Buenos Aires, Argentina – El día ocho, nueve y diez: What do I need?

I had laid down the night before with a scratchy throat.  I knew what it meant.  It meant I was getting sick and that it was going to suck for a few days. I was right.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Christmas would be spent laying around the house, sick as a dog.

I fucking hate cigarettes.

Have I mentioned how hot it was?  Maybe now is a good time.  It was hot.

Being sick in the hot sucks.  A lot.

I worked a bit online, but mostly slept and read and thought.

I thought about what I had…and what I needed.

I didn’t have much.

In total:

1 suit and 3 dress shirts

1 Lulu jacket and 1 rain jacket

2 pair of khakis and 2 pair of jeans and 2 pair of hiking pants

2 white button-up summer shirts and 1 hiking shirt

2 short sleeve hiking shirts and 1 Lulu shirt

4 t-shirts and 1 pair of basketball shorts and 1 pair of Lulu pants

2 pair high performance under pants (Official Site. Great Review. I highly recommend these to anyone that has ever suffered from swamp ass)

4 pair of socks (dark)

1 pair Nikes. 1 pair Rainbow flip flops. 1 pair Crocs.  1 pair Aldo dress shoes.

1 black dress belt. 1 brown casual belt.

Briefcase: Computer, power cord and converter, mouse, Ipod, Camera, Flipcam, connection cords, and copies of vital docs.

Emergency kit: Pocket knife, a litte duct tape, electrical tape, paracord, string, 10 zipties, binoculars, water purification tablets, head lamp, bic lighter, compass.

Medical/Toiletry kit: Toothbrush & paste, glasses, contacts, saline solution, hair wax, 2 disposable razors, biodegradable soap (can be used to wash everything from hair to butt to laundry), 2 pair Nitrile gloves, 4 4×4 gauze pads, ace bandage, alcohol wipes, single wrapped Wet Ones baby wipes, Neosporin, Hydrocortisone cream, Vagicaine cream (before you start..this cream contains the largest amount of Benzocaine and Resorcinol (topical pain killers) of any over-the-counter drug out there..and it works), misc. OTC and Rx pain killers, Ambien, and Vyvanse (I think I may be a little ADD, at times, sometimes, when I’m tired..did somebody say they loved ladders, but had an orange..Since being diagnosed at age 8, or something, I have experimented a few ADD/ADHD drugs, OTC & Rx, and this one is pretty good.  It’s also relatively cheap.  I use it (them) to focus to meet deadlines and to work and to code.  Sometimes they make it hard to fall into deep sleep, much like coffee in the evening.  In the end, the same effects can usually be obtained with 8-10 hours of sleep, a high protein/caloric diet, 45 minutes of heart elevated exercise, and healthy serving of laughter each day.)

My bag had wheels, that was rather large and of course, my brief case.

This isn’t a lot. No, it isn’t.

Did I want all of this? Yes.

Did I need it? No.

Did I ponder taking more? Yes.

Did I miss anything I hadn’t brought? No.

I could and will get on with less.  A lot less.

I just don’t need all this stuff..here, or in my everyday life.

As I crossed between the bed and the shower and the kitchen over the next 3 days, I would ponder just how much I had in my life.

How much I had, because I wanted it..just had to have it.

and

How much I had, because I needed it..to survive.

I compared myself to my neighbors on the plane. My bunk mates at the hostel.  My new flat mates. The passers by on the street.

Understanding this difference, of what I want vs what I need, really grasping it and being able to apply it, may very well be changing my life.

I am losing the desire to want, that which I do not have..I want to lose the desire to want, that which I do not have.  I hope I am losing the desire to want, that which I do not have.

I am ok, just the way I am.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – El día siete: Sailing

I could feel the years of forgone training as my consciousness left the haze of sleep.  My body was sore.  Much like it was every other Sunday after Saturday rugby.  It is a good hurt.

Proudly, I walked on the terrace with my engraved mug to display to Nico and Vicky.  Ha!

“What are you doing today, Aaron?”, asked Vicky.

“I think I’m going to do a Google certification course online.  Why, what are you guys doing?”, I replied.

“No, it’s Sunday.  Do you want to come sailing to the delta?”

Tough decision..

We picked up Loli, Vicky’s friend on the way.  She is an artist and clearly a free spirit.  Pretty and short and had spent quite a bit of time in the states.  We listened to reggaeton, loud and Nico sped through the traffic.  There was a marathon going on and the streets were cut off in many places.  The hints at the presence of Pandora’s Box were frequent, as he would throw his arms in the air, exclaim in spanish and speed off in another direction.

We arrived at the Buenos Aires Yacht Club, after stopping to buy meat pies and empanadas and juice and water.

The gate to one of the oldest and most exclusive Yacht Clubs in all of Argentina was small and non descript.  It was seemingly in the midst of a neighborhood..we passed between 2 homes were waved past by armed guards and into a sprawling maze of thin archipelagos granting access to beautiful boats of every shape and size and style.

Pache, Vicky’s sister would be waiting on the floating dock for us, as her power boat was being loaded into the water by one of the Club staff.  The 5 of us sped through the choppy water, passing many a craft, to reach her parent’s sail boat.

“La mama”, as I would call her, and George were great.  We ate.  We drank. We swam.  We ate some more.

He gave me a tour of his pride..56 feet.  2 masts. Polished brass all over the cabin.

Hours slipped away as Pache and I talked.  I liked her.  She was cool and soft spoken.  She had an easy way about her that was comforting.  It made it easy to talk with her.

To return to the club, we tied the power boat to the sail boat and motored back to port.  La mama and George left the five of us on the sail boat and we ate again.  We took some photos and off we went to the river side for a beer.

I road with Pache and the good conversation continued.  We were both a bit tired, but it didn’t matter.  I think we both were a pleasant change from what we had been accustomed to in recent months.  Those are my thoughts though..

I enjoyed a coffee and a smoke at the cafe.  It was cooling off and the wind was picking up.  The pauses between the group’s sentences grew longer, as they do, at that time of day…and it was all good.

3 blocks from the riverside, we parked again and entered a small club, that was built with music in mind.

3 or 4 more friends showed up and  music would start an hour later.

African drums and reggae and  jazz and collective horns and percussion filled the dark, red, open space.

It so carefree and normal.  Everyone was so warm and non-judgmental.  It was so wonderful!

When Vicky and Nico motioned that someone else might be able to take me home, I asked to ride along.  I was exhausted, pleasantly enough, and could use the sleep.

The ride home got my brain thinking about what I had..what I needed..

Buenos Aires, Argentina – El día seis: Saturday Is A Rugby Day

I was still a bit frumpy when I woke on Saturday morning.  I couldn’t get over this guy that tried to rent me a bike with flat tires and was a bit frustrated at the difficulty in finding a decent used pair of wheels in a city so large. Sigh.

Outside, Vicky and Nico were sitting in the sun.  It was 10am.  She was enjoying a cup of coffee and Nico was working on his usual mate with the paper.  He liked the paper and surrendered to going out to get it every morning, as I would learn the delivery boy began charging “What ever he wanted..”, thus Nico 86′d it right quick like.  I suppose that is yet another example of what Nico likes to call “Argentina’s plethora of pandora’s box..”

I sat with them.  I thought about giving in a bit the night before regarding my desire to play footy.  I thought about not having cleats..and no shorts..and no proper socks..and no mouth piece (..and getting my 2 front teeth knocked out a couple years prior)..and my achy back (..and back surgery 2 years prior)..and that it was suppose to rain all day..and whining about the fucking bike..i laughed to myself that I sounded like an old man..grumpy old man..

Nico said he thought I should just go and I’d figure it out.  Of course I would, I thought to myself..

Before I could solidify my protest, Edu, Nico’s brother, send me a text stating he’d be round in 30 to pick me up.  ”Bring a change of clothes so we can party afterward.”, he added.

What was I to do..He was driving 30 minutes out of his way to come get me.  I couldn’t say no at this point..I also felt as though Vicky and Nico wanted me out of their hair for a bit as I’d been home most of the time since I’d taken my room.  After living, alone, for many years, I would imagine that having a house guest 24/7 can be  a lot…especially at first.  I consider myself a good guest, but it’s never the same as living alone..left to one’s own devices..

Edu rang me right on schedule and I hurried down to the street with my bookbag containing a change of clothes and a borrowed pair of rugby shorts.  The drive was nice and he explained the club, why it was 35 minutes out of town, and why he choose to play for them.  All of which, was noteworthy, however that is his story and not mine to tell.

The grounds to Club Champagnat were like nothing I’d ever been a part of before.  We entered off the highway from a rather industrial section of town.  Edu would explain that the Club used to own quite a bit more land surrounding its current span, however had sold off quite a few parcels to companies who would ultimately build factories surrounding the campus on 3 sides.  We parked in a large dirt lot and slowly strolled past the gates and maintenance buildings, which had cars and tractors and what looked like living quarters for at least a few people inside.  Beyond these initial structures were a couple pools and lawns..and then a sprawling common area with a cafe and dozens of picnic tables, half under a roof and half not..and a small kitchen..and a couple offices.  Beyond this complex I could count at least 5 fields, ready for play.  Close by were kids, probably 5-8, playing a sloppy game of pick up rugby on a patch of grass that reminded me of half an outfield of the local park I grew up near.

I was walking lightly on the grass as we passed the kids toward the teenagers and men that were congregating 100 meters away.  Edu made a light introduction, “Team, this is AD..AD, this is the team”  I went round shaking hands a but the language barrier reminded me of itself again and soon I was kinda standing around..

I needed to find a ball..and I did.  It felt good in my hands.  I jogged a bit with it tucked under my arm.  I smiled as I trotted around a bit, passing the egg into the air and jumping to catch it several times.  I kicked it and jumped on the floor to feel the earth on my body.  The grass smelled good, as did the dirt and I rolled around a bit.

My body felt like it could play a bit of footy.  You see, I have always had the notion in my mind that if I ever question myself when preparing to play, I simply will not.  To play rugby requires complete focus and be to half stepping and questioning whether or not my leg feels ok or if my back hurts or whatever during play can be catastrophic.  Not only can you easily get hurt if you’re not paying attention, more importantly, you can let down your mates, which is unacceptable in any circle.

I only needed a pair of cleats that fit.  Right.

After asking every person above 5’10″ (there about 8 in total) no one would have anything.  I would settle on Edu’s 12′s.  I would be running around all day on feet that were positioned as if I were trying to hang upside down on a pencil with my toes.  That sucked.

The sky was darkening.  The guys were clearly talking about the impending weather. And the rain began.  And the rain continued.  And continued some more.

A couple times I would venture into it to throw the ball to myself and feel the rain.  I would jump in the puddles and run around in circles and laugh out loud.  I loved it.

There were 8 teams, with the players mixed between the men and a few U17 teams.  It was the club’s way of socializing the guys in the off season.  7′s is always a lot of fun in the summer time and today would be no exception.  We were team 3 and we would play team 4 in the first match of the day.

I played well.  It was a draw.

Game 2 would be an hour later.  More rain.

We won, by a landslide.  We were starting to come together.

My feet were killing me.  I knew I’d lose a couple toenails, no matter what, at this point.  I said under my breath once “I don’t really need to play..” And Franco, my scrum half said “But, we need you, AD”..I had too 🙂  I’ve always gotten on pretty well with my scrum halfs over the years.  Short, fast little buggers always needed my help in the lineouts and scrums and rucking..if they kept me happy, I’d break my ass to make sure they were safe…and Franco knew what he was doing and a twinkle left his eye when he saw me begin to lace up those fucking mittens on my poor feet again.

Game 3 would be hard, and we sub’d more frequently than before.  It was my best game.  I tackled hard and even had a try.  We won, narrowly, and were going to the finals!!!

Our opponent was lead by one of the organizers of the day’s festivities and had clearly stacked his team to win it all..or so my team mates said.

We won it anyway.  We won..really..the boys were cheering and laughing and jumping around.  I was trying to but my feet were so beat up it was a joke.  Combine those kid shoes with my dog’s having been soaking wet for 5 hours and having played 4 games and you’ve got a desire to sit down.  For a while!

Not yet.

While the losers sulked..we grabbed hands, our entire team..and ran and dived face first into a puddle that was about 8″ deep in the middle of that patch of grass those kids were playing in when we first arrived.  The water was warm against my face and it was all good.

In the locker rooms, we laughed and high fived and poked fun at the 1st losers (2nd place) of the day.  Glory!

In the club house, we had beer and burgers and gatorade and bread and water and smoked cigarettes and the club president gave out awards.  The winner’s each got a mug that was etched with the club coat of arms.  The young boys were recognized for their spirit and effort.  The oldest man of the day was given a round of applause for his fortitude to the organization.  I was even given a nod as being the only foreigner to participate in the day’s festivities.  True joy was shared amongst the men that occupied that space.

Guys began to leave within the hour.  It was 7pm.  By 9 there were only 10, or so, of us left.  Edu said “Are you ready for some fine Argentine cuts now?”

More steak.  They were fine, alright.  Melt in your mouth, fine.  No veggies, beyond salsa, and little bread.

Pure. Red. Meat.

Beer. Wine. Water.

Small. Warm. Rolls.

I listened to the guys, all of which were relatively close to my age, talk and nag and laugh with each other.

I didn’t get most of what they talked about.  In fact, most of what I got for the day was a lot of “odo” and “ada” and “AD”.  When you’re playing rugby, its hard enough to catch your breath, so I was correct when I assumed they’d be speaking in spanish on the field and in short order.  Out of all my new mates were saying, I got “odo” and “ada” more often than not.

I loved it though..

They’d brought me into a very special place.  These were friends of nearly 25 years, and then there I was.  American. Bare foot. No Spanish. Yet, they treated me no different.  In fact, they didn’t even give me sympathy for my situation, which I preferred.   I didn’t want to stick out any more than I already did.

For one of the first times in my life, I just sat there and listened.  I didn’t say much of anything for several hours.  I couldn’t and it was great.  I found the way they spoke to be amazing.  It seemed as though each of them would take turns telling stories, spending quite a bit of time telling their piece, before passing the proverbial conch.

I wouldn’t be home until nearly 1am.

I was full.  Completely.

I slept.

Buenos Aires – El cuarto día

I woke around 9am, a bit fuzzy from the night before, and got straight to work.  I have so much catching up to do.  I, admittedly, have let my business slide somewhat in the last few months, lieu of the EMT course and lack of Internet and need to get caught up.  I worked with a couple of the writers to come up with new posts for our corporate blog and began to configure the architecture of my site redesign.  I wanted to be done with it within the next month..I’d have to get busy!

At around 2pm I left our house to go to the American Express Headquarters to exchange travelers cheques.  The place was a zoo and had more security than the immigration posts at the airport.   In fact, they held my passport when I went to the bathroom.  Not sure what they thought the danger was, but I wasn’t prepared to bitch with them.  I found it rather comical and complied..they did not have my sense of humor, of course, and refused to break smiles.   I was the last person they let in the building as the banks close at 3pm.  I fell in line behind a fella from Los Angeles that owned property near Iguazu and also a gal from the UK that was headed for a private cruise to Antarctica.  They both were super cool.  We chatted for a while, in total we were in line together for over 1 1/2 hours, and ultimately exchanged contact info with hopes of crossing paths again some day.

In leaving, I went to Florida street, a big shopping district and found a bike rental shop.  Riiight.  They wanted $200USD to rent the bike for the month.  I laughed as I asked whether or not they felt that was expensive..no reply, with a eyeing toward the door.  I got the message and laughed my way right out.  I’ve had a habit of that..When I feel something, a policy or rule or price is what I believe to be unfair, I ask those who impose it if they feel the same way.  As if to justify to myself that my belief is true.  A win, in my boook, is to have a representative of the other side agree with me in secret and then apologize.  I like to smile with them, grab both their hands and look them in the eye, say thank you and leave.  Its always been my thing..

I checked out the Obelisk of Buenos Aires and found a nice spot on the street to read for a while.  I found it surprisingly nice to read surrounded by concrete just as much as the plants of the botanical gardens a few days earlier.  I ate some fruit, drank plenty of water, and fancied a smoke every now and then.  Life was good.

The subway ride home was short and I was ready for bed not long after that.  I don’t think I even saw Nico that evening..

Buenos Aires – El día cinco

Nico was sipping mate when I woke.  He was watching the news and juggling his blackberry, home phone, computer, and tv remote.  I told him about the past couple of days and we shared laughs.  He then hinted that perhaps I would want to join his brother, Edu, for a bit of rugby on Saturday.  I was reluctant.  I didn’t have cleats, or shorts, or mouth piece…anything really, besides a hankering inside me that wanted to be with the boys for the day.  It was supposed to rain and it was hot as hell…it would’ve been fun.  In the morning I wrote and worked online and went out for a bit in the afternoon to pick up some vegetables from the market.  I put $5 on my phone and spoke with my mom on skype.  I was settleing in a bit and then I got an email from a guy that was renting bikes..

He had a bike that he’d rent me for 100 pesos or about $30 for the month..perfect!  I walked to his place the long way stopping into some very cool shops.  I found this one shoe store where I loved every pair they had..then I meakishly asked if they had my size, and you would’ve thought I asked to borrow this guy’s liver..he was beside himself that my feet were as long as they were.  He paced and snorted and huffed about the store and then became so fustrated that I believe he simply gave up.  He applied a bit of a plastic smile and then bid me farewell, before I ever began to leave.  I found all of this peacocking very funny, which made matters worse for him…i left skipping down the street.  I had an hour to burn in waiting to meet this fella for the bike so I sat a little store and bought a coke.  There were 2 plastic tables outside with plastic chairs on the sidewalk across the street from a relatively large church/school.  The old man who was running the store was warm and cordial to me and gave me a glass with 2 cubes of ice to sip on.  I read and wrote and enjoyed a smoke while watching the people walk and talk and live.

Javiar showed up around 7:30pm and invited me into his home to see the bike.  His mother, I believe, and younger brother were there and we worked together to go over a contract written in spanish to cover all parties involved.  I agreed and paid them their desired fee.  Then, in grabbing the bike, I notice its got a flat tire.  Hmmm.  ”Oh, don’t worry about it.  We will go to the gas station and get air now.”  ”Ok” I reply.  The station had no air.  10 more blocks would be another.  It had no air either.  The next one, 15 blocks aweay, would have air, but not for bikes.  Javiar was scared to ask anyone at a car repair shop so we continued to push.  2 hours had passed and the cordial nature of our friendship was wearing thin.  I explained that if the next station did not have air, I wanted my money back and we’d call it a day.  Of course the next station did not, and he said ok, and turned to walk back toward the direction in which we’d came.  Oh, hell no!  ”No, Javiar, I will not walk back 40 blocks with you.  You’ll go to the ATM and give me my money. Thank you.” He did and we shaked hands.  We were both frustrated in that neither of us got what we want, but what does one expect…to rent bikes with out a wrench or pump on hand.  Duhhh.

I trodded back to my flat without much dinner and went to my room.  I watched a movie and went to sleep.

Would I play rugby tomorrow?  If I did, would I still have it?

Buenos Aires – El día tres

My new flat was 25 blocks from my hostel so I cabbed it.  Quick and easy, I arrived and was buzzed up to the 3rd floor of the building.  Vicky was out of town for work, so it would only be Nico and I for a few days.  He was great.  He gave me the lay of the land and was off to work shortly there after.  He and his brother own a catering company and has done quite well for himself.  His office is in nearby Palermo and he rides a bike to work..and it has a motor too…very cool!

I would find a market and a coffee shop to start my day…bought some veggies and a couple strong cups of joe.  Then back to la casa to unpack my things into my room and set up my “office”.  I had a ton of work to do.  Unpacking didnt take long and I was up and running online soon there after.

I would work for 4, or so, hours and then head out to read and feel the city.   Nico called to let me know that we’d be having the boys over for a BBQ and to make sure i was back by 8ish.  Done!  I was back, helped him clean up the terrace, which is about 2,000 sq/ft and his brother, father, and high school friends came round for beer, dinner, and plenty of laughs.  They were so warm to me.  Of course english isn’t there first language, but would go out of their way to include me in conversation.  Explaining something in spanish and then repeating it for me in english.  We drank Quilmes and vodka tonics and Fernet.  The Fernet was a bit like Jager, but smoother and was had with ice and 7-up.  Tasty, if I do say so.

Nico’s father was cool.  He had on a white linen shirt, unbuttoned about half way and what looked like blue seersucker pants.  He owns and writes for www.rugbytime.com.  We hit it off instantly!  I was telling him of my rugby experience in the states and the differencesI had experienced between american football and rugby.   He asked how much I weighed and I replied and he told me I was fat.  I laughed!!

We had ribeye and t-bone and blood sausage and intestines and pork flank and pork shoulder and who knows what else..the meat just kept coming and it was all so incredible.  Nico is obsessed with his grill and I wasn’t complaining.  We drank a few more cocktails and slowly some of the guys began to leave.  It wasn’t the same as home though.  Much the way introductions are carried out, when someone would leave, they would make a point to come to each person at the party to embrace, look in the eye, and exchange words of hope to see one another again.  At home, it was a bit more efficient and less personal, with a group “Take care” and then departure.

So at 1:30am one of the guys said to me, “Aaron, are you going to wear that?” …we were going out 😉 We were headed to the 10 year anniversary of a bar that Nico was connected to.  We had VIP tickets and arm bands for inside the club, which made things nice.  Unexpectedly, we met Pache, Victorias sister, and a few of her friends.  Bouncing all around the hot club, we laughed and drank and attempted dancing..  More than once, people would try engaging with me in Portuguese, perhaps because of my eyes, but my of course my Portuguese is about as good as my Spanish.  I retired to just watching…soaking it up.

I’m not sure when we got home, but Nico acted as though it were nothing, to have to be up and at work in less than 5 hours.  I smoked the day’s last cigarette and faded away..

Buenos Aires – El dia dos

I woke to bright, hard light coming through metal shutters, separating me from a small circular balcony over looking the street.  The city was alive.  At 10am, almost everyone was up and moving around, except me.  I wasn’t bothered one bit.

I went to the kitchen of the hostel, passing a few people that I didn’t know, saying “un dia” (short for good day) along the way.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and filled my water bottle and returned to my room to sit on the balcony to have a smoke.  It was absolutely perfect.   The sun wasn’t soft like it is in NC, it was direct and glaring.  I almost had to keep moving to keep from letting it get me.  I sipped my coffee and watched the bodies from the 3rd floor move to and fro on the street.

I picked this hostel because of the name, El Sol.  Of course Buenos Aires has 14 million people and there are obviously more than one to choose from, so picking it in lieu of the name is about as good as any way, as long the location is right, which it was.  The El Sol Hostel – Recoleta is an old French styled building with skinny stair cases of marble and tall doors, breaking one partition from the next.  The bathroom, which was common for my my room and another was wet, meaning it contained a toilet, bidet, sink, and shower over head and drain in the floor, where every got wet when you turned the shower on.

After using the bathroom for the first time since I’d been at the hostel I became confused on how to flush it..No knob, pull string, not even a reservoir to hold the water.  How did this thing work??  I scanned the walls and decided to take a break long enough to use a bidet for the first time in my life….Ooohhhh…That’s kinda weird…and nice.  Ok, now that I had a clean ass, I set back to figuring out to make this thing flush.  Aha!  The reservoir is located almost at the ceiling and was clearly installed much later than the building was built.  A small silver chain hung from its right side and upon a slight tug, all was good in toilet time.  Quickly I showered and headed out.

I had received an email back from the couple whose apartment I visited the night prior saying they’d take me and I returned a few work emails to make sure things were headed in the right direction on that front.  I wanted to see one more flat before laying my cash down and I also wanted to find a gym.

Turned out the 2nd apartment was only 2 blocks from the first one I’d seen so I knew the hood, some what.  The older lady who owned it was sweet and we spoke of my travels and her business as a landlord.  God only knows how many apartments that lady owned.  She was probably in her 70′s, pretty, tan, and petite.  Her hands rivaled Mr. T’s chest, given the mounds of gold and jewels that she crammed upon them.  I thanked her and explained that I’d be touch, grabbed some lunch consisting of rolls, salad, steak, pumpkin & mashed potatoes (which is quite common), agua con gas (sparkling water), and a diet Coke – 29 pesos or $7.62USD.  Across the street, I saw a pilates studio and figured that’d be as good as a place as any to start in my hunt for a gym..I was right, but the recommendation was for that of a bit richer blood than I.  They wanted 480 pesos for the month…whatever?!? I wanted some steel weights and maybe an old pool to do some laps in…I didn’t need or want a trainer and I didn’t care about how the place looked or smelled.

Continuing on, I went to the park to read.

The past months had been challenging for me.  I have been on a constant watch to insure my mind stays true to positivity and even if not with, at least in the direction of enlightenment.  I understand that no matter where I go and what I do, I take one thing with me…Me.  So, I understand that unless I am able to endure peace within my own mind, it really doesn’t make a hill of beans what I surround myself with.  I was nudged toward the work of Seneca, greek philospher, and his “Letters from a Stoic”.  This book would be one of 4 that I’d bring along for this journey.

On my way to the park I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water, a couple bananas, and some sweet crackers.  Walking into the park was calming and easy.  The small roads that entertwined through the grass and flowers and trees were dirt but maintained well, better I would say, than the airport I had visited yesterday.  There were cats.  Cats were everywhere.  In the trees and on the ground and in the bushes.  Sleeping, playing, hunting, flirting..so very cool. They would see me and dash away and then creep back in my direction, as if to tease.  I like cats.

I found a bench in the shade and began to browse the new text.  It was easy to read.  His words were profound and surprising applicable to my life some 2000 years after his.  I highlighted the important notes and I made an index of the lessons I took away from it in the inside jacket or the paperback.  I took breaks often to drink water and to nibble on crackers.  Not far, maybe 20 meters, was a young girl drawing on a sketch pad in the grass and 20 meters in the other direction was an older man, with a thin face and big curly hair writing words and singing to himself.  Everywhere, round every bend it seemed, were couples embraced in each others arms, not saying a lot, but feeling each other.  Not in a perverted way, but in a nice way.  They held hands and played with each others hair and kissed and hugged.  It made me think of the lovers I’ve had in my life.  It made me think of how the way of life, the things in which these people held dear, seemed very different than that which I have grown accustomed to.  This land was romantic, not in a plastic sickening Venice, Italy kinda way, but in a real “one can actually have a life here and be romantic” kinda way.  Opera is piped into the subways, old men sit at sidewalk cafes and drink coffee at 9pm laughing and sharing and gawking (with endearment, of course), together, at pretty girls as they walk by, and to sit for 3-4 hours over a meal is just…well…normal. Amazing!

I read for another hour and began home trying to decide between the two flats and decided it would be better to be with a couple locals, even if I didn’t know them, than to be alone.  I’ve preferred to live alone for a number of years at this point, mainly because I work from home and use the spare bedroom at my Los Angeles apartment as my office, but being here would be better if I had some folks to chat with.  I’m slowly learning, that despite my desire to remain alone a lot, its not to good for me.  I am a social person and need interaction with people in order to remain happy.

I ate some good food and chatted up a couple from Sweden from the hostel and then ventured out to get a drink.  It was 11pm.  The bar, Milion, was only 2 blocks from my pad and provided to be a good idea.  There, I met John, from Norway and we shared our brief life synopsis.  He worked for Adecco and was in BsAs for 6 weeks studying spanish.  Nice guy, about my same age.  On his way to the bar, he ran into 2 Columbian girls that had been smiling at us and they invited us back to their seat upon his return.  Who were we to argue 😉  They were here for a week and would then continue on to Punta Del Este, Uruguay for new years.  The gal I connecting with apologized for her english and I explained it was so much better than my spanish.  We smoked a couple cigs and had another round of drinks and made plans to meet up the next night for dinner, as I had to take my apartment at 8:30am and it was now 2am.

I strolled back to the hostel in the middle of the street, repeating new Spanish words through my head.  The air was hot and while the city was asleep, it was only barely..

Buenos Aires or Bust..

I have fantasized about this place for many years.  When I moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2005, I met a fair lass, Sabrina, from Argentina and was introduced to bits and pieces of the culture.  Mate in the morning, empanadas in the afternoon and dancing, among other things, until late at night.  She was confident and bold and didn’t mind telling me what she thought, despite being about 5’3″ and 110lbs.  I was mesmerized.  I began to research the city.  I read the wikipedia and blogs and lonely planet to learn about this “Paris of South America”, where warm air and warm embrace were equal.  I would hear and later find out first hand that everyone kisses on the cheek..even men.  Our affair did not endure, but my desire to visit this land sure did.

Two friends and I planned a trip to Brazil and Argentina for 2006, however my income would prove to me that it was unrealistic to go.  I had been laid off from my job with Dreyfuss Construction months prior and my real estate business had not grown to support my efforts in world travel, thus I sadly explained that I could not make it.  They, my buddies, went without me.  I stewed!  I was so jealous!!! I did however, live vicariously through their exploits and adventures 🙂

Another year passed and the dream remained.

I was playing pretty good footy (rugby) at the time and was invited to be a part of the Maccabi Pan Am games in Buenos Aires over new year in 2007 to play rugby 7′s.  Ha!  I was going to go!!!  But then wallstreet happened.  With the beginning of the decline in world financial markets, rugby was dropped from the games, due to finances, so the organizers said.  The trip vaporized just as quickly as it had appeared.

Another year would pass.  I did quite a bit of traveling along the west coast of the US and Canada during 2008, but always lingering was BsAs (as they abbreviate).

2009 would have me taking a break from real estate, given the overall condition of the markets, and going back to school to become an EMT and really working hard on what had become quite a lucrative business online, InternetCE.com.

I knew that the time would never be right if I didnt make it so..So I bought my ticket on the cheap and on a whim nearly 3 months before the date of departure and told myself I’d simply figure it out.  I knew I’d need a break from the studies of being an EMT anyway.

I called my mate, Simon Jones, neighbor and owner of Azzurro Travel, and he sorted me out in less than a day for cheaper than I could find anywhere online.  All told, I spent $861.40 (taxes accounted for nearly 20%) for my ticket, round trip.  On December 13th, 2009, I would leave Raleigh to Miami to Mexico City to Buenos Aires…stay for 1 month and come home the same way. My budget for the duration for the experience would not be much that the price of the ticket, including housing, food, entertainment, et al.

Would I have ever even dreamed that it is what is it is..

Buenos Aires – Day 1

It was 5am December 13th, 2009 in Raleigh, NC.

I could see my breath in the crisp air as my mom kissed me and dropped me off, saying “Be sure to call or write as soon as you arrive..”  (I love that woman!)  I puffed a Marlboro Light and smiled at another fellow that was standing in the smoking section and asked if he was coming or going..I don’t remember the reply.  I didn’t care.  I was trying to be cordial and could not sit still.  I couldn’t stop smiling and I could stop pacing.

The last few days had been hell!  I had my finals to become an EMT, tried to sleep a bit, prepared my home on the river for my absence and saw a few friends before my departure.  Talk about a rat race..

I’d been dreaming about this trip for over almost 5 years..and now I was 2 hours from departure.    I smoked another ciggy and dashed inside.

I got to Miami and as soon as the doors opened…whoosh! The hot (85ish) humid Miami air swept inside the Boeing. Now we’re talking 🙂  I now had to find the concourse for international departures.  Between hubs I would check my Blackberry one more time, for the next month.  I wanted to see if perhaps any of the owners of apartments in Buenos Aires I had solicited had replied and if the gal I had contacted through couchsurfing.org had unvaporized..nothing..”Who cares”, I said.  I’ll figure it out..

The flight from Miami to Mexico City was uneventful, but the Mexico City airport was a gong show.  I think I went up and down 4 levels and walked at least 2 miles to navigate customs, borders patrol, and imigration.  Nothing was in english but folks were quite nice to help me along..Did I forget to mention?  I paid attention in Spanish class during high school and college just long enough to squeak by..I wish things had been different..no point in crying over spilled milk now..I was going to have to wing it..

So they asked me “Mr. Davis, what is you business is Mexico?”  My reply “I am just here for a layover.  I will be continuing on to Buenos Aires at 11pm tonight.”  You see, I was trying to say it the way it should be said..Buenos Aires is phonetically said like Bwaynose Ardayse..So they heard buenos tardes..and I got that “stupid american” look from the mustache donning cap-i-tan.  After volleying this dialog a few times I finally would toss in the “Argentina” and they would reply in relief that this stupid american would soon be leaving their country.  ”Thank you Mr. Davis.  Take Care.”  I was bashful that they wouldn’t even give me a break for trying.  The Portenos (Argentine locals) would be much different..

I found a cool restaurant, actually it found me in the way of a cute mexican girl in a santa outfit hawking travelers into the establishment (i’m such a sucker for a hottie in a santa hat). It had wifi and I had a late lunch, of course it was only 3pm and my flight out of the circus was at 11pm.  I checked my email again, not caring to much about the apartment, but where I was going to go when my plane landed in the southern hemisphere.  I had spent the last month online conversing with a girl that said she would host me for a couple days while I found a flat to rent and 2 days before i was set to leave she vanished.  I was to busy dealing with everything to really find some other people so I held on to hope..riiiight.  I finally surrendered to renting a couple nights at a hostel in Recoleta for $12 per night.  Not bad, all things considered, but I knew I’d basically be running solo, which would be tough, especially given the language.  I would need to buy a phone, a bike, and negotiate an apartment..in spanish.

A couple hours before my flight I made my way to the gate and shortly there after a cute argentine girl sat beside me.  She was a pilates instructor that had been working in Cancun, I believe, for the past 9 months and was good conversation.  I told her about my most recent exploits in school, et al, and we shared a laugh.  A couple on their honey moon came over, as she was their instructor back in BsAs and they shared some laughs as well.  Time was moving rapidly and I was fading fast.

The flight was called and folks started to get up to board through the gate.  This wasn’t the boarding I was used to. No order or lines.  No calling groups based upon position in the plane.  No, this was more like trying to get into a club in Los Angeles at 12:30am on a saturday night.  No rhyme or reason at all.  People pushing and shoving, edging their way in front of the next person to get a better chance at creeping toward the gate that was blocked by only one person, a rather heavy set woman with an expression on her face that said “I mean business. Don’t fuck with me or my ‘line.’”  Didn’t these people realize that we all had assigned seats and that the plane wouldn’t leave until at least the posted time of departure.  I was bewildered but laughed it off and joked about it with my new friend, Denise.  Turned out we wouldn’t sit near each other but we did exchange emails to possibly meet up once in Argentina.

I reached my seat and introduced myself to Eduardo, my neighbor, and to Sara, a gal across the aisle.  Edu, as he preferred to be called worked for HP Latin America and headed to BsAs for a conference and Sara was from Uruguay, even though she lived in Vancouver, and was visiting her mom.

I ate an ambien, downed 2 vodka tonics and enjoyed the soft little socks that Mexicana Airlines gave me when I boarded.  I made small talk with Edu and Sara and fell into to some of the happiest sleep I’ve had in recent memory.

I woke to perhaps Bolivia or Paraguay or Uruguay or Brazil rushing underneath me.  Vast spans of land reached out to the horizon.  We were 2 hours from Buenos Aires.  Breakfast was served, I read a bit, and exchanged contact info with both my new friends.  Lovely, they both were.

We landed. I smiled.

Customs was easy and friendly.  The walk past immigration was a breeze.  The airport showed signs of many years use and thoughtful, yet depleted maintenance.  I walked through the doors of arrivals to a sea of taxi drivers, passengers, and people that just seemed to be hanging out.  I was thrilled and got in the first taxi that I saw.  Mistake number 1.

I had been traveling for close to 30 hours at that point and that was on about 3 hours sleep after my finals.  To say I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I could’ve been is an understatement.  The trip from the airport to my hostel took approxiamtely 50 minutes and he charged me 180 peso’s for my ride, whereas it should’ve been closer to 100.  Then the fucker asked if he could keep the change as a tip.  I knew I was being overcharged and said no. Firmly.  It wasn’t until about an hour later that I realized that he had done the cool hand luke with the first 100 peso note I handed him.  All told, he got me for 280 peso or about $75USD.  In LA a 1 hour cab ride might be that much but I was in South America.  I asured myself that he need the extra 50 bucks more than me and made the commitment to myself to keep my head on a smoother swivel.

I stuck out like a unicorn here and would need to make sure I didn’t present like such a retard. Lesson learned and a cheap one, all things considered.

I arrived at my hostel, bought a cell phone for $40, and visited a flat that I would later take.  I ate a grilled chicken sandwich at the cafe underneath my hostel and drank a Qulimes Beer.  I wrote my mom and dozed to sleep.

I was thoroughly exhausted and I was alone…but I had made it and I had a plan.

Why I Decided To Become An EMT

I just finished a 3 1/2  month course at Cape Fear Community College to become an emergency medic.  My reasons for doing so are 5 fold..

1. Unfortunately, my college girlfriend passed away during her sophomore year.  She had a brain tumor and upon having surgery to remove it, developed meningitis and died.  It killed me.  I went from being a social butterfly to a recluse to a work fanatic…and back around and around again..I stopped playing rugby.  I started paying football.  I graduated from school and moved to the woods to build a house.  I thank the good Lord my father was able to give me the opportunity to build that house, as the woods provided solace.  Even with time, the pain remained.  I have had difficulty maintaining relationships with women, with old friends and new friends, with business associates, et al.  Not to say that her death was the cause of this, but I believe it contributed.  I held on to guilt, to pain, to unanswered questions…When I faced angst with a companion, I became very good at simply leaving, which is perhaps the worst thing one can do.  I felt that if I could learn the science behind her illness and death, that perhaps some of the emotion would move from ignorance and pain to understanding and relief.  I also felt that if I helped some others, even if I did not know them, that I would also feel better on the inside.  I was correct in my assumption that I would feel better if I knew what happened, physiologically.

2. I do a lot of risky things, thus i felt that being able to identify a personal medical emergency would be a good thing.  I camp alone in the middle of the desert.  I hike mountains solo to see where it goes.  I travel to foreign countries where I do not speak the language.  I fly airplanes, play rugby, and drive motorcycles entirely to fast…and those are the big things…So now, when my blood pressure is dropping and my heart rate is increasing after falling off a cliff, ill know that I may be going into shock and how to deal with it.  I read Emergency, by Neil Strauss, where he illustrates the importance of being able to take care of one’s self, should the shit hit the fan, which it does over and over.  I took his advice.

3.  No matter where I go and what I do, I feel it is a good thing to know how to save someone’s life on a basic level.  What if all…i mean everyone of them…the stars line up and I find a compatible mate and have kids, as a neighbor, a son, a citizen…to be able to help someone that is in a critical medical emergency would be pretty damn cool.  While I do not want anything bad to happen to anyone, it is inevitable that shit happens…Im thankful I can now aid in relief.

4. My company, InternetCE.com has sold, until now, only financial continuing education.  We provide mandatory CE to licensees such that may remain in good standing with their prospective boards and departments.  Inasmuch, I would like to offer medical CEU’s as well.  I feel that it is always a good idea to speak from experience, so while I am not a doctor (yet) I can still explain curriculum and procedure based upon my experience as a medic.  Expect to see medical CE in the coming months.

5.  I want to work part time and/or volunteer with emergency relief in Los Angeles, CA and Wilmington, NC .  I believe that being able to remain poised and level headed in the face of adversity is a strong suit of mine, or at least it was in competitive sports, so I believe I’ll be an asset in the face of an emergency.  I like helping people.  My soul is renewed when I am able to help someone in need.  I am helped when I am able to help.

Patients have spoken with their feet, seeking [emergency department care] in unprecedented numbers. We are the ones you come to when you’re really sick, possibly sick, or kind of sick and in need of rapid evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. We are the place you come to when you cannot or will not wait for others to find a place in their schedules for you, and the site of medical refuge when you don’t know where else to turn. Despite limited resources,unrealistic expectations, and impossible demand, emergency medicine delivers on our promise to provide the best possible care to every patient regardless of their ability to pay or what time of day they choose to seek care.

Alan Kay once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” We’re in an inventing mode and are being presented with a historic opportunity to define both the future of our specialty and of American medicine. The opportunities in emergency medicine are endless and by choosing this career you will become a leader and a champion for the health care needs of your patients. The challenges before our health care system and emergency medicine are significant, but the rewards and honor of providing care to our communities are limitless.

– Dr. Brian Keaton