Origins of My Future Son’s Name
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.
Posted on March 7, 2013, in Argentina Part I, Summer Hitchhiking Adventure!, Travel and Study and tagged Argentina, Cordoba, Hitchhiking, Inspiration, Study Abroad, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.