Day 5: ¿Cómo se dice “bizarre”?

It’s been over three and a half months since I returned from my summer trip and I’m still only on the fifth day of summarizing the adventures.  This took place on the 30th of December, 2012.  Sorry if this post is a bit (or a lot) strange and devoid of pictures.  I don’t have any to share really :/

Maxi and I successfully stow-awayed to Cruz del Eje with the kids we met on the bus.  It was dark outside when we got off and when the driver gave us our backpacks, I was already drained.  I swallowed my exhaustion and dutifully followed the group only slightly dragging my feet.  We only walked two or three blocks before we found the others they had planned on meeting up with.  There were so many of them!  Altogether we were at least fifteen.  Everyone had dumped their backpacks against a cement wall in this plaza-type area and were sitting in a circle passing around a carton of wine and telling jokes, talking, and playing games.

I was totally exhausted and had a hard time keeping up with the Spanish but managed to stay awake.  Whenever the wine supply got low they’d pass around a baseball cap; those who could contribute would and they’d go buy more wine to share.  If the baseball cap fund came up short they’d take their bowling pins and metal ring and go juggle/do tricks for a few pesos to make up the difference.  It was a pretty chill system actually.

In the middle of the night some kids came up on their BMX bikes asking if we had marijuana.  I was shocked.  They looked about eight years old.  Several people in the group were surprised too but didn’t do much more than turn them away.  A half hour later the youngsters came back asking for a lighter and promising to return it if we gave them one.  This was by far not the strangest or most shocking thing we saw that night, though.  In the wee hours of the morning we left the plaza and headed to look for a place to sleep.

We were on our way to a park by an irrigation ditch to lay out the tarp and fall asleep when a throng of people following a pick-up truck and yelling/chanting passed by.  I hardly had more than two mouthfuls from the disgusting carton wine, yet I found myself questioning if I had been drugged or was hallucinating the current scene before my eyes.  It may have been the most bizarre and uncomfortable thing I have witnessed in my time in Argentina.  A long wooden pole was planted in the bed of the truck, attached to the back window.  Tied securely to the pole with thick rope was a stout naked man in his late forties or fifties.  His hair was gray and greasy, covering his face, head, and the rest of his corpulent body in stubbly patches.  He had the skin of a man who had worked under the sun for many years, leathery and burnt.  He didn’t seem to be very conscious, head lolling from side to side and eyes almost indistinguishable from the creases in his face.

The crowd of followers, no more than twenty, were all men of a similar age, rowdy and riotous.  They were spitting and throwing wads of trash and bottles at the man.  I couldn’t tell what random pieces of obscenities they were yelling out of unison, but the whole scene incited a sharp fear and confusion in my chest.  Swirling police lights added to the chaos of the scene as a caboose of police cars followed the procession, sirens silent.  The parade moved at about five miles per hour.  I looked around to the others in our group who seemed to notice but were nonplussed.  Maxi met my jolted expression, widened his eyes at me back, but only shrugged.

What the hell was that?  Maybe we weren’t in the best part of town, and yes, weird things happen in different countries, but I was trying to fit this scene into a logical file of my brain and it just didn’t belong.  The closest thing I could think of was some sort of Ku Klux Klan abomination or a hate crime, but there were police cars there and seemingly no effort to at least mask whatever was going on being made.  If I had to put words on what I saw I would say lynch, mob, ritual, torture, I don’t know?

We turned a corner and slowly left the absurd exhibition behind as we made for a quiet camping spot.  My senses had in no way been compromised, except for sleepiness, but I’m still not sure it wasn’t a hallucination.  The image of the naked man swaying in his unconsciousness in the back of the little truck is still starkly fresh in my mind.  I really don’t understand what happened.  I feel ashamed that I just stood there and watched before shielding my eyes from the perverseness of the display, but I’m sure that there was nothing more to be done.  I just prefer not to think about it (is that wrong as a human being?  To just ignore a thing like that? I’m not even sure what happened…)

Anyhow, my guilt upon witnessing such a thing and succumbing to the typical bystander behavior aside, we settled down by the little irrigation creek and I lay out on Maxi’s tarp, layered in clothing to keep me warm.  The others stayed up for some time, playing trivial Mexican drinking games, smoking, singing, and sharing swigs from the final carton of wine.  I tried to chill out and not think about how so very unordinary my life had become within the last week.  I didn’t want to be scared, so I wasn’t, but fear still licked at my throat ready to bite on a whim.  Sleep did not come easily, but it did come in time.

I woke up first, my ball-of-clothing-pillow trying to escape from under my head.  It was a bright sunny day and the streets were quiet.  I rose, shed a few layers of clothing, administered a few layers of sunscreen, and rinsed my face with the cool water of the ditch.  One by one, the others dragged themselves from their dreams and dazedly began to wrap up the menial camp we’d made.  Someone bought a couple loaves of hard bread for breakfast-type sustenance.  We were packed up and headed out within fifteen minutes of the last person waking.

I was in a strange mood.  Indifference, I would call it.  Things had changed so much in the last week.  I had changed.  I don’t think I had the capacity to comprehend my life at the moment, so I just allowed myself to be numb and detached from everything going on that morning.  Luckily nothing too surreal took place.  We lugged our packs a few blocks to a street corner mere blocks from the bus station we’d arrived in.  The group split in two to go “work” enough to pay for bus tickets to San Marcos Sierras, the next proposed destination.  Once my pack was no longer my main source of discomfort and safely on the ground with the others, I recognized my hunger.

I crossed the street and bought bananas, frosted flakes, and some milk for Maxi and I.  Bananas soon became one of our main meals because, unlike most fruit, they don’t need to be washed.  It was a much needed relaxation to sit against the building on the sidewalk, spooning nutrients into my body and watching the jugglers.  They were really some of the most incredible jugglers I had ever seen.  I don’t know if that is saying much, as I’ve seen very little juggling in my day…but they really were talented.

After breakfast, two of the girls, Roci and Oli, announced that they were going to head on to San Marcos Sierras and would meet the others there.  Maxi and I decided to tag along with them—the bus ticket was only like 8 pesos after all.

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About Autumn Standing

I love words; my name is made up of real words, even. I am studying Global Tourism and Spanish with a minor in Business Administration at Colorado State University but this year I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's why this blog was born--to keep my beautiful family and friends informed of my whereabouts, thoughts, accomplishments, and mistakes.

Posted on June 5, 2013, in Argentina Part I, Summer Hitchhiking Adventure!, Travel and Study and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Kelly Reynolds

    More! I want to read MORE!

  2. Scary… Glad I am only now “learning” about all of this!

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