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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

  Protectionism rising? Stephen Roach's weekly editorial this week talks about some of the issues I covered in my ramblings about the world economy yesterday. He feels that the US dollar needs to be allowed to float to a level that would work to even out global trading imbalances. A week ago in Dubai, there was an agreement to endorse this goal of global rebalancing, but the last week this proposal was waved away by the politicians. It looks like the governments will attept to patch the problems they caused through bad policies by even worse policies. That's what happened in the 30's, and that's what we can expect today. Stephen Roach:
The most worrisome strain of resistance is coming from protectionist sentiment in the United States. In my view, financial markets can no longer afford to ignore such risks. Not only would protectionism be disruptive to global trade and outsourcing, but it would also represent a tax on consumers -- ironically, the same workers that politicians are so desperate to protect. All that spells downside risks for world GDP at just the point when hopes of recovery were building.

Monday, September 29, 2003

  Etiquette Question. How do you inform a person who's put you on their joke forward list that you don't want to receive that nonsense? I've got a friend that's decided I'm the type of fun-loving guy that loves this stuff, but I'm not. I feel like this guy's poor brother. I don't want to hurt the sender's feelings and am happy he considers me enough of a friend to include on his list, but I really don't find this stuff funny. Maybe he'll just read my website and take the hint...
  The Lesson Not Learned, Part II. In the first of these irregularly scheduled economics posts, I talked about The Lesson, which I feel is an axiom for economic policy makers:
Economics consists of looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequence of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
Basically, mucking about in one part of the economy will screw things up somewhere else. There is no magic bullet that will create universal prosperity; chasing that rainbow will only put you farther away from it.

I'm going to apply The Lesson to an issue of international trade that is starting to raise concern amongst those that get paid to be concerned about things. That issue is the massive trade imbalance between the US and Asia, and its implications for the US dollar and the future of the world's economy. I'm not an economist and have not had any real training in economics, but I've developed a strong interest in the subject over the past few years and have given this issue a lot of thought. I'm writing this mostly for my own benefit, so I can put all the pieces I've collected to this puzzle in one place.

Trade will generally be equal between two nations; over the long term nobody will want to give up more than they get. But, because of new production techniques that lower prices in one country, or changes in consumer tastes, situations arise where one nation gains an advantage in trade with their partner. Let me use the example of the US and Japan to explain the way two countries, each with their own fiat currencies, would balance their trade in a functioning market-based trading relationship.

Assume that everyone in America has acquired a need for a Sony Walkman. Because of that need, more goods are sold by Japan in the US than by the US in Japan. Japan now has a trade surplus with America. Japanese exporters (particularly in this case, Sony), will need to convert the US dollars they've earned to yen in order to pay their employees, their shareholders, and their suppliers. Since more dollars are being exported from the US than yen from Japan, foreign exchange markets would find it difficult to meet the need for yen. This would drive up the value of the yen in relation to the dollar. A more expensive yen (and a cheaper dollar) would work to reverse the trade imbalance by making Japanese goods more expensive and American goods cheaper. The trade balance would be restored. Japanese workers would be rewarded for their innovation and hard work by their salaries having greater international purchasing power. Their standard of living would improve.

Reading this, you might agree with it in theory, but if you've been paying attention to trade figures in the last few years, you'll know that America's trade deficit with its partners (especially Japan and China) has been out of control for some time and shows no sign of changing. Currently the US imports about US$2 billion more that it exports every business day -- almost half a trillion dollars a year! Why is this happening and what are the consequences of this deficit? Is it really a problem?

The reason it is happening is that Japan and China have not paid heed to The Lesson. They have intervened in their economies to prevent the rise of their currencies to preserve their trading advantage. Instead of allowing free foreign exchange markets to operate, they have bought the excess US dollars (creating matching amounts of their own currencies) and added them to their foreign exchange reserves. Japan has an ad hoc policy of doing this, but China has an actual peg of its currency to the US dollar. Both policies prevent their currencies from rising in relation to the buck.

The consequences of this policy have been difficult to see, but are becoming clearer. For the Asian citizens living with an artificially low currency, they are being invisibly taxed by their governments. Especially for the Chinese, their wages have not increased to match their contributions to other peoples' welfare. But the biggest effect has been on the credit market of the United States.

When you are spending more than you are earning, you have to borrow. So it is too with the US as a whole. This borrowing is called the Fiscal Account Surplus by economists, and roughly balances the Current Account Deficit (trade deficit) on the country's balance sheet. Central banks in Asia have been stashing their foreign exchange reserves in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, US treasury bonds, and US corporate bonds - anything denominated in US dollars. This flood of cash has worked its way into the US economy driving the stock market bubble, the real estate bubble, and the steady stream of new credit card offers in your mailbox.

There are two universal truths that come into play when evaluating this situation. The first is that you can't get something for nothing. The second is that anything that cannot go on forever, eventually ends. The US is currently getting something for nothing - it's trading real goods for promises. Eventually promises will not be good enough. When that will happens and what effects it'll have are mysteries to everyone. There are lots of guesses flying around, and as you might imagine, they're not pretty. Most involve a massive decline in the value of the US dollar, asset bubbles bursting, and a nasty round of bankruptcies. I'll try to go into them at a later date.

The point I want to make today is how this relates to The Lesson. Mess with a free market at your peril -- today's triumphs easily become tomorrow's tragedies. I wish I could give this message to Robert L. Bartley, who writes in today's Opinion Journal that pressuring Asia to release the dollar to float against their currencies is a recipe for financial disaster. He's right, (and makes a lot of great points) but it's not the return to a functioning foreign exchange market that's the problem, but the long, long holiday away that we've had.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

  New sidebar stuff added. Give a guy a bit of free time and look what happens -- clutter starts accumulating on his website.

I added the gold price table because I like gold and am interested when the price of it goes up. It will also calm those who might get nervous about some of the economic stuff I bring up. They can say, "He's a goldbug! What does he know?" It's also kinda cool looking.

I added the poll because polls are fun and people like to have their say. But there is a serious purpose to this poll as well. One of our two children will grow up to be bitter and remorseful that they didn't get as much love and attention as their sibling. It's natural in twins, and I'm afraid there's nothing we can do about it. We need your help in deciding which one we should concentrate our doting on.

And since Max had a solo photo a few days ago, Talia deserves one now. I'm not going to play favourites. At least not until the poll results are in...

  Not impressed by Whoozit. Both Max and Talia are not very interested in the Whoozit toy we bought for them yesterday. Ungrateful brats!

  The Organic Conspiracy. Lately, as I perform my food foraging duties, I have been seeing more and more 'organic' food cluttering the aisles. Organic yogourt, organic milk, organic canned soups, organic granola bars, organic generic froot loops -- tons of this crap. This stuff is supposedly better for you but is definitely not better for your wallet.

The reasoning behind organic foods has always been pretty vague. Producers make no claims about improved nutrition, improved taste, or improved safety because they have no evidence to back it up. All there is is hand-waving and imprecise talk with the words pesticides, corporate, natural, cancer, and choice mixed somewhere in there.

Here's a few facts.
  • There are no real agreed upon standards for organic food; you're never quite sure what you're getting.
  • Organic food is not safer. Actually, since there are no deaths each year from pesticides and hundreds each year from bacterial contamination (more common in manure-fertilized organic produce), you could argue that organic is more dangerous.
  • Organic farming is much more wasteful than conventional farming.

    I find the last point the most interesting. Typically, the people most committed to organic food (c'mon, you know the type) would be the same people to *tsk-tsk* about the wastefulness of western culture. Yet they encourage (through their buying patterns) techniques that would ensure mass starvation if they were broadly applied. The same people (you've met these guys) that turn their noses up at luxury brands are paying a premium for the same product 'branded' organic.

    So what's the conspiracy? Well, it's very convenient that this organic fad has gone bigtime in the last few years. Farming yields have been increasing at a remarkable rate over the last few years, resulting in falling prices. After all, you can only eat so much food. What could be better than a consumer movement that decreases productivity and increases price? Those organic boosters are nothing but the tools of Big Agriculture...
  • Thursday, September 25, 2003

      Unknown Musical Genius of the Week, Pt I. Having access to a high-speed internet connection has been a wonderful thing. One of the best parts about it is the opportunity I've been given to explore new and different music. Internet radio stations play a tremendous variety of music with no commercials, Amazon's music listings make suggestions for new artists to try, and file-sharing makes acquiring a great library easy. (I'm not going to get into the ethical implications of this -- I do it and for some reason don't feel guilty.) Can you believe that a few years ago, in my desperation to find new music, I would plunk down C$20 to buy a CD based on little more than a review or nice cover art? I've got stacks of crappy CDs I'll never listen to again.

    Anyway, I thought I should shine the spotlight on some of my best finds. Stuff that you will not find in HMV or Tower but can be found easily on the internet. One of the earliest and still one of my favorites is Eumir Deodato (or just Deodato). His best stuff comes from the late 60s and early 70s and really shows it. It's a sort of busy jazz-funk -- great bass lines, horns, bongos, electric guitar, and totally groovy keyboards. The one work he created that anyone might have come in contact with is Also Spracht Zarathustra -- you know, the 2001 theme -- which he grooved up to the max and made into something you could dance to. Other great pieces are Whirlwinds, September 13, Artistry, Rhapsody in Blue (yes, that Rhapsody in Blue) Latin Flute, and Super Strut.

    I should put out a word of caution for those who might want to explore more of his music. When the disco craze hit the US, Deodato made some of the worst examples of that genre you will ever hear. I'm a pretty big defender of disco, but one listen to Havana Strut will remind you why so many people HATE disco more than almost anything else to this very day.
      What! Another photo? Yes, here's a pic of Max for my Argentine friends.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2003

      Shame on you, Mr. Moore. At the Academy Awards, Michael Moore's speech after accepting the award for best "documentary" said:
    We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.... Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.
    If anyone knows fiction, it's him. I understand his movie is now available on video. If anyone plans to see it or has already seen it, I suggest you take a look at a list of all the deliberate lies and distortions in the movie as well.

    Monday, September 22, 2003

      The media and Iraq. Really biased. Even some of the reporters are starting to admit it.
      Fresh pic. I haven't had a new shot of the babies up in weeks. Here's one taken just a few minutes ago:

      I'm pig-biting mad, as Ed Anger would say about an ad by the ACLU in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly. In it, Kurt Vonnegut stands in front of a used book store and proclaims, "I am not an American who thinks my government should get a list of the books I read."

    He is, I imagine, referring to the great destruction of civil liberties currently underway in George Bush's America. Billionaire flake George Soros is so worried about it that he is giving US$10 million to stop it. But like many who are raising the alarm about this tragedy, he's short on specifics. Nowhere on his web site was I able to find out exactly what civil liberties were under threat.

    But the ACLU has a concrete example -- under the Patriot act, the government has the power to find out what you've been reading!

    Well, not exactly. Here's how they've stretched the truth. Under the Patriot act, national security investigators working on a case can petition a federal judge to provide access to the business records of an enterprise or organization. A library is an organization. Records from a library might have information on people's reading habits. As you might imagine, there has been no use of this dangerous power.

    That's it. That's the threat to civil liberties. Oh, there's a couple of other things they claim, but they're even weaker and are easily debunked.

    What makes me mad is the effort and hysteria by those who know better over something so inconsequential. There is no secret government bureau tracking citizen's reading habits. There is no government-mandated censorship of the news media. Michael Moore has not been arrested and convicted of treason in a secret trial. Business as usual in George Bush's America.

    UPDATE: Opinion Journal has more on how the ACLU has lost touch with reality.
      Fleck tells it like it is. Bill Fleckenstein's column this week sums up all that is wrong with today's stockmarket. If you are one of the herd currently caught up in the latest rally, read what he has to say and ask yourself how long things can continue to go your way.
    But it's the wrong analogy to regard the market as an ATM machine, as so many do. Think of it, instead, as a lion waiting to rip your lungs out.

    Sunday, September 21, 2003

      Good to be home. Back at home and back on child-care duties. The first day I was left with my babies, I was excited and happy to be with them. On the second day the realization that I would be doing this most days for the next four years made me depressed and irritable. But on the third day I resigned myself to my fate and was content. Pretty good progress, I'd say.

    I didn't put up any pictures when I was away, so I will correct that now. Here's a photo from the big game:

    I didn't take too many photos of Buenos Aires but here's one from the Boca neighborhood. You can see that it used to be a beautiful area, but now it's descended into serious neglect.

    Here's the obligatory eating meat photo. My guests are Andrew and Jimena.

    Iguazu Falls were incredibly spectacular. They're really a chain of falls which stretch out over a few kilometers, not an easily seen landmark like Niagra Falls. Because they're so huge (and so spectacular) I took dozens and dozens of photos of water rolling off rocks. Way, way too many. I won't drain the resources of my photo host by posting so many of them; here's one with me and Andrew:.

    Photos from the excursion to Paraguay will be up shortly. They were taken using an ancient technology which uses chemically infused film to capture the images. As you can imagine it will take a while before they are available.

    Monday, September 15, 2003

      Homeward bound. The last month and a half I've bounced between the Canadian arctic and the interior of South America. It was exciting for awhile, but I've had enough of it now. I'm glad to be finally heading home where I can once again luxuriate in the simple chaos of life with two babies. Just 20 hours of planes and airports to endure...
      Ciudad del Este. We were finally dropped about a hundred meters from the border by our drivers (together, luckily). We were on the side of a road that appeared to have been paved about a hundred years ago that was flooded with people, busted-up vans and cars, and dozens of motorcycles. Behind us and across the street were the densest warrens of shops and stalls I'd ever seen.

    What was for sale was not drugs or guns but that terrible and ubiquitous crap that is squeezed out of the cheeks of Asia in such great quantities. Key chains, baseball hats, PowerPuff girls underwear, cellphone covers, cameras, action figures, sweatpants, fishing rods, calculators -- just lots of crap everywhere! It was cheap, but not cheap enough to excite anyone. Dangerous Ciudad del Este appeared to be just a sprawling, chaotic dollar store.

    Sure there was illegal stuff -- Pirated DVDs, CDs, and software -- but that stuff is easy to find in South America. Once, we thought we saw handguns for sale; but they turned out to be just replicas. Illegal in the nanny-state I live in, but so what?

    Still, there was a strange edge to the town. Maybe it was just all the warnings we received from the cab drivers, but we were wary. We wandered beyond the markets and sat down for a beer on a traffic island, where one of the town's entrepeneurs had thrown up a refreshment stand. There were a number of Arab men sitting around in lawn chairs, each of them with a big purse held closely. Andrew talked to one of them and got a few facts about the town. He also was offered the brand new sports car he was sitting near for only US$8000. The only flaw on it was the big spiderweb of cracks in the windshield. We left and told him we were going to find a bank machine.

    We saw a place called Mona Lisa that had advertised back in Brazil. It had a sign offering a casino, so we decided to check it out. Inside it was a duty-free shop. Not a real one, but a department store offering the same stuff: perfume, booze, luggage, cigarettes and the ugly, expensive little statues that you wonder why anyone would buy. There was four floors of this, and on the top floor was the casino. There we saw elderly Japanese and British couples playing roulette. How did they get here? Did they come across from Brazil on the back of a motorcycle? Why did they come here?

    The best though was in the basement. Just as we were leaving, we spotted a sign for a wine cellar. We went down and saw hundreds of wooden crates full of -- expensive French wine. Really expensive French wine. My companion Andrew is something of an up-and-coming (meaning he needs more money) wine snob and he was floored by what was being sold. One particularly rare bottle was priced at US$830! The only possible explanation we could come up with for the presence of this stuff here was as part of some elaborate money laundering scheme. Why else would such huge quantities of such expensive stuff be in this shambles of a country called Paraguay?

    Outside, wandering some more, we came across a building being torn down. One of the warrens was being cleared away to perhaps build a bigger warren. There was a pedestrian walkway that offered a good view, so we joined some of the residents for the show. There was a rope tied to a pillar and attached to the back of a bulldozer. The guy in the dozer backed up to give the rope some slack and then gunned it forward to try to break the pillar. The dozer practically flew into the air when the rope tightened, but no luck this time. Out came a bunch of workers (some wearing flip-flops) to offer advice on how the driver should have done it. Another attempt. Another. Finally the pillar came down. I was the only one to applaud.

    We left after only two hours. We had purchased only two beers, a disposable camera, and a baseball hat. We were offered the moto-taxi on the way back but we decided to hoof it. It was a good decision, because the traffic in the middle of the bridge was so heavy even the bikes couldn't get through. We just walked through Brazilian customs, unable to get a border official even to look at us.

    (Photos for this post can be found here.)
      A little detour. Why take time to write about Ciudad del Este when I could bitch about Martha Stewart instead?

    Friday, September 12, 2003

      Where to start? We´re in Foz do Iguaço, Brazil killing some time until we eat some more meat. The last 24 hours have been pretty nutty and it will be difficult to properly relate it all. So I´m not even going to try. Here´s a highlight:

    During my stay here, I´ve often been mute during many of the conversations going on around me. Knowing no Spanish will do that. But I still manage to have a pretty good idea what´s going on. For example, this afternoon we were driving through this city with a driver we hired back in Argentina. He was going to help us get over to Paraguay. When we parked near the bridge and started walking, I figured we were going to hike over it. Then someone pushed a helmet into my hands and pointed to the back end of a motorcycle. Wait a second, did I miss something?

    The next thing I knew, I´m blowing through the crowded market and heading across the bridge in a moto-cab. This guy is dodging cars, trucks and other motorcycles and I´m hanging on to him. This is insane. We come to the border control and don´t even slow down, not that anyone seems to care. And then I was in Ciudad Del Este.

    I´ll pick up some more on this later.

    Thursday, September 11, 2003

      More Puerto Iguazu. We're still here at the Puerto Iguazu cyber-cafe. Night has fallen and the city has gotten a bit more lively. The main drag is being cruised by motorcycles and spiffed-up street machines.

    I felt I had to add more to my earlier lame post. It was like a postcard from a German tourist. But I'm not in the writing zone right now. Luckily my buddy Andrew has not had his writing skills destroyed by his years working for a news service, and sends this report (poor spelling and puctuation to be fixed by a future editor):
    Dudes and Dudettes. What the heck, a massive group email to break the resounding silence that has permeated the group recently. I´m sitting in Puerto Iguazu, about 300 meters from Paraguay and 190 meters from Brasil, the last city in Argentina. Staring at me is A Henieken beer and Bruce, father of two. We just spent the day hiking around the Iguazu park, checking out the waterfalls. Massive falls that would engulf Niagra´s version, including the McDonald´s hotels and shopping malls. Our hotel is right in the park, convenient, a little chessy, but altogether nice and we filled it with some wine from home. It was about 20 degrees today and will rise up to about 30 this weekend, with a clear blue sky. During our hike today we came across a bunch of butterflies (yup, you know you´re getting old when you stop to stare at a bug), some fireants, some buzzards, a coati (like a big rat with a really long snout) and this massive hairy black woman. En realidad, it was this lady schelping around the park with a fur coat, like a million coatis slapped to her stomach. It was pretty funny, two canucks in shorts and flashy vegas shirts and a furry monster in front of us. We met a lot of other would-be hikers in coats and hats and scarves, I´ve worn less to go by the paper back home in February. Now we are sipping some beer and waiting for the parrilla (a monster BBQ) to fire up around the corner. They will proably slap two dozen cows on there tonight and I figgur we´ll eat at least half of one. Tira de asado, bife de chorizo, vacio oh man oh man oh man...a meat lover´s paradise. It´ll also probalbly set us back about 10 pesos (3 bucks) leaving lot´s of money for the casino that just opened ain´t Vegas but it ain´t U.S. dollars we be betting either so it doesn´t matter. Bruce figgures he´ll lay Talia´s university tab on the line tonight. I´m thinking she´ll make it big. Across the river in Paraguay lies the weapon, drug, electronics and meat cartels. Ciudad del Este is the home of alleged terroist activity and about 100 percent of the economy is a black market (kinda like Cornwall). To give you an idea: the president was caught driving a stolen BMW and his wife drove a stolen Mercedes all under the same fictitous Toyota registration. Tomorrow we plan to blend in (i.e. two tall bleach white gringos) and see it for ourselves so stay tuned for more details. Gotta go know...the blackjack table beckons and my pesos and reais and guarani are burning a hole in my pocket. Un abrazo para todos con mucho carino....andrew and (defactoly) Bruce

      Puerto Iguazu. The sun has just set in the drab town of Puerto Iquazu. We're in a cyber-cafe, drinking Heineken, and wondering what to do next. It's far too early to think about going to a restaurant. It seem there is nothing to do here except to drink and surf the net -- or go to the Casino.

    The falls were pretty good. We were there this afternoon and got totally soaked on the river boat ride. Lots of excellent photo opportunities were taken advantage of.

    Tonight - Casino and beef. Tomorrow - Brazil.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003

      Off to the jungle. Tomorrow we head off to Iguazu to check out the falls, the jungle and whatnot. We have no real plans because our plans were stymied by the (not) helpful people in the Paraguaian consolate. They did not want to give us a visa to visit, even for US$40, because we did not have plane tickets directly to Paraguay. So we don't know if we will be leaving Argentina at all.

    We have a nice room in the Sheraton hotel in Iguazu and plan to use it as a base and travel around in a rental car. Who knows what adventure awaits us? Find out Monday.

    Monday, September 08, 2003

      I'm not trying to be clever. Being clever takes too long. All I can do right now is jot down some random observations and sum up what I've been doing down here in Buenos Aires. Maybe when I'm home I can do some of that deep thinking that other bloggers do.

    The steaks were okay. I can't say they were the best I ever had though. Mine in fact was overcooked, something that should not happen in the greatest steak resaurant in the world. I didn't say anything to the waiter about this, of course. I just suffered in silence as any good Canadian would.

    Later that evening we went to see Assasination Tango with Robert Duvall. We thought it would be interesting to see a movie shot in Buenos Aires. Big mistake, the movie was as pretty damn slow and had a pretty thin plot. Lots of dancing though, if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Otherwise it was another one of those 'slice of life' movies with the main character being a criminal. Rather than a safe-cracker, car-jacker, confidence man, or mob boss, this time he's a professional killer.

    Okay, I'm heading out for dinner soon, so I'll cut this short...

    Sunday, September 07, 2003

      First Day in BA. Arrived early after a long flight. Not a bad flight, but a long flight. My seat was surprisingly roomy, the food was good and the free booze was plentiful, but those things cannot compensate for sitting in the same seat for eleven hours.

    Andrew was twenty minutes late in picking me up, so I got to mill around with my bags and fend off an army of taxi drivers looking for my business. One guy I swear I must have brushed off three times. Finally he arrived and we headed to his spacious apartment in the swanky part of central BA. Really nice place -- high ceilings, polished hardwood floors, two bathrooms, and of course a grand piano. This place would have cost a fortune a couple of years ago, but now is affordable on a journalist's salary.

    Our first excursion? The Chilean National team was in town to play Argentina for a World Cup qualifying match. Sounded good, so off we went. Argentina was expected to clobber the Chileans, and in the first half it seemed that that would be the case. Two - nothing after the first half. Then the Argentinian fans became cocky and started taunting the Chilean fans. I didn't get the exact translation of what they were saying, but I understood they were really rude taunts, not very neighborly. One goal by Chile made the Argentines a little quieter, and the second near the end of the game shut them up completely. A two - two tie for Argentina on their home turf will probably result in sacking for the coach. Everyone (except the Chileans) filed out of the stadium quietly.

    We went easy on the food and drink for the first evening. No steak, and only three bottles of wine over the course of the evening (for me, Andrew, and his girlfriend Jimena). We turned in early by Argentinean standards, at 2:30.

    Today I am being taken to the best steak house on earth for lunch. I'll try to update later to fill everyone in on how heavenly it was.

    Friday, September 05, 2003

      SOUTHbound. Apologies for not posting for the last few days. After getting back there was a lot of work required to get the house and myself in working order: unpacking, mowing the lawn, hacking off the backwoods-man beard I acquired up north. Plus Michelle filled much of my time with visits to and from friends and family. Busy, busy busy.

    And then there was all the packing for another trip, this one to Buenos Aires. I'm going down there solo to visit a friend because I have an extra-special and just all-around nice wife. I leave this afternoon for New York, then Washington, then finally down to BA. About 18 hours of airports and cramped economy seating.

    I can't say I'll find it hard to tear myself away from my kids. Usually when I'm looking after them I'm craving a few hours of peace -- just a couple moments of quiet, please! But I'm sure that after just a day I'll be missing them and after a week I'll be straining to go home. I'm only there for a week and a half, so I'll probably be alright.

    I'll be staying in BA for the first few days, eating lots of beef and going on extended hikes through the city. Then on Thursday (Sept 11), we'll be flying to Iguazu, on the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. We'll do some hikes in the rain forest, visit the falls, the dam, the casino, and maybe even the mysterious town of Ciudad del Este. Then back to BA for more beef, and then home.

    I'll try to blog while I'm there, but I can't promise anything. Okay, I have more packing to do, gotta go.

    Monday, September 01, 2003

      Southbound. Well, our tour of the North is over as of today. I can't say I recommend Iqaluit as an exciting destination; I'm very glad to be getting home. Lots of stuff to do so I won't be posting until we're home and unpacked.

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