Monthly Archives: March 2013
Alright, let’s return to my crazy summer adventure and recount the next chapter.
I think I left off when we arrived in Cuesta Blanca and collapsed onto the beach bathing in sunlight and eating palta–tomato–mayonesa sandwiches. Pretty pristine moment. After we finished, I snapped into my swim suit and we crossed the bridge looking for an empty stretch of beach to get some sand between our toes. It wasn’t hard to find. We were just out of view of the bridge—a spot with shade, sun, and even a rock in the river perfect for dipping in just up to your ankles. We spent the next few hours enjoying the paradise of the sun and water, fooling around on the guitar, and cat napping.
The sand was full of micah and had a surreal sparkle in the sunlight. I couldn’t really capture it with my camera but here are my best attempts:
I woke up before Maxi and went and splurged on a bottle of fernet and some Coca-Cola at the convenience store to celebrate our successful arrival to the beach.
Turned out Max was hiding some celebration refreshments as well—his favorite crappy cheap wine, Santa Ana. We gathered sticks for a camp fire and I expertly built the twig and showed off my superior boy scout skills. Max busied himself breaking apart the dead branches we’d dragged down to the beach saying, “Yeah, well…see, I was always the one who helped put the tent up, ya know? Not actually starting a camp fire…” It’s ok, I had his back. I only learned how to build a campfire a couple of years ago and am still embarrassed that I went through the majority of my life not knowing how to strike a match and perform an essential survival skill…This time I was incredibly proud as we sat near the fire drinking ferne y coca and vino from the bottle and eating the rest of the avocadoes and tomatoes we’d purchased earlier.
We talked for hours about politics, the benefits of hitch hiking, Maxi’s adventures through Israel, and our excitement about what was to come in the next two months we had to travel. It was great to connect a little with Max but we still managed to avoid any personal details about our lives like family and friends back home, girlfriends/boyfriends, and deeper philosophies. For me it is not very common to spend more than four or five hours talking with someone and somehow skirt around these topics, especially when we’re drinking, but Maxi and I talked and talked about everything but.
At some point in the conversation I curled up next to the campfire with just my stolen airplane blanket and fell asleep. I don’t know when exactly I dropped dead, but I know that we were mid conversation and I know exactly when I woke up.
I woke up and it was still dark, the flames had turned to embers and smoke and the stars were incredible. I didn’t see anything though. I could only feel. Cold. So, so COLD. I could barely move I was so cold. I wrapped myself like a burrito in my paper thin airplane blanket that didn’t even cover my toes and shook for what seemed like hours trying to fall back asleep. At last, I surrendered and made a break for my backpack tearing out every single shirt I owned and layering them on, changing into jeans and dawning as many pairs of socks as would fit into my shoes. I had no regard for where my articles of clothing flew in my freeze-fueled frenzy and I think it would’ve looked like a yard sale of my intimates on the beach if it weren’t so dark. My jacket barely fit over the layered clothing that did manage to make it onto my body. I returned to my poor excuse for a blanket none the warmer and shivered for another ten minutes before I started literally crying.
I wasn’t too quiet about it either, but I don’t remember ever being so miserably cold in my life. (Not before that moment anyways…there were other episodes like this during the trip. This is the most memorable though.) I finally caved and decided to wake up Maxi to see if he could spare part of his sleeping bag. I started out my attempts to wake him none too subtly by shaking his shoulders and crying in his face. He didn’t budge. The wine had apparently cut him off from this dimension and he lacked any sense of consciousness. I was desperate. I was half-yelling half-crying and probably sounded like a dying werewolf. As a last resort I hobbled to the fire and literally sat in the embers.
It was a short-lived relief, but it had the desired effect. I alternated putting different body parts in the remains of the fire and singing my clothing until I had melted all of the icicles down to my fingertips. I laid out my airplane blanket on the rocks next to the fire and stuck my face as close to the embers as possible without burning the skin off of my nose, still crying. Suddenly, I froze (pun intended.)
Even though I couldn’t wake Maxi, I had apparently waken somebody else up and froze in fear when I saw a flashlight and heard an, “Hola,” aimed in our direction. Maybe I was being overdramatic with the cold thing. Were we even allowed to camp on the beach? Did maybe one of the people who lived in the town worry and call the police? Why couldn’t I wake Maxi up?! What was I going to tell these people if they stumbled upon our camp and found two foreigners trying to explain themselves amidst the remains of wine bottles and my entire collection of underwear sprinkled across the sand??? I held my breath, but the “hola”’s kept coming.
So this post doesn’t have any particular photos, I just peppered it with a few that summarize my time in Buenos Aires.
Hello World. I may not even post this as a blog because I’m going to talk about a lot of things that may not necessarily be wise to discuss publicly with all of my family and friends back in the US who read this blog, but if you’re reading this, I clearly felt ready to share it.
We all know that I’m a little crazy. Ok, cut the shit, I’m a drama queen, and if there’s nothing crazy going on in my life I’m bound to find (create?) something. This is a self-admission from a girl who’s jumped into moving cars to attempt to save her girlfriends’ dignity, who loves to go country dancing on Tuesday nights and belly dancing on Thursdays, and the proud owner of a scorpion named Scheherazade; I was crazy enough to go to Argentina by myself and crazy enough to go hitchhiking across the country with a guy I barely knew, a couple hundred dollars in my bra (I was scared of pickpocketers), and no set itinerary; so, it probably won’t come as a shock to you that: I’m completely and totally lost.
In college, we are supposed to create a life direction. It’s not like we aren’t really prepared for this kind of decision—don’t even get me started on the mandatory high school Critical Skills class, which only consisted of about 97 surveys aimed at identifying our interests. Oops I started: in Critical Skills I learned that I’m an ENFJ personality, that I am equally 33.3% an audio, visual, and kinesthetic learner, that my ideal career would range anywhere from bartender to geneticist to public defender, and that there should be TWO spaces between the state and zip code when typing the address on a cover letter. Important stuff. None of it helped me…I was fifteen years old.
Any scholarship/admission/bragging essays I write will never start with, “Since the second grade I always knew I wanted to be a…” Nah, mine begin, “When I was in Kindergarten I was going to be a social worker just like my mommy, then in fifth grade I had my heart set on being a whale trainer at Sea World (ok, never quite let go of that dream), then I was going to be a second grade teacher through middle school, in high school it was eye doctor, and then I landed in college at the age of 17 with an appetite for every type of career and an exhausted level of motivation.” Breathe here. I’ve bounced around to about everything too. I finally picked Marketing because I knew I could make money with it and it is a pretty versatile degree. I got bored though. So I went to Argentina to find a passion and hopefully set me on my course before I graduate.
It’s not working though! Here, I’ve added a major in Global Tourism and a minor in Business. But rather than helping me find an interest to focus on, Argentina has expanded my world and made me realize how many interests I do have and how many opportunities there are to follow dream A through X. Now, wouldn’t it be beautiful if this waverly enthusiasm I’ve got for just about every career out there came without a cost. Hey, I’m young, I have my whole life ahead of me…oh and about $$$ in loans. So now, with only three semesters ahead of me and the real drive to do about -2, I am stuck. I have yet to take a single class with my new tourism major and I’m already bored of it. To be honest, being here has made me overexcited to be done studying and get going with something I actually want to do. I only made Spanish one of my majors because I somehow managed to score a 5 on the AP test and came in to CSU with half of it already done. To avoid having to declare an official life path I just signed up for that one.
So as my life here continues to baffle me and find new dimensions to twist into I wasn’t even aware existed, I find myself doubting my future. I’ve come to realize that my life doesn’t have to fit into the conventional high school-college-job-family path. That sounds so cliché that I’m saying that at my age and having identity issues and it most likely is, but I’m discovering little by little that I can really do whatever I want. It’s probably the most terrifying thought that I’ve ever had to come to terms with and it really hasn’t been easy. Right now, here in Argentina, I feel really happy. I love the city, the people, the culture, what I’m doing here, everything. I do miss everyone back home, but I feel so at home here. Of course I have bad days and get depressed, it’s not like I’m in some disillusioned cloud of happiness, but I am just content with life on a more general level. I am tired of not living in the moment and constantly worrying about the future.
The only thing that I know right now is that I don’t really know. I have a very vague picture of what I want my future to look like, I’m impatient with studying, and I want to start painting that picture. It’s not too early, ok? This isn’t something I’m writing on a whim, just so you know. I have been thinking and stressing about this for about three months and am now officially presenting it (if I actually post it anyways.) To be honest I put off really thinking about it for much longer before those three months because it’s scary and sounds crazy. Eventually I gave in. I did some research.
I could finish Spanish with a Business minor in December if I wanted to and maybe even all online. I’m not sure the Global Tourism major is going to add much more than a wholelotta work and an extra pretty little box on my resume. That work is something that I lack both the motivation and the money for. Ok, I could find the money, but if I’m not sure about it…it won’t be worth the years I’ll spend paying it off. I feel like if I’m going to have to pay back a bajillion dollars in loans when I graduate with no real idea of what I want to do I should at least enjoy studying what I studied and benefit from it. I asked a few people and my advisor if the Global Tourism degree would give me a real edge on competition in the job market. The consensus was that, “It couldn’t hurt, but your Business minor does more than that extra degree.” So I think I want to finish my last semester in December. Then what, you ask?
Right now, I think it would be amazing to write. I have a natural talent for it and haven’t ever actually tried to develop that talent. I’m sure I’d get better with practice, just like playing the violin or playing soccer. And I’d love to keep traveling. There are so so so many opportunities I found that would allow me to travel and work. It’s not so daunting as it sounds; not even close. Plus I’m great at saving dinerooo 😉
The second part of my big-bad-scary plan is the most controversial to my mom. I haven’t really made it super public to all of my friends yet either, but here goes. I want to stay in Argentina. Calm down. Calm down. Don’t freak out yet and let me explain. Nothing has to be permanent and you can get on a plane and get anywhere, ANY OTHER PLACE IN THE WORLD, in 24 hours. That means that tomorrow at this hour I could be back in Colorado, or in Australia, or in Russia or or or… you get the picture. So it’s not like I’d really be disappearing. Plus, I’m still coming home in July no matter what. Let me break it down:
I promised everyone back home that I wouldn’t fall in love with any cute boys here and I still haven’t. Instead I’ve fallen in love with the country and the culture. Sometimes, I’m just sitting on the colectivo listening to my music and waiting to get to my destination when I get this slow, warm sensation in my tummy. It’s not butterflies, but similar—a sort of bliss that catches me by surprise in the most curious moments. I just love it here so much. The way everyone you know (or don’t know) kisses you on the cheek to greet you; the lilt of the accent; the sweet tooth; the twisted way you somehow have to order ice cream and coffee at McDonald’s from three different counters; the old man at the stoplight who tells me he wishes he could introduce me to his grandson; I could go on and on… Sometimes I feel more Argentine than Statian and that really weirds me out. So, while I know it seems completely crazy, I feel like my heart is here and I want to stay for longer…an indefinite amount of time.
I’m still going to go back for at least a month or two though, just to test my resolve and help realize how much I’ve changed and if this is the right move for me. It’s not anything that can’t be reversed in an instant—a move like that. I don’t have kids or pets or a boyfriend and I really feel like it’s what I should do now while I’m so unencumbered with responsibilities. It’s what will make me happy. I have three options:
A.) Go home for a month or so in July and take a semester off school. This wouldn’t hurt my transcripts or my financial aid at all and I could pick up right where I left off with CSU’s new plan for semester’s off; I’m just afraid I might lose more motivation
B.) Continue with my degree and finish in December with online classes. This I could do from Argentina while working just as easily as I could do from home. So it seems more appealing to me. Why be confused and unmotivated there when I can be confused and unmotivated in a place that I’m in love with and makes my heart feel like it’s floating?
C.) Go home for a few months and continue school for one semester at CSU campus, graduating in December and returning to Argentina.
The con to finishing school early, even though I’d have a four year Bachelor’s degree AND a minor in Business, is that if I do decide to study something else and develop my resume I’m not going to get the same financial aid that I did the first time around at CSU…if any at all. I could always study at University of Buenos Aires though. It’s hard. Really hard. But it’s free and you can complete it all at your own pace.
Stay tuned to see if I change my mind next week, but I don’t think that’s in the forecast 🙂
Hola beautiful tribe of readers! It’s been quite some time since I’ve written—mostly the fault of my incredible level of business but partially my personal lack of motivation to do anything that produces other-than-social results. I seriously feel like my social life has been a full time job lately, but I’ll cover that later.
I am supposed to be in class right now. Surprise, surprise! Autumn is exploring her capacity to be irresponsible on a Tuesday. Still though, my week has been utterly crazy without my doing much of anything. The world’s coincidences and little everyday mishaps also seem to be targeting me. For example, let me tell you about my morning: I woke up at 7 AM freaking out that I’d slept in too long again. I didn’t, so I went back to sleep and had some really awesome dreams…which were rudely interrupted by my alarm a mere thirty minutes later. It’s been difficult for me to drag my ass out of bed before the crack of noon lately so I left my windows open last night and pled for help from the sun. I hate those mornings where you realize you have an extra few minutes of sleep and yet those cruel minutes only succeed in exhausting you further. This has certainly been one of them.
I snoozed right on through to 7:55 AM. This was the kind of uncomfortable snoozing we’ve all experienced in which you never actually fall asleep but instead spin yourself into a grumpy mood because you just don’t want to get up. You feel the noose of responsibility non-consensually extracting you from your warm sanctuary of sheets and finally succumb with a scowl plastered to your face through breakfast. Plus, you’re probably running late at that point. Blah.
I waded through the piles of dirty clothes on my floor, slumped to the bathroom, undressed, and pulled the shower curtain around me and the toilet. I was fully awake and fully sober (not always a given in Argentina on a Tuesday morning at 8 AM…), but somehow life was out to get me today and with a big crash the whole shower curtain and bar came down in a cloud of dust. I wasn’t even touching it. Being a totally hardened nature girl the first thing that crossed my mind was, of course, my hair. I wasn’t going to leave the house unshowered today. Thus began the complicated process of me trying to shove the nails of the shower curtain bar firmly back into the wall. To get an idea of what this looked like you should first understand that my bathroom is less than a meter wide, I was clotheless, and standing on my tippy toes against the wall trying not to sneeze against the dust that I was unsettling with my fruitless efforts. Ok, clearly I couldn’t do this without synthetic height. I wrapped a towel around me and tiptoed to the living room hoping against hope that I hadn’t woken anyone up with the traitorous shower curtain. It was now 8:15… I grabbed a chair and snuck back to the bathroom only to discover that it didn’t fit past the sink, let alone through the doorway.
Attempt number two led me to shutting the bathroom door, ditching the towel and tentatively lending my weight to the toilet to try and reach the shower bar. Yeah, well my toilet is kind of made of plastic; like the lightweight thin kind that isn’t made to hold up even the tiniest of young women (a race I don’t belong to anyways.) Although I was desperate for a shower, I was patient enough to not break both the toilet and the shower bar in one day. I’m not going to lie, dawning my tallest high heels actually crossed my mind. I imagined myself gracefully sliding the shower bar back into the wall with a Martha Stewart smile and a wink. But it’s me…with high heels…and no clothes…and then my daydream image crashed with reality revealing the sure result of that—broken bones and something even more crazy like a sink torn from the wall and…uh-uh. Bad idea.
I reluctantly wrapped my towel around me again and set off for a stool. Apparently the stool that’s always in the same place in our kitchen took the day off in honor of my special clumsiness and was nowhere to be found. Somehow though, my search brought me to the terrace and I saw some white plastic footstools that looked promising. I tried to open the backdoor quietly so as not to wake my family and stepped out onto the tenth floor balcony in my towel. But of course a strong wind chose that exact moment to assault me and steal my towel, leaving me stumbling naked after it and slipping on something halfway across the terrace. I’d like to think that no one saw me belly flop over my own feet and land sprawled out naked on my host family’s terrace reaching desperately for a rogue towel but, let’s face it: I live in the center of a city of 15 million people and it was already 8:30 in the morning.
I recovered my towel, grabbed the stool, and abandoned the rest of my dignity outside to go back in and get my blasted shower. I totally deserved it at this point. The stool held up despite my record of poor luck this morning and I was able to push the shower bar back into its rightful place between sneezes. It wouldn’t stay though and I ended up showering awkwardly balancing the shower bar above me while standing on the stool and ducking every time I needed to rinse my hair. I would wager that I’m more covered in dust and dirt than when I started the whole ordeal.
That episode ended at 8:37 and I retreated to my room to put on some real clothes before reentering the kitchen in search of coffee; wasn’t going to leave anything to chance this time. I couldn’t find anything acceptable to wear, which is quite unsurprising because I haven’t done laundry since I got home from my summer trip. Throwing on a dirty tank top and the Argentine equivalent of sweat pants (balis), I heard another colossal crash from the bathroom. It made me pause with my arms halfway through the straps of my stretched out tank top but nothing more. I’ve kept the bathroom door shut since then, determined not to deal with it now. Coffee didn’t make everything better like it’s supposed to. I still feel tired and groggy and the scowl I woke up with didn’t even neutralize through breakfast. I don’t think I’m going to my morning class. Maybe I’ll finish writing about the next part of my journey this morning…maybe I’ll return to my dreams. So many opportunities once you finally decide to ditch your daily duties 🙂
After an enlightening night in the gas station in a town we didn’t know the name of and a breakfast of half a chocolate bar and grapefruit flavored gaseosa, Maxi and I gathered all of our fully charged electronics and trudged to the entrance waving chau to the night shift gas station attendant. Even though we didn’t speak I feel like we bonded.
I felt like a total vagrant slugging out from the gas station still wearing my pajama pants, my greasy hair jammed haphazardly into a sloppy bun behind me. I dragged my feet after Max. We crossed the street, walked a block to the turn pike and let our backpacks crash to the ground underneath a tree on the side of the road–ready to start the next leg of the journey! I made a sign from the only weathered looking piece of cardboard I could find. Trying to make it pretty and friendly, I drew a peace sign…but kind of mixed it up in my fatigue with a Mercedez-Benz logo. Hmmm capitalism vs. peace and love.
I didn’t know which was which and Maxi wasn’t sure either. If I accidentally put a Mercedes-Benz sign on my hitchhiking sign would that seem presumptuous? Like we were looking for a super sly ride or something? While my exhausted brain was pondering this, a man passed and told me that I had left my extra set of shoes at the gas station. Yep. I was officially beat. I ran to get my shoes; the employees had switched shifts but the night lady was still there and she wished us luck as she handed them to me with a smile. Everyone was so nice.
When I got back to Maxi I had hardly torn off the peace sign/Mercedes-Benz cardboard creation and taken out the guitar to practice my new skills when a car pulled up offering us a ride. The man was wearing a blue uniform that looked like it would be miserable when the midday heat inevitably arrived. He told us his name was Adrian and that he worked in factory in a suburb close to Carlos Paz. He had to be to work at 8 AM so he didn’t have time to bring us all the way but he’d take us as far as another turn pike where everyone would be destined for Carlos Paz. We talked about his job, his family (three daughters and a wife), his dog (a big fluffy Golden Retriever named Guver), and the co-op residencias that lined the highway. They looked surreal—so many of these plain-colored cement walls with tiny windows strategically placed to fit the most possible into the space they occupied. It reminded me of a game of Rush Hour but with houses instead of cars. To be honest, I wasn’t even quite sure what a co-op was until I asked Adrian. He explained to us that it was very hard to make a living working in the many factories that surrounded Cordoba, so families built their houses attached to each other and shared utility bills.
^^This is not my picture, it’s a google image search result for co-op housing but is really similar to the type of buildings we saw outside Cordoba Capital. The ones I saw were the colors from an Easter palette and looked like a giant cement labyrinth they were so tightly arranged.
Adrian had luckily been able to move his family outside Cordoba capital to a much nicer suburb with their own house and even a yard for Guver. The family would pass their vacation times in Cuesta Blanca (Maxi and I’s destination) in a couple of weeks and he assured us that it was hermoso (beautiful.)
As we got caught up talking I realized twenty minutes had passed and it was ten till eight! I told him this and offered to have him drop us off on the side of the road so he could get to work on time. He politely declined and said he had decided to take us all the way to Carlos Paz, a total of 30 more km out of his way!!! Maxi and I were incredibly grateful and it only doubled my consternation as to how much luck with hitchhiking we were having. Although Max had told me time and time again that hitchhiking was always this way because the people who pick you up have either done the same thing at some point in their lives or were genuinely interested to talk to and help you, I still struggled to believe it. I had the hardest time seeing why people would do something so…nice without anything in return (or at least that was how my Statian brain analyzed it.)
The factory Adrian worked in transformed raw materials into parts for cement and metal bridges and I’m sure he wasn’t too eager to arrive to work on time, but it still boggled my mind that he would arrive nearly 30 minutes late to work to bring two dirty, stinky, foreigners with tacky accents that far out of his way. As we said goodbye, Adrian gave us his phone number and email address in case we ever needed anything or just wanted to keep him posted as to our whereabouts.
My first priority when we got out of the car on the outskirts of Carlos Paz was a bathroom; second was food. Both were urgent matters and we set off. It felt like we had walked 30 blocks before I finally found a place to go, and Maxi was more preoccupied with food so by the time we found a supermarket we were both exhausted and cranky. That’s putting it lightly. We asked around for which bus would take us to Cuesta Blanca and we never got a clear answer. There were fifteen different kinds of “white ones” so how were we supposed to know which ones to flag down??? The only fail-safe solution was all of them. Luckily the drivers who had to pull over didn’t mind too much, but between their Cordobes accent and the street noise we didn’t get much more of a detailed description of the right bus out of them. After three or four busses passed I was officially in a grumpy mood and the closest available scapegoat was Maxi. I slumped onto the bus bench with my scowl for company. Commence making sure Max knew how unhappy I was. Looking back, he was really surprisingly tolerant of my random tantrums throughout our time traveling together.
Sometimes hitchhiking is not the most comfortable method of traveling. It is rewarding in that you get an inside look into the culture, have interesting conversations with even more interesting people, and it’s generally much more comfortable (and warmer!) than the big double decker busses. Long, hot hours waiting in the sun, lack of sleep, and being on someone else’s time clock can often abrade nerves and fuel conflicts though. Maxi and I did a pretty excellent job considering he was used to traveling alone and I’m a bit of a diva sometimes (cough cough.) But all jest aside, thanks for putting up with me Max, and sorry I was a drag to travel with on occasion…
When the right bus finally passed and we managed to cram all of our things into one seat (an admirable feat) we settled in for the hour bus ride to Cuesta Blanca. The paved roads turned to dirt, the houses to trees, and my state of consciousness to OFF. When Maxi woke me up I dizzily stumbled off the bus with all my things–disoriented and craving sleep but in a much better mood. Ah, I remembered this place. I took a deep breath of clean, crisp, sierra air. The landscape and the climate reminded me so much of my Colorado home ❤
We walked up a hill and crossed a bridge to “town.” A boy who looked about eight years old passed us on an ATV with three other kids on the back in a tangle of limbs kicking up a cloud of dust in his wake.
^^This is not a picture of the 8-year-old boy but one I took my first time around in Cuesta Blanca in August last semester. It is not an uncommon scene.
We looked around at where we were. It really was beautiful. It was really quiet (once the underage driver was gone.) It was really rural. It was perfect. 🙂
There were two one-aisle grocery stores on opposite sides of the only street. We conquered this tough decision in a matter of hunger-fueled seconds and bought bread, tomato, mayonnaise and palta (avocado.) Little did we know that this (sans the luxury of the mayo) would become a staple diet for us throughout Cordoba, Tucuman, Salta, and Jujuy. We enjoyed every bite though. It was picture perfect as the sun caressed our toes lounging on the beach listening to the calm river water wandering away from us.
This is making me hungry…I’m going to go eat something. Thanks for reading!
If my first hitchhiking experience was lacking one thing it would be the conversation with the drivers. Although Max and I talked a little bit during the voyage in the Fiat, we were both drained and didn’t have all that much to say that we hadn’t already. We were running off gas station coffee and honey roasted peanuts…certainly not the most effective forms of alimentation. Maxi also uses words much more sparingly than I do. Most people do, but he saves them exceptionally well for extra power when it really matters. I envy people like that. It takes vassal amounts of energy for me to stay quiet for even a half hour—it has been done, but it’s very unlikely you’ve witnessed the feat. For me, the conversations and people were by far the most rewarding aspects of hitchhiking.
Mariano and the family from Cordoba said their goodbyes to us in a tiny town outside of Cordoba that was named something like Oliva (I don’t remember the exact name.) It wouldn’t be acceptable for him to drive us all the way to the center where he worked so he dropped us off as close as he could.
We walked through town, which consisted of one main street, with all of our things and finally parked at a gas station in the center. I made a sign and we attempted to hitchhike…well Maxi attempted. I was still being super shy and kind of set my sign on the street corner and stood by it. Don’t worry, I got much better; but the first few weeks for me were spent climbing the learning curve.
At about 5 PM, after giving up at the gas station and two hours of walking down the road at a lazy pace, we got a ride from Hernan about 30 km (18.6 miles) to the next town over.
This ride was definitely unique from the first one that we’d experienced. Maxi was shoved into the back seat with ALL of his effects…his nose nearly plucking the guitar strings smushed against his resilient grin. I sat in the front, only slightly more comfortable, with all of my things in my lap piled snuggly up under my chin. The car was on its last miles. I watched the asphalt race by through the holes in the floor by the stick shift as I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to understand Hernan over the rattling of the rusty metal. How come I couldn’t understand him?! I had been communicating quite smoothly thus far, to my ample pride and surprise. But Hernan was speaking half Spanish and half gobbledygook. The jangling and jolting of the ancient car didn’t help. From the 75% that I was able to understand though, he seemed interesting enough. He dropped us off at the bus station in the next town over and wished us the best of luck. It was getting dark and cold by the time we’d agreed that tickets to Villa Carlos Paz (connection through Cordoba) were too expensive for us ratas (about $10.50 USD.) We decided to keep trying at hitching anyways. The little bus station was open 24 hours so…if worse came to worse….
Luckily, just as I had changed into jeans and pep talked myself for a rough night of cuddling street dogs in the bus station, a truck driver stopped at the stop light and offered us a lift. The truck driver who’d picked us up was indeed from Cordoba and, of course, not headed there. In fact, when I told Maxi we should just take the ride I was still only half sure that he was headed in the same direction. Did they speak a different language in Cordoba? And then I remembered…oh…they have a completely different accent. I flash-backed to a memory of my host brother smacking his fingers to his lips saying, “Uuuuyyy mmmmm, el accento Cordobés. Me muero.” I think it would be the equivalent of learning Colorado’s English and then taking an excursion to Texas—even I would have to focus a bit more to understand. The fact that Spanish was my second language and I was still a fledgling Argentine made Cordoba’s accent all that much more difficult, but I quickly got used to it after a couple of days. Good prep for Brazilian Portuguese.
He was at least going in the same direction and for Maxi and I it was “Cordoba or Bust!” so we’d take what we could get. We had lots of room in the front of his truck and we settled in for the ride quite nicely. Diego, the truck driver, was transporting a truck full of Quilmes to Jesús María, a town outside of Cordoba Capital but would drop us off at the turn point to Villa Carlos Paz, which would be even better for hitchhiking than attempting to do so from the capital.
^^See how the turnpike is kind of far out of the city?
Recalling it now it feels like we must have spent hours talking about family, travel and life but when I look at Google Maps I see that it wasn’t a very long journey—only about 90 km (55 miles.) That means that we only spent an hour or so with Diego. Diego’s 30th birthday was coming up on New Year’s Eve and he was going to have to spend it alone because of his job. Here is what I wrote about Diego on my napkin-journal in my state of zombified chocolate high at the gas station we slept in (aka excuse my uninteresting/stream-of-consciousness writing):
“Diego spends his life on the road as a truck driver because he needs the money to support his family—his wife of twenty-six and five-year-old son, Thiago. I am in love with the name Thiago (Tee-Aww-Go). Like when I heard the name I seriously just felt some of the wires in my brain spark. I am going to name my future son Thiago. Posta. I don’t care if he’s not even like anything at all Spanish or Argentine or ***************. That’s gonna be his name. So there. Anyways, Diego’s story just moved me. He talked about how much he missed his family and showed us photos on his phone. He told us that for Christmas he did get to go home, but he literally arrived at 6 PM Christmas Eve and left at 6 PM the next day to work a straight 18-hour shift, leaving him trying to balance between rest and celebrating (reuniting) with his family. I think Maxi understood some of the conversation but it would have been hard to talk much even if he did so I spoke the whole time and tried to understand Diego’s Cordobes accent. This trip he was headed to Jesús María and then up through Argentina all the way to the border with Bolivia. His wife and son would meet him in Jesús María because it was relatively close to Cordoba to pass the day driving with him the upcoming day and he was really excited to see them. Then, they’d take a bus back home—it was one of the only ways they got to spend time with him. He mentioned that he and his wife had been considering getting jobs at Musimundo in Cordoba so that they would be able to go home together and be a family, but being a truck driver paid the bills and it would be a big risk to give that up for a day job. I mean, he even told us that when he got to the border of Bolivia he’d have about eight hours to rest but planned on instead spending many of them on Bolivian soil shopping for gifts and clothing for his family because it was so much cheaper and they just couldn’t afford it here in Argentina.
“He said both his dad and his uncle drove trucks too. He had a sister and a brother. His sister was in her early twenties and studied theater and acting in Cordoba because it was what she loved. His brother was six years old and had died six months before. Yes. Died. At first I didn’t think I understood the Spanish but I knew by the look on Diego’s face as he talked about him. A muted and resigned sorrow in his eyes. I didn’t know how to say sorry in Spanish and I just…really didn’t know what to say at all. His story was tragic to me. He told me that both he and his father were working at the time and not allowed to leave their jobs for 2 days despite hearing the news and, even then, they had had to drive home from wherever it was they were at. I was speechless. Sometimes with Spanish I feel like it’s rude to have serious conversations. I know that this is ridiculous and because I’m living my life in Spanish now it’s unavoidable. I just sometimes feel like the nerdy kid in class who everyone rolls their eyes at who speaks in an Argentine accent. Like ok, kid, you’re cool, now shut up. This time I was not only afraid to speak because it seemed less genuine in my heavy yankee accent, but also because I’ve yet to truly learn what to say in these types of situations. It’s already tremendously difficult to be a friend to someone who’s been through a hardship but I didn’t even know Diego for 30 minutes and felt the need to comfort him. The best thing I could do was keep him talking and listen. He said that it was very hard at first because his trucking job only gave him about a week off, and driving by yourself gives you a lot of time for thinking. Too much time. It’s easy to get lost in reverie. But through the last couple of months he’d been coming to terms with it. The hardest thing was that his child and his brother were so close in age and…now they don’t have each other, nor does his son really understand what happened. As he left us at a gas station by the turn pike (he insisted on buying us candy bars and orange juice despite our assuring him that this was utterly unnecessary), I was left thinking about the kindness he’d shown us despite all of the adversity he’d faced. So much has happened in the last three days and I’ve learned so much that sleeping is out of the question…” I think that, although long-winded and written by an exhausted, clearly brain-dead individual, this explanation does a little more justice to Diego than any I could’ve written right now.
We got to the gas station at 11 PM and spent the night at a table inside where we could plug in our electronics and try to tune out the TV and get some rest. Little did I know how much I’d begun to change and think…and how much I should’ve tried to rest because it would be a bit more comfortable than other future choices we’d make. I slept a grand total of 12 minutes and ended up asking the cashier for napkins in the morning to write the above at 6:34 AM. I spent the night boludeando on Maxi’s computer and learning a song on his guitar from tabs I found online. I knew literally nothing about the guitar (now I own one 😉 ) so it was a lengthy process involving many YouTube videos and second-rate tablature websites.
^^Maxi getting some Z’s 😛
^^And then the morning!
Well look at that guys! I made it through another day of my trip. You can only imagine by these accounts of my first few days how much I learned and grew through the rest of the adventure. It sincerely was a journey.