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.