jeff´s career break

The Ties That Bind

Written By: jeff

Posted On: May 2nd, 2010

Evita image on Argentinian flag at rally

I am sitting in my apartment chilling after spending the last couple of days walking around the city taking photos.  And still, I have a couple of neighborhoods to explore for pics.  Today is a national holiday commemorating the Falklands War.  I think I speak for most Americans when I say that this war was a brief speck on our radar in 1982 and then quickly forgotten.  To quickly recap – on April 2, 1982, the military junta ruling Argentina invaded the Falklands (aka Islas Malvinas in Argentina).  After about 2 months and 1000 casualties on both sides (mostly Argentinean), Britain retook the Falklands.  While the junta did not last, the war ignited a nationalistic passion about the islands that still resonates today. The combination of it being an election year in Argentina and the 25th anniversary have combined to make this topic at the top of the news here.  While I don’t really care one way or the other who controls the Falklands, today’s anniversary has been emblematic for me of the week I’ve had.  Personal and political events that I’ve witnessed have all focused on past connections that are shaping the present for me or for those around me.

Career break in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Placards of protesters

This all started last Saturday when I attended the march to commemorate the 30,000 people detained or killed by the military junta that reigned from 1976 to 1983.  I’m still not sure how many people were at the march.  But, the country stopped for a day to commemorate this event.  It was an awesome (as an awe inspiring, not as in totally) event to witness.  There were people remembering sons, daughters, fathers. mothers, grandkids who were taken by the government and killed.  These people are know as the “desaparecidos” or “those that disappeared.”

Placards of protesters

There were placards with these people’s pictures and notes expressing the sentiment that they are not forgotten, the families want justice for them and “Nunca Mas”, or “never again” will this happen.  Argentina has started the process of prosecuting those that were in power at the time and prosecuted what is known as “The Dirty War.” But, one of the key witnesses, Juan Lopez, himself has disappeared.  So, there were calls by the marchers “Donde esta Julio Lopez” or “Where is Julio Lopez?”  Politically, the government is scrambling to show its solidarity with those who suffered indicating that it is working to find those responsible for his disappearance and reassure the populace that the junta is not coming back.  As the election nears, there will likely be more in the local press about Julio Lopez and the legacy of the “desaparecidos.”

On a lighter note, in the middle of the week, I made contact with another former exchange student from Argentina who lived in the same town I did in South Africa.  Gustavo was in Vanderbijlpark about 4 or 5 years before me.  So, hopefully this week, we can meet up.  I’m a big networker and love meeting new people.  Some of my closest friends have come from “friend jumping.”  It’s always good to meet new people.  And, in this case, we already have so much, and so many people, in common.

Thursday night I finally launched the site.  I think I emailed 250-300 people.  I got several emails back with a lot of positive feedback.  Thanks to everyone for checking in and checking out the site.  Many of you I haven’t talked to in years.  So, glad we’re getting reconnected.  As of this writing, there have been 507 hits to the site.  About 100 of those don’t count – they occurred during the development of the site. But, looks like most people went to have a look or two.  I still am having problems with my address book. I am spending way too many hours reconciling my Palm with my Mac with my Hotmail.  And, I still think I am missing info.  So, please pass along the site to others.  Maybe over the next couple of years, the site will get out to all the people it’s supposed to.

On Friday, I met up with the local Georgetown alumni club to watch the Hoyas take on Ohio State in the Final Four.  A couple of quick points.  First, if you want to know what a hoya is, click here for the explanation.  Second, b-ball at Georgetown is a matter of pride.  And, since we haven’t had a good team in some time, we were all ecstatic to our our Hoyas advance so far this year – especially after a less than stellar early season.  We met up at a place called Shoeless Joe’s Alamo.  This place is a sports bar where you can see many American sports.  It is SO American.  Even the menu screams American bar food.  And, for you Hoyas out there, it’s kind of a mix of The Tombs, Third Edition and the Pub (old school Pub, not like it is now).  There were tons of Hoyas there, both current and alums.  I even met a classmate – same class, both School of Foreign Service (SFS) and we didn’t have a clue who each other was.  But, we did discover one friend we had in common.  Unfortunately, the Hoyas lost (so GO Florida!  Beat Ohio State!).  But, it was great getting together with folks that share the same common touchstone.  Hopefully there will be more Hoya events when I get back here later this year.  By the way, the drink of the night was beer, which I rarely have.  The local brew is Quilmes.  Not bad, but I’ll be sticking to my red wine.  I’ll try to get a couple of pics to upload.  I forgot to take my camera.

Malvinas Memorial

Malvinas Memorial

Finally, today was the anniversary of the Falklands War.  After spending all day snapping photos, I came upon the memorial site to the war.  I noticed that it had a lot of activity yesterday already.  But, today, it was packed with people.  The memorial looks a lot like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.  The local press was there to cover the event.  There were speeches and chants that were very jingoistic in tone.  I didn’t understand it all.  But, these people believe fervently that the Falklands should be part of Argentina on principle alone.

One of the chants was “Malvines Argentinas, Ahora y Siempre” or roughly, “The Falklands are Argentine, always and forever.”  At the end the group burned the flags of the UK and the US.  What we Americans have to do with this, I have no idea.  But, I think it’s a rule somewhere that if you’re going to burn a flag in effigy, you have to include a US flag, just because.  I couldn’t even get upset because the organizers couldn’t even get the effigy lit correctly.  After lighting the flags, the flames went out.  So, they had to douse the flags again with lighter fluid to get them to burn.

Burning of the Union Jack

Burning of the Union Jack

Now, I don’t really like the fact that the flags were burned.  But, I really can’t stand incompetence.  This is supposed to be your big moment where you really make a firm stand – “We don’t like the Brits.  We don’t like the Americans.”  And, you are expressing this sentiment with one of the most inflammatory (no pun intended) actions you can take – burning a flag in effigy.  Add to that, you have the national press there cameras rolling.  And, you can’t get the flags lit right?  The fire goes out. This was “GO Time.” I really couldn’t help but laugh (of course, to myself.  This crowd was highly emotional).  Then there was the guy wearing a Dallas Cowboys cap cheering on the burning and chanting with the crowd fervently.  The crowd was actually fairly tranquil reflecting the gravity of the event.  These people were not about to start rioting or attacking the foreigners in their midst.  People were here largely to remember fallen soldiers and countrymen.  But, the event struck me as profound for this reason.  While Argentina is not likely to invade the Falklands again, the country is looking for its place in the world, looking to restore its pride after the disastrous 2001 economic crisis.  Frankly, I think there’s a lot going on here that the Argentines can be proud of.  But, extreme nationalism can cause countries to do peculiar things.  And, it will be interesting to see if the fervor dies down after the election or if this continues and grows.  The Argentine government has started discussions with the UN to raise the issue through diplomatic channels.  We may hear more about the Malvinas/Falklands as time goes on.

This week, the past has definitely been prologue on several fronts.  We’ll see how it affects my future going forward.

Originally published on Monday, April 2, 2007

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One Response to “The Ties That Bind”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Jung. Jeff Jung said: From Jeff's #careerbreak #travel blog: The Ties That Bind #rtw #rtwnow #rtwsoon [...]

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