARU of Mitchell who was

the one who tipped me off about the travelogue problem.

One of the things we wanted to accomplish on this trip was to get our dental work done here in

Libertador San Martin which was completed yesterday. We had a lot of work done with 4 root

canals, a bridge of 5 teeth. 4 crowns and some fillings for Edith and I. According to a quote I got

about a year ago in Salem the saving was very substantial costing 38% of what it would have there.

I suppose there may of been some price increase in the last year which would make the saving

greater. Anyway the savings more than paid for our airplane tickets down and back.

The dentist office is very modern and the work is very good. There is only one "catch" and that it is

99.9% Spanish. Our friend Mario was there the first night and helped with the Spanish to English

but since then we have been on our own. I had my work done on March 2 and 3 and Edith had hers

on March 3rd and then the following Wednesday, March 10th. We then had to wait until March 15th

for the bridge and crowns to be made from the impressions. We are going to be sure everything

is fine with the teeth tomorrow and then leave on Wedesday. We will take about 3 days to get to

Santiago Chile and have two extra days in case of a missed connection, etc. We will fly to San

Jose, Costa Rica the morning of March 22nd and arrive at around 3:30 pm.

Liberador San Martin is a Seventh Day Aventist town with a very good college and hospital. There

Saboth is sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night. The town has about 7000 people and when

the students are here that adds about 3000 for a total of 10000. We were here in 2007 while my

broken leg and ankle healed up. This time we are able to see the town and I walk a special trail

they have south along the highway that is 4000 meters long. It is about 2000 meters from our

bungalow so it amounts to about 3.6 miles and we usually walk a couple of other places so it

totals about 4 miles a day.

Fall will start here on March 21st. A few days have been in the 90's and a few nights have

stayed warmer than we like but a number of days have been in the 80's and a few nights have

been nice and cool. The past Sunday we visited the local Museum as Mario and Ana cleaned it. It

is the home of the first doctor here that started the hospital. It was quite interesting with

a description of everything in Spanish. Mario and Anna showed and explained several special

things. I can read quite a bit of Spanish which helped. Back to the seasons Mario says it was colder when

he was young and quite often they got frost but it basically never snows here. For the last 20

years it has gotten more tropical and it does not freeze so the trees don't lose there leaves

and things grow the year around. Mario typically starts a fall garden when it cools down more.

The had a drought in 2007-2009 but 2010 has been to wet. The big crop here is soybeans. This

is big time farming country and looks like SD, IA or Minnesota with it being flat or rolling

hills. There is some real big machinery and there is a Rural Ag channel on TV and things are

very progressive. They have credit and lots of test plots and things are very progressive.

There biggest challenge is government taxes and of course the weather.

For a rural area there seems to be more problems with crime than in the midwest in the USA. It is

better here because most people here are Christians. People in town seem to all have walls and

fences for security. Mario says it is for security as they were not here 30 years ago. In a lot

of areas in South and Central America we have been I think it is more of a cultural thing for privacy as much as security.

We were able to go to church on two Saturdays and the services are just like in Salem except

of course it all is in Spanish. Our Spanish is a lot better than it was but it is a challenge. For me the

hardest is understanding people. There is a vast difference in what it sounds like when people

speak rapidly rather than at a reasonable speed. I don't know if I will ever be able to under

stand the real rapid Spanish. It is like two different languages. The "Castellano" Spanish

I feel I can eventually understand quite well. Of course each country and even area uses some

different words and pronunciations so one always is going to have trouble when going from one

area to another. Of course there are lots of differences in accents as well and a lot of slang

just like English. I know somewhere around 1700 words of Spanish but I am convinced in reality

the one needs to know about 3000=4000 words to really carry on a conversation and understand what

is being spoken. Reading and speaking is tricky because verbs are so much difference than in

English and the structure often is reverse to what we are used to. A simple example is agua frio

which is water cold. That is not a problem but when you have a total sentence structure that

way it is a long ways from a word for word translation!!! The other problem is lack of instant

recognition which is always a problem with any language but with the rapid speaking if you don't

have instant recall you just don't get it. There are basically only a handful of people who

can speak English here. There are a lot than can speak German. The bottom line is every where

you go you have to be able to speak and understand Spanish or resort to other means of

communication such as sign language.

The cost of living here is quite low which is fortunate as a lot of people do not make a lot

of money. Inflation is a constant problem for people here and the governments here seem to

alway be corrupt and the taxes are high. We rent a three room bugalow with a kitchen for about

$30 a day. Groceries, especially fruit and vegatable are very reasonable and meat prices have

went up but in comparison to Salem are much cheaper but there is not nearly the selection. One

thing that is really nice is the grocery store has bulk items of about everything you can imagine.

There must be 50 items of cereals, nuts, trail mix, dates, all sorts of seeds and the list goes

on and on. You name it and it is there. Things seem high priced as they are sold by the kilogram which

is approximately 2.2 pounds so you see a price of about 7.50 for peaches which seems like $7.50

but of course it is not. First for rough figuring you can cut that price in half to get to a little

more than a pound so no you are at $3.25 and then a US dollar is worth about 3.85 peso's so

again for rough figuring you can divide by 4 so that gives you about 81 cents. Of course over time

you grasp what is a reasonable price per kilo but for awhile you need to make the conversion.

Everything is metric and the temperature is Celcius. Measurment is in meters and of course

a lot of times things are in centimeters or millimeters which is easy once you can conceptualize

it in your head as to how long they are. Of course liters and milliliters are very common in the

USA so that is easy. Gas and diesel, etc. are sold by the liter. Construction things and

material are sold by the square meter which is not a lot bigger than a square yard if you are

not familiar with that.

One we notice here and in SA which I think they have even a greater problem than we do is with

the consumption of soft drinks! However you don't see very many over-weight people but this may

change. People are active here and I am sure on average do a lot more walking and exercise.

There are a lot of good cars here but there are also a lot of junkers and way, way more motor bikes but

of course they make a lot more sense here as you can ride them the year around where is SD it is

only about 5 months. For travel to the nearest big towns buses are used. There are at least 10 buses and more like 15 a day

that stop at the bus station. The cost is very reasonable. Mario has an older F-150 that he

tries not to use much. He had to get two new tires as the old ones were about 15 years old. The

new tires cost 800 peso's of which a lot of it is tax. The tax is built in the price here. It

is basically 3.8 peso's per $1.00 US. As you can see the price of a tire is horrible here. I

seen a used car for $9000 that should sell for half of that or less in the USA so some things

are much more reasonable here and some things are very high priced; especially since the

wages are nearly always less. There are some people who live here that have lots of money and

have very nice houses. Because of two very bad economic crises here and horrible inflation a couple

of times people who had money lost it all so those who have kept there wealth had to really

be wise and very much on top of things. I don't know for sure but I think one way they maintained

there wealth was through ownership of assets like land and other things that worked with the

inflation so they kept there money together.

As we see all over Mexico, Central America and SA they really struggle with there infastructure

and in a large sense it has deteriated horribly and it is hard to imagine where the money will

ever be found to really significantly rebuild it. If there is a lesson to be learned here it

to not live off the deteriation of your infastructure because once it deteriates badly it seems

like it is ever going to be possible to have the money to rebuilt it.

One thing all over Mexico, Central and SA is the siesta time. We really have noticed it in SA

this trip. Basically everything closes from about 12:30 to 3:30 but it varies and is usually

posted on the door. It can be as late as 5 pm. They then open up again and that varies but

8 pm is a common time for closing. One thing that this causes is that people have a light, late noon meal

and a very late supper. The siesta is a passion as we see many cars parked along the streets and along

the highway in the shade sleeping during this time. They often are on a bench and I even have seen a couple

of hammocks hung between two trees which after the siesta thay pack up in the car and keep on

traveling. The closing is almost universal, I would say at least 95% here in San Martin. In some

cases with the Saboth things close at sunset on FridaY night and do not open until Monday morning

although quite a number of places are open on Sunday here. On Saturday virtually everything

is closed and everyone is home other than a few young people, ie boy and girl friends.

This morning in getting organized to travel to Santiago, Chile we discovered that our Costa Rica

money was not to be found. We finally figured out we had put it in the binocular case which was

in the red bag that was stolen so we can add about $700 to our loss. The lesson to be learned

here is to keep all cash, credit cards, ATM cards, passport, yellow health card and things of

that nature in a body pouch, money belt or your shoe. We have always done a good job in regards to

this but from now on it will be an absolute rule!!!

One thing we are looking into is a back pack that has wire mesh so it can not be cut and that

can be locked closed with a combination pad lock and has a steel cable that is a part of the

lock that you can put around a pipe in your room or the luggage rack in a bus so some one can

not run off with it. We have been and from now on we will take our bags with us off the bus unless

we can get one like I have discribed. our experience has been that things are not very dangerous

where we have traveled as long as you use common sense and check with the locals where not to go

but there definitely can be a problem with opportunity theft. Armed robbery can happen but

we have not found anyone who has been a victim of that but we have talked to several who have

been victims of opportunity theft. Is it worse here than in the US? If it is, it certainly

is not much worse. Given how poor a lot of people are I can see where there would be a huge

temptation. On the other hand we have had several back packers tell us of leaving a camera or

cell phone at say a cafe, etc. and going back an hour later and the store has it.

We can say in southern Chile and Argentina, Australia and New Zealand and in most places

in the USA the people are extremely honest and you could leave a bag unattended and it is very

likely will not be stolen. We have been told the same is true in western Europe. In the bigger

towns in other places in SA and Central America the chances of it being stolen are much greater. I think one thing that

holds this down in the USA is the airport security and the fact that there is little travel by

bus. We know one has to hold on to things in a lot of places in Africa and Asia but again all we

know of are opportunity theft. I have read of accounts of a team effort of people running a

business with tipping off others of things that can be stolen but we have not talked to anyone

personally that have had this happen.

We have traveled for 10 years and many of these places are reported as not being safe an but in our

opinion there is not a problem with safety as long as you use common sense. We have been robbed

twice, once in Tucson AZ and this time in the Arica, Chile bus station. In Tucson the F-350 was broken into

by punching out the lock where the key goes and using a wire and someone slipped away with our

bag while we were distracted filling out immigration papers. The stolen bag was right beside

our feet but it was the one the fartherest away. As I have said you need to put you foot through a

strap or tie them together, etc. so they can not be slipped away without you noticing it. It is not at all uncommon for someone to be very

nice or use all sort of distraction techniques while someone else takes something from you. They

can often be mothers and children so you need to always hold on to you stuff. Another valuable

tip is to have a zipper and velcro flap on a pocket to protect against pick pockets and distraction.

The bugs and mosquitoes have been fairly bad here! Not nearly as bad as South Dakota but some of

the worst we have run into in our travels other than northern Canada and Alaska. I would say

Alaska was about like SD but northern Canada was very, very, very bad in the summer!!!

We just can not resist talking about cell phones. People seem to have an obcesson with them and

they may not have enough money to keep food oh the table but they all seem to have a cell phone. Here

as in most parts of the world you only get charged when you make a call and not when you get

a call. The USA companies pulled a faST ONE ON US here. The other thing is in grass huts in

Africa and Asia, shacks in South America and all over the world no matter how poor people are they seem to have a color TV.

I was talking to a ham radio operator in Panama yesterday and he said he had to leave to answer

the door. A while later he came back and said it was the Indians from down the road who are

terrible poor but they stop by quite often to ask to use his plug in so they can charge their

cell phone. Yesterday they had an electic clippers they wanted to plug in so they could give

each other some hair cuts. People in SA do a lot of texting to save money.

More another time! We should be in Sioux Falls the afternoon of March 31st. I know there are

a few mispelled words and grammar errors but my spell check is not working and I of course

make some typo's so you get what you get!

Don't forget to check and scroll down to the 2010 trip for some great pictures of

the trip through Uruguay as well as a lot of written information.

Ed and Edith