Make your own free website on Tripod.com
(posted May, 2003)
 
RECLAIMING LIFE
BY SANDRA
 
This is basically what it is, what i am all about: to take my life into my, our lives into our own hands. To go for whatever we feel like going for, even if this means to break with our past lives or parts of society.
For me, reclaiming life has meant to leave pretty much everything behind and to go travelling for an undefined length of time, which turned out to be 4 months.
During these 4 months of homeless travelling (i learned a fucking lot ­ about myself, about other people... about life... and i wouldn´t want to miss a single day of it ­ not even the times when i felt so miserable i could (or would) have cried for whatever reasons, because they´re just another part of the puzzle of who and where i am now (and yes, getting pathetic still rocks my world at times!).
Reclaiming life to me STILL means going wherever i feel like going and doing whatever i feel like doing whenever i feel like it (as long as i don´t effect others negatively).
And it also means NOT accepting the "fact" that "things are just like that" because i KNOW that another world is possible, because i EXPERIENCED that another world is possible. Because i know there are so many other people striving for the same freedom, the same things, not just theoretically but practically. People in other parts of the world that amazed me so much by doing similar things in such different surroundings, with totally different backgrounds, using other means and tools at times ­ but in the end fighting for the same goal: taking back our lives. Feel free to join us... 
 
 
The general situation of the people of Argentina:
19 million (53% of the population) are considered poor
of these, 8,7 million are "indigentes", meaning they don´t even have enough money to eat sufficiently
each year brings about 6.156 new poor people
from all the children, 70,3% are considered poor
unemployment rate is at 21,5%
wages decreased 25% (since january I guess)
of those who still have work, 4 million earn less than 400 pesos (about 120 ?) a month
prices have gone up drastically since january: rice: 109,3% * flour: 167,15% * meat: 73,87% * vegetable oil: 152% * sugar: 62,3% [oil, rice, pasta and flour for example are the same prices as in cheaper supermarkets in germoney now!]
through the privatisation of water, gas, electricity and telephone, prices for these services have increased more than 50% (the IMF being involved in this development)
[source: Alternativa Socialista, 22.8.2002 , a publication of the workers organisation MST] 
"NO MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS BUT A MIND AND HEART"... 
So I had really made it to argentina and could hardly believe what was happening a person I had never met and only written one e-mail to before had organised I could stay at his house for a few days, welcoming me like an old friend, showing me around and explaining me how things work there, introducing me to drinking mate (and causing me a trauma when giving me the first without sugar), and helped me learn quite some spanish (gracias para enseñarme) ­ which was the best thing that could ever happen to me and would never end until I left argentina.
Within those first two days until Cyrill would arrive I learned the basics about life in Buenos Aires, how to get by and how to organize myself (well sort of), leaving me with a sort of confidence that nothing could ever happen to me there because it was just another big city ­ the biggest one I had ever been so far, where I didn´t understand the language (or rather: the accent of the people there), but just another big city that had so fast lost its scariness, and whose chaotic system I loved from day one.
 
Two days later I went into the city to pick up Cyrill at Plaza de Mayo .it was pissing rain, but there he was standing in the cold, like some strange statue a little out of place in front of the government building, in the middle of the plaza, all covered up and smiling. it was nice to see him again I knew it wasn´t really possible for the both of us to stay at Marcelo´s house, so we decided to phone another friend of a friend, who told us we could drop by around seven. This left us with a few hours to find a nice warm place for food and to exchange our experiences until now ­ and brought me some cool news: tiziana squat still existed, Cyrill had been there during his day in Madrid! With this in mind, some good laughing and no expectations, but curious we went to this place where Gabriel was already waiting for us: a beautiful room he and a friend (whom I was lucky enough to meet a few days before I returned to europe) shared as a tallera ­ a workshop. We could stay there as long as we wanted, he said while giving us mate, and would bring us some pots the other day so we could cook ­ left to say we felt like in heaven! A roof over our heads, a heating, a stove, some music what else do you need. And Gabriel left us there with the keys  
** That demonstration today was so amazing... I haven´t seen anything like this before, let alone been part of it. No pueden asasinar nuestro espiritu... you can shoot us, but you can´t eradicate our ideas... I'M NOT AFRAID OF YOU ANYMORE!!! **      (3.7.)  
** way past 5 a.m. and i´m still far from sleep, trying to put the puzzle(d) pieces into one picture, trying to understand what i see, trying to find out how i feel about it all in the light of this candle. somehow i feel empty... maybe it´s finally getting to me, or maybe it´s already getting too much, i´m not sure what exactly it is. maybe the difference between what i experience for my own person and the world i see around me, that it somehow doesn´t seem to fit together, that something´s going wrong here. that i´m so fucking privileged... that i have shelter given to me by people i hardly know and still nag about the cold and the rain, while people are freezing their asses off sleeping in the streets. that i have enough money to buy me fancy food while people are digging through the trash for stuff they can sell, and for food. and i´m not talking about fancy supermarket dumpsters we´re going through in europe because we don´t want to pay for it, but about real trash people search because they can´t afford food. children begging in the streets and selling stuff in the subway.
And then this harsh contrast: people welcoming me with open arms [like an old friend, although we´ve never met before], sharing their food and mate with me. the demonstration yesterday with people being so positive, despite the rain and their situation, or maybe because of it. people being so alive...
somehow i really wonder what´s going on in the minds of the people here, with the fucked up situation they´re in, how they deal with it on a personal level. how they feel about stupid rich fucks coming here from other countries like me [not that the money i have is enough to get by in western europe, but here it is more than what most people have to work for one month], trying to picture what´s going on here. what it feels like to know that where i come from food gets thrown away while here people are actually starving and most have barely enough to get by, although this wouldn´t be necessary if the situation didn´t get so fucked up by a few. what it feels like living here... and i know i will never really know because i´m just a comparably rich fuck that will most probably never be in this situation , just because i have the privilege of being born and growing up in western europe. I HATE BEING FUCKING PRIVILEGED!! ** (4./5.7.)  
one of the most impressive lessons i learned during my time in argentina was to experience how it probably feels like for "minorities" when coming into a new environment. in many places i was catching strange glances, being recognised as a foreigner/stranger and in places with an indigenous majority (like humahuaca) as a "white" person, as coming from a rich country -- and everybody knowing it from just looking at me, despite my old second hand clothes and trying to speak spanish, often made me feel awkward... although it was definitely different from the hostile glances most different-looking people in europe have to face on a daily basis (generally, it was just curiosity and realization, and i got into talking with quite some people through this), this lesson wasn´t too easy, but it was such an important experience. i wish everybody would have to face this at least once in their lifetime, to learn from it...  
 
"ON THE ROAD"
After almost two weeks in Bs.As., during which we had been shown some places, including Tierra del Sur, a nice squat in the barrio of Barracas, and promised we could stay there a couple days, we decided to travel to other places, Mendoza being our first stop (and that radio on the bus played a song of fucking Münchner Freiheit! what the hell). Again we stayed at the house of friends of a friend and their crazy dog, now more or less being forced to speak spanish because our new friends didn´t speak much english ­ and it was good to practise there´s no other way of learning a new language anyway. This house was nice, the city one playground for skaters (of course I had left my board in Munich), and the weatherµ on our side ­ we needed to go to Puente del Inca, a beautiful spot in the mountains, and we needed to hitchhike there!
I guess we weren´t at the spot that Fabian had described us, but we got a ride anyway ­ on the back of an open pick-up! Hello cliché and it was awesome. Generally, hitchhiking in argentina is a bit different than in europe, at least from what I have experienced, but it surely works out fine. There´s nothing much to say about Puente del Inca, only that ít´s an amazingly beautiful spot in the Andes that looks very different in the snow, and I need to go back there some day in the summer
There were two basic things pissing me off though:
# 1: the tourists there. And when I say "tourists" I don´t mean travellers but fucking tourists, who think they own the place and the whole wide world just because they have rich parents shoving everything up their asses, including the fanciest ski and snowboarding equipment and expensive cars (people about my age certainly being sponsored by daddy driving a fucking new BMW while a few kilometers away people don´t have enough to eat just doesn´t seem quite right to me).
# 2: the shitload of police and military forces in the whole area. I´ve never seen so much of it, it´s incredible. And this is not only because P.d.I. is only a few miles from the chilenian border 
More things to get mad about: el machismo
This is one of the worst forms of sexism I´ve ever been confronted with personally, not because it is openly offensive towards womyn, but because of its subliminal character of reducing womyn to mere tags of the men they are dealing with, of reducing them to people who can´t decide or speak for themselves. Be prepared that if you go somewhere with men that you will be the last one asked for your order ­ if you´re being asked at all. Mostly, men are supposed to give the orders, and more than once I witnessed the waiter (with waitresses it is at times different) ask the man for the order, he asked his presumed girlfriend/wife, she told him what she wanted, and he told the waiter... To prevent this, we were constantly playing the game of the guys I was with ignoring the waiters and me giving the orders, or at least me reacting first, especially after this one "best of" encounter of that waiter in Rosario turning and walking away when Cyrill told him he didn´t want to drink anything... hijo de puta...
Luckily, things were quite different in places like asambleas and piquetes (at least the ones I took part in), where womyn were just as present and determined and heard like men.
Oh yeah, and abortion is illegal by the way.  
Anyway, after a night in the coldest refugio the world has ever seen and a nice walk into the mountains the next day we took a bus back to Mendoza, and from there soon moved on to Rosario because we wanted to take part in the anarchist meeting there. A friend in BS AS had given us the address of a squat in the city of Rosario, where we were offered a sleeping place and then shown the anarchist library some good blocks away ­ which is, to say the least, beautiful, and run by just as beautiful people. There are quite some people active there The first night we stayed at the house of a new friend, then moved into the storage room of the library, where some other people that had come for the meeting slept as well. From the meeting I unfortunately can´t tell much because my spanish was still too little for the speed the people were talking, but the atmosphere was really pleasant, and so were the following days we spent there. This is definitely a place I need to return to 
Earlier, Marcelo had told us about nice places we should go to, Humahuaca in the very north being one of them, and with the address of some anarchist traveller house from our friends in Rosario in our pockets we entered the bus ­ another looong night ride halfway through argentina, the last one (by bus) for me. It was a journey that highly impressed me: next to us was sitting an indigenous couple with two kids on their laps, about 1 and 3 years old, and never in my life have I seen such patient parents. Most of the time the kids were crawling around, wanting to eat or play, being thirsty, needing to go to the toilet, being whiny because they couldn´t sleep ­ and not once during the whole night have I heard those parents tell them to be quiet, or scold, or just make that hissing psssst which here is what most kids hear all the time, although they surely didn´t get to sleep even an hour. I was sitting there amazed, and deeply happy about being able to witness this behaviour: children being treated like humans, with the patience that is needed in such a situation
During my whole time in Argentina I could see this one of the major differences to germany ­ children being part of the social life all the time, at times even being around until 3 in the morning and just sleeping on the lap of their parents when they were tired, being treated equally and with respect --- and therefore being way more autonomous, responsible, and acting "naturally". For the first time in my life I had the feeling I was in an environment where it is possible to raise children 
Arriving in Humahuaca pretty tired and me sick from the bus ride we simply sat down where we got out of the bus to eat a bite. It was nice and sunny, a few meters away there were some people juggling and thrashing around, and we soon went to go looking for that anarchist house ("Huayra Huasi" ­ "house of the wind"), where we were told we could stay for sure. Principally, the way those people are living is pretty cool and very basic ­ just a commune of I guess 5 or 6 people constantly living there and sharing everything, having cold running water but no electricity and basically no personal property, except maybe an extra set of clothes and a few photos or books, food to be cooked over the open fire.
But this place was dragging me down it just seemed so depressing to me, a house with no real windows but only improvised with old wine bottles, therefore being pretty dark even during the day, and the nights being so cold luckily, we could sleep in this tiny 2x3m room with that family, but somehow this made me feel even worse, because the baby was so ill it could hardly breathe, and I couldn´t do a thing about it I needed to get out of there
 
Cyrill already wanted to leave the next day, and since I wanted to stay at least one more day to climb the hills, we decided to split up and meet again in BS AS somewhere, somehow... Now being all by myself and thinking of maybe hitchhiking all the way back to BS AS was kinda strange, and I went for the mountains That day way up on the hills did me a lot, but at the same time I felt I was more and more losing all my energy, and thinking of going back to the house almost made me cringe because of the atmosphere there (although the spirit it carried was so beautiful). Maybe this was the cultural shock I had long been waiting for I wanted to go back to BS AS to get some co-ordination, and as soon as I got back into the village I made some phone calls
The next day, I hitchhiked to Jujuy to stay at the house of another friend of a friend, thinking of exploring the city the following day and to organize some stuff, but the next morning I realised I needed to move on, so I took my bag and walked to the highway. It felt good to be moving.  
BACK TO BUENOS AIRES TOMAMOS MUCHO, TE, CAFÉ CON LECHE, BANCOS
Returning from Jujuy to BS AS was cool then, and pretty much inflated my ego I had quite good luck concerning hitchhiking (about 1100 km in almost three days ­ pretty fast for argentina I´ve been told), being passed on from one trucker to the next and invited to eat with them, drinking lots of mate -- and arriving in the province of BS AS i managed to get to Marcelo´s house by colectivo without getting lost ­ which really is something to be proud of, cos there´s nothing more chaotic than the bus system in argentina He wasn´t home yet, but someone let me in, and I guess by 8 p.m. I had fallen asleep because on all my way there I had only slept about 2 hours
After a few days of trying to recover I decided to go looking for Cyrill in Tierra del Sur and to ask if I could stay there now ­ and witnessed him coming back from a corte, a road blockade, with this huge smile on his face I was a bit envious, but almost one month later I was lucky enough to take part in one as well, and could not only be happy for but also understand him (but see later for that).
 
Our friends also showed us a new squat literally just around the corner, and I was simply blown away. It was a project I had read about on indymedia when we were in Rosario I guess, and even back then I was really impressed, but seeing this now, well it was an asamblea that had squatted a bank!!  
On Saturday, july 13th around 11 a.m. a good 50 (?) people of the asamblea and tierra del sur entered the empty rooms of a formerly Banco Mayo that had been desolated for about 8 years. Their plan was to use it as a social center, a place for everybody and numerous activities in the barrio ­ a place that was definitely needed. I won´t go into details because I wasn´t there that day and only heard the stories and saw the video afterwards, but there has been a shitload of work invested to make something of this former trash hole and rat paradise.
Activities there are all for free and during my time there consisted of several courses (yoga, journalism, english, assistance for schoolwork, theater (titeres), art workshops and cinema for kids, juggling, etc.), regular meetings of the asamblea twice a week, street parties (e.g. at the kids´day / "dia del nino"), information and film nights with discussion, and anything else that came the way. At present, they are facing the threat of eviction, because now that everything has been repaired and renovated, Comafi (the owner of the building, an association of Commerzbank and some others) rediscovered their property and demand it back, although they´re most probably up to just letting it fall into pieces once more. Hijos de puta - si tocan a un@, tocan a tod@s . I hope we´ll win. 
The first night we went there pushed me right into another crisis: after Humahuaca, I had decided to go back to europe, but this place blew me off the track again. We had been invited to eat with the people there and to see videos from the riots in december and from the resistance in chiapas, and I had the feeling I had never felt so comfortable anywhere before, among maybe 9 people I hardly knew, in a building I had entered for the first time feeling connected with these people, knowing they were striving for the same goals feeling I was part of this
 
we stayed the night there and I decided to try to postpone my flight that was due on August 4th , which I managed a few days afterwards with the help of Fernando, whom I hadn´t known back then but just asked because he was the one opening the door of the ex-bank when I knocked halfway desperate. Muchisimas gracias otra vez!! I would have missed out so much without your help
ON MY OWN: GOODBYE TO CYRIL
A couple days later, it was time for saying good-bye to Cyrill ­ he was going back to austria because of the PA tour, and it was kinda strange to know that from now on I was all alone in the middle of argentina. Well that´s not quite true, I was anything but on my own, it was just that for the first time since I started the experiment I was travelling alone, and even that wasn´t quite true when thinking of my hitchhiking days. But since I ended up staying in BS AS for the rest of the month, it didn´t make much of a difference anyway, except that I was missing (not only) his constant film associations * Wir sehen uns jedenfalls in Europa  
The day after Cyrill had left, I decided to see if it was possible to live in this beautiful new house we only called "el banco". It was  
... and the most impressive activity I went to attend there was the charla against the IMF (International Monetary Fund) -- I was sitting there amazed: I mean, what greater symbol could there ever be than holding an information night against the IMF in a squatted bank?! (except maybe some anarchist black cross stuff in a squatted prison) this was getting out of hand  
IT'S CHAOS, AND IT DOES ME A LOT 
*
- there are so many things to appreciate, and so much to learn... this is a place that allows and supports life, maybe not in a material way, but otherwise - - in a much deeper, more human way than i have experienced anywhere before.[...]
-
At times i actually wonder what makes it so special here, and i think it´s just the fact that life here is less complicated than in europe, especially germoney, concerning all those little details in everyday life. Little things that are just normal, part of this reality, that soon you don´t realize them anymore, but thinking of (let alone being back in - uhh!) germoney you realize something´s going wrong there, that people really have some sort of a problem... you know, really marginal stuff, like people crossing red traffic lights, 2 people on 1 bike, cars with broken lights, police cars where only one of the blue lights is working, no time schedules for [city] buses (you just wait a while and sooner or later there will be one), children thrashing around everywhere, etc. - and nobody gives a fuck here, whilst in germoney this is all such a big deal. Here it´s like people have better things to do than nag about this stuff, and it´s just what prevents them from going crazy i think... i mean, remember the way people were parking their cars in spain - now multiply by ten, and you have a slight idea of how they drive over here... and just nothing happens, it´s just one big co-ordinated chaos, and it does me a fucking lot. [...]   
µ NOTE: if argentines are telling you it´s cold, be sure that if you´re from central europe you will still be sweating while they are running around all covered up and freezing their asses off oh yeah, and also beware of route descriptions like "it´s not far from here", because 20 blocks are still more or less "around the corner" - do yourself a favor and always ask for distances in blocks *
 
"CORTANDO RUTAS SE ABREN NUEVOS CAMINOS" -- the blockade of Puente Pueyrredón two months after the killing of two piqueteros -­ Maxi y Dario Presentes! 
The night before August 26th I had slept at the house of Gabriel´s parents in the province north of BS AS because I had copied a bunch of videos there, and when I got up his dad showed me the news on TV ­ the blockade on Puente Pueyrredón was already going. A coffee and some tasty batata cake, a lift to the bus stop and I was gone. I had promised to bring back the videos to tierra del sur as soon as possible, so I stopped there for a minute and asked for a bus going near the bridge, getting down shortly before it. The spot where I had to get on the bridge was crowded by a few cops and brown uniforms of the prefectura (military) who didn´t even waste a glance at me - unlike in germoney for example, they never bother you in such situations - and I entered the bridge.
It felt strange and at the same time so good to walk all alone on this now desolated highway, one of the most important bridges crossing the river and connecting the capital with the province, knowing that at and approaching the other end hundreds of people were blocking the street The atmosphere of this sort of protest is definitely something that cannot be described by words, and the photos can only give you a very slight idea of what was going on there, because you really have to be there and feel it..with people having nothing to lose and still passionately angry and enthusiastic because of all that has happened over the last months
 
When I had come closer I discovered some familiar faces who were jokingly welcoming me as "la ayuda (= support) internacional" we had quite some fun, and I realized some curious glances from people around us because they could surely recognize I wasn´t from argentina, and probably wondered how I had ended up in a piquete. What kinda made me laugh was the comment from a guy telling his friend "hey, that girl is from asamblea lezama sur" when I passed: I had never seen any of those two before, but this comment filled me with some happy excitement, not because someone had recognised me as some strange alien spectator, but saw me as a person who tried to take part in and help with local projects. I had had people approaching me because they had seen me in the asamblea before, but this was different it made me feel good there, gave me the feeling of being welcome like so many times before I had the feeling I was part of something beautiful 
  
VOLVER A EUROPA : BACK TO THE NMA 
**... i willl fucking miss it, but there´s so much i got from it that will keep me going for so long, it will be a positive feeling, filled with beautiful memories, moments and impressions, and maybe it´s really just the right moment to leave it now, because it´s all so fresh and intense at this time. it will hurt, but it will be a positive pain somehow, that will help me grow, a part of this inward flowering. and it´s so fucking empowering to know that no-one and nothing can ever take this away from me. that this is my life, my reality. that it is me.
i don´t know if i feel like laughing or crying now.. maybe both... but it feels good... i want to preserve this feeling, to be able to always carry, to never lose it.
somehow i wonder if laughing and crying at times isn´t the same. I guess it is... for now it is... inward flowering, over and over again... 
 
Dario y Maxi: Presentes!
Looking at all the indymedia pictures of 26-11 (2002) ­ 5 months since the assassination of Dario and Maxi * - reminds me of my first demo in Buenos Aires on july 3rd, how it had blown me away and how i(t) felt there, as if it had only been yesterday. 2 people had been killed, and the thousands of people there were showing that THEY were still alive, maybe more alive than ever, awakened by the recurring police violence that had already made them fight in December (2001), that the two murdered companeros were still alive as well, that they couldn't kill their spirit.
Maybe the murder of those two people was exactly the right thing to push the rage and anger of all these people involved with the resistance into one constructive direction, to make them even more determined ­ considering this, the plan of the cops has completely backfired. Looking at it from that angle, Dario and Maxi have at least not died for nothing, because I have the feeling that this police brutality sparked something in the hearts of all the people taking to the streets those days, and all the banners on this week's demo still screaming for justice and que se vayan todos (that they all go: politicians, supreme court, etc.) haven't lost any of their passion and anger. I wish I could've been there on Tuesday, that I could be there in December... this has sparked something in me as well, and now that I can understand things and communicate, my desire for being there is even stronger, despite my occupations here.
During this very first demo there I was simply blown away and torn between feeling so comfortable and so marginal at the same time. Comfortable because the people surrounding me in this cold rain were showing passion, anger and that they were still and more alive than ever, but at the same time so marginal because the only words I could understand were the shoutings of "Asesinos!! Asesinos!" towards the police on the bridge and in front of the government building. I didn't really understand what exactly was going on around me, despite my constant asking Marcelo for translations and explanations, and I felt the most marginal because I couldn't communicate with the people around me.
If there ever was a point that I wished the most that I was able to communicate it was then, that day, when Marcelo was talking to that girl who had lost a good friend when Maxi and Dario got killed. I remember leaving the demo with the desire to talk to her, to tell her that despite our completely different backgrounds and situations we were fighting the same fight, but all I could give her was a smile and hope she would interpret it the right way...
 
but looking at these pictures I'm also reminded of the times later, especially the piquete on 26-8, a time by which I had learned this new language sufficiently to communicate, that I was taking part in this even more consciously and with a bigger understanding of the contexts, that I was able to contribute a little to this all by talking to people, by showing them that I was, that we in other parts of the world are interested in what's going on there, that their actions have inspired the hell out of me and so many others, by showing solidarity and trying to understand. By giving them back something I had experienced so many times, or trying to at least: the feeling that this is OUR fight, OUR lives, and that they can't kill our spirit. That we are everywhere. Dario y Maxi y tod@s otr@s presentes!   (29.11.02) 
 
" be grateful to your fear, it will faultlessly direct you where you need to go "
So I´m really back in europe it took me a while to realize this, although it was very clear from the start wherever I went ­ I just had to get used to it, to really arrive. Argentina is still so fresh in my memory, and I have the feeling it´s not only memories but something that will stay, that won´t ever fade away in my thoughts I´m so often at places where I have been, having the feeling I will walk these streets again only tomorrow, faces here at times remind me of friends there, situations have engraved themselves into my mind and make me smile with all my heart every single time they pop up in my head everything is so real now and still like an amazing dream, and at times I still wonder if this all has really happened somehow I still can´t believe it, although I know --
si, tomamos mucho: mate, té, café con leche, bancos la vida

 Home page / Articles