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The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™

Why, hello!  It’s me again.  Wouldn’t you like to know where I’ve been 😉  Well I’m not going to tell you.  It’s a secret and I know your imaginations are a little more creative and interesting than reality.  Let them run free. Let them dream up situations of my imprisonment by camouflage cerulean underwater aliens who abduct girls named after seasons.  Let them fantasize that I’m really a camouflage alien and had to return to the depths of the sea for my decennial disguise touch-up.  Let them imagine that I have not simply been overwhelmed by my new job and 18 credit course load and my adorable six-month-old puppy (and a few crazy nights…) this semester.

It isn’t really that I haven’t been writing.  I have been writing.  The things I have been writing, however, have not all been nice, pleasurable, enjoyable things to read.  You wouldn’t have liked them.  Not unless you really love negative whiny rants about how life’s been…conditioning me a little more harshly than the uszh.  I don’t think you’d even want to read them if you did.  They’re a little cliché.  Let’s just say that it’s been a tough adjustment for me and be done with it so that this doesn’t turn into yet another rant.  Mmk, sweet.  Alright.  Now, to begin.

You guys haven’t even heard about The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ yet, have you?!  Well, maybe I should tell you all about this Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ because it’s much more entertaining than a recount of my most recent weeks battling natural disasters and racing through the rain on my little red motorcycle (I named her Betty.  It’s original.  Go away.)  So, without further ado, then,

The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™

Recounted none too concisely by Autumn Standing

So, if you remember, I was sad when I left.  I didn’t want to leave.  Argentina was amazing.  Fantastic.  Stunning.  Marvelous.  Incredible.  Life-changing.  Argentina was hard.  Depressing.  Hopeless.  Somber.  Dismal.  Life-changing.  Argentina was eye-opening.  Shocking.  Unbelievable.  Overwhelming.  Astonishing.  Life-changing.  I really don’t think I can describe it.  It’s just not fair to ask someone to describe an experience like that as a whole and people who do it should stop.  “How was Argentina?” they say with feigned interest.  “F***ing boring.  I sat around and ate this weird caramel stuff a lot while people pretended they couldn’t speak English (aka they’re stupid.)  Got fat.  Came home. Am getting more fat. Not doing that again.”

It’s all I can do lately to keep my alien laser vision from destroying these types of people with my glare.  Don’t ask me how my year abroad was.  Please.  And, as a future reference, you should probably avoid asking me how my regressal to the USA was as well.  Don’t test my willpower.  You don’t wanna see me break.  I don’t want to see me break.

Anyhow, my host family drove me to the airport and helped me carry my bags in.  I was loaded down with a giant suitcase, an even more giant suitcase, my overstuffed backpack, a guitar, and what would be a purse but was stuffed so full with excess accumulated junk that it had to share space on my struggling shoulders as a second backpack.  I was wearing almost the exact same thing I’d arrived in.  That didn’t fool anyone though, it was clear that I’d changed more than any of us could imagine.  My ever-worried host mother took charge and we followed her like the mama duck she was.  We barely caught up with her as she got to check-in and started demanding answers from the poor airline rep lady.  After I checked both suitcases, she gave me a little ticket that told me I got to pay SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE PESOS  ($125 USD at the time) for their safe arrival across the bay (my first connection was in Montevideo.)  Seven.  Hundred.  Fifty (almost.)  Apparently, Argentina is so cocky that they just assume Uruguay is an extra appendage of their already sprawling country (get it?).  Eh.  Uruguayan.  Argentine.  Same thing.  That meant that my flight wasn’t considered “international” and they were going to charge me extra for my bags (although, to be honest I had over 100 pounds of shit in those two bags…so maybe they weren’t being TOO irrational…)

But seriously, I was not prepared for that.  I was so overwhelmed with anxiety about coming back though and I had abandoned all of the fight within me.  With me ready to give up, we went to the window and my host mom demanded more answers.  She signaled to me to be quiet, play dumb.  Speaking a flurry of Spanish she whirled her way to a manager who told us that she couldn’t do much, but maybe a discount.  I pretended to sniffle, but my heart wasn’t honestly in it.  I was saving my tears.

The manager ended up comping all of my bags, and, as I shed real tears at the security checkpoint hugging my host family goodbye (I’m seriously getting a little emotional about it now even), my host mom left me with some of the least powerful-women-will-rule-the-world-someday-feminist, most valuable advice I’ve ever gotten, “Cualquier cosa, llorá.”  This roughly translates to, “Whatever happens, cry.”  I would not have survived my trip without this golden advice.  No joke.  No exaggeration.  Fine, maybe a little exaggeration, but not much.

Going through security I was reminded of the warmth of the Argentine people who I miss so much now.  People immediately started handing me Kleenex in line and asking me questions trying to cheer me up.   I know Argentina has a reputation for being superficial but I have yet to meet such a population of genuine people.  I was alone going to my gate though, and I sat down to write in my journal about my fears, anxieties, and also my pure contentment at all that I experienced, a feeling that still subtly surprises me on occasion.  I couldn’t write anything.  I didn’t want to cry again and try to figure out what kinds of tears my eyes were making.  So I just sat there and stared blankly at my journal, pen to paper but no ink.  I stared…and stared…

I’d actually been sitting there a while.  Too long…  I stood up and dressed myself with the guitar, backpack, and former purse and waited some more in what looked like a blob-line forming near the gate.  When I asked someone for the time I grew increasingly nervous to hear my flight was departing in 10 minutes.  As I poured over my tickets for something I must have missed, a time, a gate number, something, I overheard an announcement about my flight.  Last call.  But the line wasn’t even moving!

I did a strange crawl-run to the front of the line under the weight of my bags and asked about my flight.  The lady didn’t even grant me an answer.  She flew into action, picking up the phone and spewing Spanish into the receiver.  South American Tip: Gate numbers on your flight tickets are tentative.  Probably all numbers are tentative.  Nothing is set in stone until it’s had time to fossilize, accumulate millennia of sediment and return to the surface via tectonic force.  TIA.  I had to ditch my flip-flops and run through Jorge Newberry airport with fifty pounds of gear, my guitar twanging slightly with every leap.

When I arrived they smiled lackadaisically, sent me down an escalator, and moseyed me onto a creaky bus already more full than the midmorning 152 on Santa Fe.  It was departure time.  Then it was five minutes after departure time.  Then it was fifteen minutes after departure time.  Then and only then, did the bus engine drudge into life and drag us along through the dark mist of the night towards our plane.  I knew I wasn’t going to make it.  See, I’m an idiot.  I thought I was so clever.  I saved $300 USD going through several different airlines and creating all of my connections on my own.  Autumn the travel expert.  My itinerary was as follows:

Buenos Aires, Argentina–>Montevideo, Uruguay:  Aerolineas Argentinas

45 minutes layover

Montevideo, Uruguay–>Miami, Florida: American Airlines

1 hour, 20 minutes layover

Miami, Florida Atlanta, Georgia–>Denver, Colorado: Delta Airlines

Hooray!  I rock for building badass itineraries and being a super saver.  FAIL.

In Uruguay, they do consider Argentina a foreign country (surprise!) so yes, you’re required to pass through customs and declare things and all that jazz.  I was doomed before I even got on the plane.  I should have given myself more time.  Dumbass.  To make things worse, as I was trying to curb the tears brought on by leaving and my nerves about missing my flights, I was sitting next to a gem.  I have seriously never thought that these people actually exist outside of novels and exaggerated portrayals I’ve seen in movies, but there she was, in the flesh, sitting right next to me.  A hybrid person.  A cross between the most hyperactive Labrador retriever you’ve ever met, a nearly electrocuted hummingbird, and a human being.  She was what would happen if every single thought in our heads were audible—an explosion of ideas, noise, movement, chaos.  Like if you boiled down every single smell in the city and put them in an enclosed bedroom, then placed someone in the middle and asked them to describe how they felt.  Instead of words coming out when that person opens their mouth, she would come out.  She didn’t come with a warning sign.  She didn’t need to.  I’m convinced that it would be impossible to not notice her if she was sitting next to you even if you were in a coma (potential cure? Or death wish? More on this: never.)

Well, clearly I survived her.  I don’t like to be mean, she wasn’t an awful person really.  It’s just that, if there were ever a moment in which I really wanted to be alone with my thoughts, look out on the lights of Buenos Aires and say goodbye in silence, it was now.  Tough luck.  This chick would not shut up.  She was from Washington and was thrilled about finding a fellow Statian.  Apparently she had decided that the US had become frighteningly corrupt, that our way of life was pure devilry and we were all doomed.  She’d sold her entire life (she was about 35) and was going around South America to explore potential cities to grow roots in.  Normally I could have mustered up some enthusiasm and humored her with a conversation (not that it was very two-sided anyhow)…but I just wasn’t in the mood.  Even with only minimal polite response from me she was satisfied to keep babbling.  I could feel my stiff skin under the dried tears on my cheeks and fresh wet ones trying to make their way out but her constant assault of chatter caged them in and held them prisoner.  Thankfully the flight was only an hour or so.  I basically ran away from the flight attendants trying to welcome me to Uruguay and had to consciously keep my heart from beating through my rib cage waiting for my bags.  I grabbed one of those cart things (which are free in South America), put my life’s possessions inside and shoved it as fast as I could towards customs.

The security officer told me I should make my flight no problem but it only offered me slight relief.  I still headed straight to the info desk when they let me free.  The lady did not look hopeful, picked up the phone and told me that I had missed it.  The plane was still on the ground, but they had made last call a minute ago and were closing the gates.  I begged, I pleaded.  But she just shook her head.

So I cried.

Maybe it’s shameful.  Maybe I should feel guilty, but I was exasperated.  Tears came much easier than they had in front of the last airport’s help desk.  She told me I’d have to wait until the next flight left from that airport at 9 PM the following day (It was around 8:45 PM.)  I managed to get out that I didn’t have anywhere to go between sobs and she finally told me that two girls from American Airlines would meet me upstairs and talk to me.  I trudged through the empty airport still clinging to a sliver of hope that maybe they were going to wait for me.  I hadn’t stopped sobbing.

The upstairs check-in was fluorescently bright and deserted except for two janitors who tried to hide the pity from their faces while they mopped around the empty queues.  As I was waiting, and because I was already hiccuping through tears, I decided to read the letters and look at the pictures my family and friends had given me.  I hadn’t had time on the plane because of Pollywantacracker.  They broke my heart.  I was officially between two worlds and I didn’t want to give either up.  The janitors had mopped their way up to me as I was finishing the last letter and asked me if I was ok.  I told them about trying to get home and having to leave my other one.  They told me that American Airlines were really nice and would probably set me up in a hotel room and help me with anything I needed.  That’s not what I wanted though.  See, my entire US family was waiting at home (the Colorado one) for me.  My brothers had flown in from their respective homes, I was going to see my niece and nephew; even my cousins, aunt and uncle were going to be there.  That is really rare for my family and I didn’t want to miss a second of it.

I felt like I waited ages but finally the two girls from American Airlines caught up with me.  They were around my age.  They listened to me, realized that I was pretty much at fault (although I had insurance on my ticket, they weren’t responsible for another airline’s delay and even if it weren’t delayed I would have probably missed that connection.)  It was looking to be about $600 USD to change my flight and there was only one per day at 9 PM going to the USA because they were a small airport/airline.  I was desperate.  I cried a lot and they were very patient with me.  Both of them were amazing.  They soothed me and told me not to worry, that they’d figure something out and help me as best they could.  I did not want to pay for a hotel and was a little freaked out being stranded in an unknown country at night.  One girl let me use her phone to call my mom and let her know that I was ok, just marooned in Uruguay with $6 USD in my pocket.  No big deal.  She shouldn’t be worried or anything.  One of the American Airlines girls even mentioned paying for a hotel room for me herself but I wouldn’t have accepted.

Eventually, they worked it out that I could stay in the lobby where pilots stay in between connections on occasion.  There were couches, TV, free coffee, bathrooms, etc.  I was cozy and comfortable but I slept fitfully.  I woke up on the red pleather couch at eight AM feeling like I had slept off a bad cold.  I couldn’t sleep anymore though and well…free coffee.  Good thing I had all that practice sleeping in plazas, bus stations, hard hostel beds, tents, hammocks, even sitting up.  First things first, I used the free Wi-Fi to post pathetic Facebook statuses (and talk to all of my concerned family around the world; Otto was particularly supportive and surprised that I’d yet to break my electronics), bought a cereal bar, drank some coffee, and started to wonder how I was going to spend the next eleven hours.  I had to surrender to the reality of the situation.  I was not going to get home today.  So I chose to look at the bright side.  Free night in Montevideo, Uruguay and one last chance to explore a new city before I went home.

I decided to woman up and not waste my day.  I looked up a map of the city and found some sites I thought might be cool to visit (I didn’t end up making it to any of them really though haha.)  I went and asked the front desk how to get to town and they explained the bus system to me and exchanged Uruguayos for my dollars.  They looked extremely skeptical and I could tell they were a bit concerned about my plans to go gallivanting around the city on my own but, determined, I loaded my purse with the essentials: thermos, mate, rain jacket, camera and my $3 remaining, and set off into the main airport.  I stopped by the tourist office, grabbed a map and asked for suggestions on where to go before I left just to reassure myself that I was a totally capable adult tourist and such.  I was actually excited as I pumped up the volume on my music and stepped out into the overcast day in Uruguay.

The bus arrived in ten minutes and I confirmed with the driver the route I was planning on taking.  I followed our route along the tourist map and debarked about an hour (30 km/19 miles) later in the heart of the city.  I made my way to a big plaza and sat and stared at some statues for a while.  It was a chilly day so I decided to go get some hot water and make use of the mate I’d brought.

I stopped at a little kiosco and the lady happily filled my thermos for free.  She talked to me while the water was heating about how she’d had a thermos just like that one to bring to work with her, same color even!, but that it had broken after only two months so she’d opted to get a jet-broil contraption.  She was very chatty and happy and only contributed to my sense of optimism about the day.  I also bought some cookies from her to go with my mate.  She wished me suerte as I left and warned me once more about the thermos (although it’s still in good working condition…)

I pulled out my map and navigated to a more secluded, smaller plaza where I sat on a bench, made my mate and stared at some more statues thinking about the strangeness of life.  It didn’t seem like the city had many residents.  It was largely empty despite being a Saturday.  I hardly saw anyone at all except for a few Asian tourists.  That was ok though, I was reveling in the peace and quiet and really enjoying being by myself.  It was a new feeling to me knowing that I didn’t know a single soul (the American Airlines girls don’t really count) for hundreds of miles.  I felt grown up and independent.  Self-sufficient.

After plenty of statue-staring and self-reflection, I walked down a nearly deserted street market to a building that was like an indoor food fair.  The place was the size of a super Walmart with fifteen or twenty different restaurants just randomly slewn across the warehouse floor.  There were no walls, tables just set up around the collapsible bar areas for each restaurant.  Imagine a crowded indoor mall with no walls and mingling smells of delicious food filling the air around you.  It was full of laughing customers, buzzing waiters, conversational friends, energetic, happy children and a complete contrast from the gray peaceful day I’d walked in from.  I felt like Dorothy when she walks out of her house into Oz and everything’s in color.

In a way, I feel like this whole experience was a kind of cumulative test of all of the skills and things I’d learned abroad.  I mean, really, imagine how I would have reacted a year ago to all of this.  I didn’t know Spanish, how to navigate an airport, a city, how to find the good in such a strange situation and be spontaneous enough to go with the flow.  I was shy around new things then, I wouldn’t have asked for help, known how to rely on my fellow human beings.  The entire scene would have been completely different.

I dove into the sensory chaos that was the food fair and began my search for something vegetarian I could get with the remaining Uruguayos in my pocket.  Navigating my way through the maze of crowds and tables I kind of felt as if I’d shrunk.  Like I was looking up at everybody, kind of like a little kid lost in a mall but I wasn’t looking for my mother.  I felt totally comfortable.  I parked myself on a tall bar stool at one of the mobile bars and ordered a cheese and onion quesadilla.  It was delicious but not much of a meal and I felt unhealthy so on my way back I bought an apple from a colorful old man at a fruit stand.  He smiled a lot and even washed my apple for me before sending me on my way.

During the twenty block walk back to the bus stop I saw very few people.  There was a group of young guys playing soccer a ways away, which I tried to discreetly film before their ball came flying my way and blew my cover.  I meekly tried to kick it back and seem nonchalant but my total lack of athletic skill made me blush.  The guy who came and grabbed the ball winked and smiled at me before booting it back to the game.  I only had to wait ten minutes for the bus after I arrived at the stop.  I realized it was the only running vehicle I’d seen during my whole walk!  The city seemed totally deserted today but it was exactly the atmosphere I’d needed.  I had a few more cups of mate on the bus looking out at the passing landscape but feeling introspective. I even managed a five-minute nap before we arrived at the airport right on time.

The girls met me in the lobby about an hour later with worry lines on their faces.  They had not expected me to venture into the city and they looked like relieved mothers even though we were around the same age.  I definitely felt a strong older sibling vibe from them and it made me adore them all the more.  They handed me a ticket and I winced prematurely asking them how much it would be.  Their dimples crushed the worry lines as they told me they’d convinced American Airlines to comp my ticket (although I still have a feeling they might have paid some.)  They even got two of my bags checked for me.  I couldn’t believe how generous these two had been and I felt so blessed.  I had them write their emails and information in my journal and promised them two big jars of Nutella upon my return (I don’t think they quite understood that Nutella was more of a European thing but I would have done everything in my power to bring them a star from the sky if that was their request.)

They personally accompanied me to the boarding gate as if I might somehow manage to screw things up again (don’t worry, I’d already missed my flight from Miami to Denver…) and they hugged me goodbye.  I felt really close to them somehow and sad to be leaving so soon after everything that we’d been through together in the last 24 hours.  The plane ride was uneventful.  I slept mostly and spent the rest of the time not looking forward to dealing with Delta Airlines while savoring my remaining few nibbles of the last alfajor I would have for a year.  I started to get excited to see my family again but I knew that because of my delays everyone wouldn’t be at the airport like I’d imagined.  No running hugs L  I tried to pace myself with the daydreams so that I wouldn’t disappointed at the gate but it was hard.

I didn’t pee once on the airplane.  This is totally relevant because I had downed three bottles of water on the plane and two of those complimentary orange juices and it was the only thing I could focus on when I got off in Miami.  For some bizarre reason the people who make international airports don’t herd you directly towards the toilets right when you exit their planes.  They should really just include directions to the restrooms in their spiel about what the local time is and all that.  It is ten times more important in my opinion.  And it would have been highly useful because, for some reason.  I got my bags in record time (bathroom break should have occurred before this!!!) and then suddenly I had over 100 pounds worth of luggage to attend to.  I was drained and I honestly could not carry all of it.  I felt ready to burst. Even though the two suitcases had rollers, they were too big and bulky to balance behind me with the guitar and the giant backpack + overstuffed purse on my back.  I could barely reach around those things to reach the handles.  Walking was another endeavor entirely.  Hunched under all that awkward weight I couldn’t make it more than two steps without my coat starting to slip off my waist or my guitar banging up against the corner of the bigger suitcase.  My bladder hurt and I couldn’t even get away from the luggage carousel.  People were buzzing around it like flies around a light bulb claiming their treasures and I felt totally overwhelmed in the middle of it.  I couldn’t move.  I reluctantly left my luggage there and ran towards the carts where any spirit I had left dissipated.  SmartCarts were $5 USD.  I had twenty Uruguayos left.  I just stared at the little box asking for my dollar bills and tried to hold the lump in my throat.  I cheated and left my luggage unattended long enough to pee.  I couldn’t handle it.  I didn’t even care if anyone stole my things or if the whole airport went into lockdown because my guitar might have nitroglycerin in it or something.  It didn’t though.

The bathroom was like my locker room at halftime.  I gave myself a pep talk (yes, audibly, because I needed it that much.  No, it’s not weird at all) and Rocky Balboa marched back to my luggage.  The physical space it took up was just plain bigger than I was.  I think I expected someone to see me standing next to it and offer to help…but none came.  When I finally got in line to go through customs there were about sixty people in front of me.  I ended up sandwiched between two Arab business-looking middle-aged men and what looked like a whole high school of Brazilians with lime green shirts snapping pictures of each other and falando Português.  They seemed so happy and my spirit wavered.  The pep talk wasn’t a very solid foundation to be balancing all this STUFF on.  When the line moved, it moved one person at a time and eventually I just shrugged everything off my back into a messy pile on the ground.  Every five people it moved I would make three, yes three, trips dragging my various bags up the spots in line.  We stood there twenty minutes and not once did anyone help me.  One of the guys behind me carrying nothing but a briefcase picked up my jacket and handed it to me when I finally made it to the top of the line.  For some reason I wanted to slap him.  He was just handing me my jacket but I had absolutely no way of grabbing it.  Every single slot I had for holding something was occupied with the job and I wasn’t about to grab it from him with my mouth.  So I had to set everything down and re-suit up.  It was ridiculous.  There were security guards walking around, people managing the line and they all just stared at me blankly with nothing in their hands as I struggled to limp to the window in one single drive.

I’m glad the customs officer stuck to the basic dialogue because if I’d said more than three consecutive words I would have cried.  I found solace on a bench in the main terminal and made a fortress with my things.  With one foot touching them I tried to stretch to the nearest airport employee and get his attention like a beached whale.  I asked where Delta was and felt awkward as his English words hit me.  It felt like I was in a foreign country.  I was more stranded here than in Uruguay.  Delta was in G.  I was in A.  I could faintly make out B down the corridor over 200 meters away.  This was going to be impossible.  People were coming and going all around me in every which direction.  The sounds they were making sounded so much sharper and abrasive than the flowing Spanish I’d grown accustomed to over the past year.  I slumped down and briefly contemplated crying again but I didn’t want to use up the last of my luck before talking to Delta.  Instead I took a deep breath and propped myself up with resolution again.  I cased the area.  There was an abandoned cart six benches down just outside the automatic doors.  It tantalizingly flashed and glimmered in the sunlight.  I had to have it.

I took off my flip-flop, purposefully left my luggage unattended and made for the door.  I looked suspiciously around before darting through the automatic door, smoothly dropping my flip-flop into place to keep it from shutting and curling my fingers around the bar of the cart.  As I stepped back through the door with my new prize I got a few weird looks from travelers but I had escaped the security radar.  Piling my things into the cart I made the trek over to Delta airlines at “G”.  No one talked to me while I was in line as I tried to mentally script out what I was going to say to the representative when I got up there.  I told him everything as rehearsed about The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ and tried to look sad, which was really easy but totally lost against his shield of a scowl.  He told me that it would be $1300 for a ticket from Miami to Denver, even though I had missed my flight because of a connection.  I begged, I pleaded.  But he just kept repeating the same thing.

Finally, he told me that if I wasn’t going to purchase a ticket then I’d need to move on because other people were waiting.  I knew it was time to bring out the water guns and it was coming easier to me with all this practice.  His face didn’t change.  He was stoic as ever but instead of shooing me away he wrote a number on a card and told me they might be able to get me a 20% discount or so.  I was freaking out.  Surely there was some way but I trudged away with my cart and my tears to the payphone across from the masses in line.  People stared at me because I was crying.  They had looks of pity but just kept on staring.  Luckily I was able to find two quarters in my wallet and, luckily, that was worth one phone call.  I fed the payphone and picked up the receiver.  It ate them.  Both quarters.  Hungrily.  And then it asked for more.  I couldn’t believe it.  Those were my last two quarters! I didn’t have a US phone.  I was totally helpless now, almost angry with the way that I had been treated here (or not been treated.)  I felt cold even as the Miami heat blasted in through the automatic doors as more people came in to leave.

I literally put my face in my hands and slunk to the floor.  Those fifty cents were somehow the biggest loss I’d experienced.  I was so unhappy, sad, and upset in that moment I can’t even describe it.  Yes, I was being dramatic, but I had felt a change in my atmosphere from the moment I’d stepped off the plane onto US soil and it wasn’t opportunity.  No one was going to enable me here.  People had things to do, places to be, money to make.  I wasn’t being independent and self-sufficient in Uruguay!  I’d gotten through because of the genuine kindness and heart of the people there.  I had never been alone in South America.  Not truly.  Everyone was rooting for me.  Everyone cared.  It wasn’t like that here.  You don’t get a free pass just because you’re a pathetic foreign girl who can muster up a few tears.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that truly alone and ignored.  It was absolute disheartedness.  But then!  A glint of silver caught my eye on the ground! Was that?  Yes.  A quarter.  A single quarter.  Now I understand the expression, “Life can turn on a dime.”  But this was a quarter.  Fifteen MORE cents than a dime.  It was tails but I’d take it.

Even now writing this, I am almost ashamed of how I was reacting over losing my fifty cents in the payphone, pounding the coins back button with the heel of my hand like it was the only thing that could save me.  You have to understand the unmitigated amount of emotion that had flowed through me in the past 48 hours.  I was a mess.  Unfit to deal with a situation like losing my last 50 cents.  I scoured my bags.  Emptied my backpack and in the depths of the depths I found one nickel, two pennies, and two of those life-turning dimes.  This time I fully read the directions on how to use the payphone and, of course, kept my distance from the hungry deceitful one I’d used before.  Turns out, you can dial 1-800 numbers for free anyways and I ended up getting my money back after the phone call.  I was in hysterics after it shot me my money back and people stared for a different reason this time.

Apparently the universe was not against me quite yet.  When I called the number and punched in all of the menu options (that had, of course, recently changed….), it gave me my flight information and a code to print out my ticket… it didn’t sound right and I was a bit confused so I navigated through ten minutes of menu to talk to a real person.  He told me my ticket had been successfully changed at no charge.  My tears had worked!  And this time they’d saved me $1300!  I was leaving at three pm today to finally go to Denver!  If that wasn’t the world’s most dynamic emotional rollercoaster (besides maybe “Story of an Hour”) I was about to lose my remaining 52 cents.

So…what to do with the six hours left until my flight?  I think I had satisfied my thirst for adventure and quickly ruled out exploring Miami…not that I could leave my luggage unattended anyhow.  I got all dressed up in the bathroom and was painting my nails on these weird Y-benches in the airport when I suddenly woke up on the floor.  Yup.  I woke up.  I didn’t fall asleep.  My body literally just shut down mid-fingernail.  Luckily I didn’t spill any on my dress in my narcoleptic lapse but it definitely was a wake-up call (pun intended.)  I decided that checking my luggage would be safer and coughed up the $60 bucks to check them before roaming through security and falling asleep outside my gate.  I would have one connection in Atlanta still but I wouldn’t even involve getting off the plane.

I charged my computer and napped a little outside the gate but only when I was 152% positive that my plane would indeed be leaving from that one and not any other one and I was exactly where I needed to be, bladder empty, ready to go.  Even though I planned on continuing my nap once on board I ended up sitting next to another lady.  Only this time she was pleasant and even remarkable.  She was the type of woman who tries to retire but simply can’t because she’s too interesting and restless.  She was a Myers-Briggs proctor and industrial psychologist.  We talked about life a little and the big transitions we were both going through.  She was an ISTJ (Introversion Sensing Thinking Judging); I am an ENFP (Extraversion iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving, the complete opposite.)  We talked about the strengths and meanings of all eight of the personality characteristics and it was the perfect conversation I could be having on my journey home.  It was really relevant to my other journey, the personal one, you know, about discovering myself? and time flew by (I’m just pumping out the puns today, huh?)  She was only going as far as Atlanta though and we were so engrossed in conversation that I nearly forgot to ask her name as she left.  I can’t remember it now and it isn’t in my journal. L

I touched down in Denver at around five in the evening, the summer sun still proudly shining over the Colorado mountains.  I was oddly numb to all thoughts and emotions.  I smiled at the beautiful scenery but didn’t feel home.  I didn’t feel much of anything except exhaustion and I didn’t want to.  I remember having the most basic of thoughts, which was a conscious decision.  I was too drained to feel anything right then and I reinforced the dam in my mind against that whirlwind of emotion I should have been feeling as I mindlessly stepped off the escalator and scanned the crowd for my mother.  She wasn’t there, even though I’d messaged her the flight details.  I made my way down to baggage claim, allowing little cracks in the dam as I methodically stacked my luggage next to the carousel.  No mommy.

After fifteen minutes as the last few passengers trickled out, the dam was breaking.  I felt like crying again, but I didn’t.  I thought I hadn’t allowed myself to picture the running hugs and cheesy airport reunions, but apparently I had and this wasn’t it.  I finally went to the lost luggage office and borrowed the phone.  I called my mom.  No answer.  I called my brother.  No answer.  I called my other brother.  Nothing.  I called my brother again.  Voicemail.  The receptionist told me to make sure I was entering an area code.  Yes, I was entering an area code.  My heart tried to console me with stories about how maybe they were trying to surprise me, that hands would suddenly cover my eyes with my brother’s voice, “Guess who?” playfully echoing behind me.  I even turned around just in case but they weren’t there.  I waited a few more minutes and stared at the clock before trying my mom again.  She answered and told me to go outside.

I feel guilty now about how I felt in that moment but I was angry and upset.  I stood outside on the sidewalk in my dress and heels with all my bags for a full five minutes before she drove by, backed up, and parked, getting out of the car to give me a big hug.  It wasn’t a running hug.  We hugged for a long time before she helped me get my bags in the trunk with my dog.  Sanchez didn’t remember me really.  He was, of course, happy to see me, but it wasn’t a spectacular reunion and somehow I felt disappointed by that too.  I tried to mentally argue myself out of being unhappy but I felt tears coming again.  I think I was just so emotional by everything that I didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t cry though and I kept up my smile.  My oldest brother, Cody, had already gone back to the hotel with his girlfriend and my niece and nephew.  I’d see them tomorrow.  And Ryan, my other older brother had gone to stay with his girlfriend in Fort Collins for the night.  It would be just me and my mom in Loveland tonight.

I know it’s selfish of me but I couldn’t help feeling hurt.  I guess my homecoming was such a big deal to me that I expected everyone to build their schedules around it even though I’d been delayed by two days.  I didn’t want to have this night colored by how frazzled I was though and I, once again, hit the emotional override and decided to be happy and relax.  I pushed all of those thoughts and emotions into a mental compartment marked “Junk to be dealt with after recharging” and began to recount The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ of the last three days to my mom on the car ride home almost robotically.  I was home after all.

Why have I not written here in ages?

Because it will somehow force me to face the fact that I’m leaving very very soon and decide how I feel about that.  I don’t want to.  So there.  It’s like an essay I have to write for class or something and I just don’t wanna do it.

I’ve had a headache for like three days straight and I know it’s because I don’t want to think.  All those thoughts are buzzing around and breeding more thoughts and more thoughts and they want attention.  When I refuse to give it to them they bite me.  It’s quite vicious.  I’m only trying to protect myself from feeling.  Not fair.  Anyhow, I’m still planning on ignoring them for a while. So instead of writing my typical novel of a blog, I’m going to make Autumn-of-the-past write this blog and share a silly little questionnaire I filled out before leaving the United States of America for the very first (and only) time.  Sort of nerdy but very interesting to look back at 🙂 Then I’ll pick a picture from each month (July through July) to share with you all.  So, without further ado:  Oh and don’t forget to listen to the song below while you’re reading/looking at pictures so that you get the full nostalgia intended:

What are the five things that you are most looking forward to about studying abroad?

  1. I want the newness and the excitement of seeing a different culture—fun and something different!
  2. Traveling, since I’ve never been out of the US I wanna get cool stories about visiting other places and pictures!
  3. Friends—making some awesome new Argentinean and international friends, starting over with a fresh slate
  4. Dancing and going out.  The night life.
  5. Learning Spanish super well—duh.

What are the five things that currently worry you most about going overseas?

  1.  For some reason this list seems easier to make 😦 Missing my friends and family
  2.  The seeming superficialness of the country and being perceived as fat ugly and gross J
  3.  Money
  4. Money
  5. K that last one was cheap so I’ll write six but personal safety when I’m traveling perhaps over the summer
  6. Being able to keep up with classes

 What are the five things you believe you will miss most from home when you are abroad?

  1. My mommy
  2. Family and Friends
  3. Sanchez and Dio
  4. Having my own living space—living with a host family is gonna be a big change…
  5. Internet Connection speeds here
  6. My stuff lol like I’ve accumulated things I really like and enjoy that make me happy that I can’t take with me.
  7. The mountains and dry climate
  8. Maybe I’ll learn how to count in Argentina too…

What are the five things (people, places, activities, etc.) you believe you will miss least  from home when you are abroad?

  1. High prices! (lol I hope)
  2. Drinking laws
  3. Time scheduling shit—the “mañana syndrome” as the culture book called it I think I will like that better actually
  4. My evil Spanish professor and having a history.  It’s gonna be nice to start fresh (sorta)
  5. My smartphone:?  This could go either way…I am gonna miss it but will it be a good thing to not have such a sturdy leash?  Yeah 🙂  I hope that I’m gonna gain a lot of independence through this trip.

My greatest single challenge overseas will be:

I think it’ll be missing my family and friends—my support network.  I’ve always had a problem with missing out on stuff and I’m really worried about that.  I think it will probably be the hardest thing I go through.  I’m comfortable with Spanish, making new friends, being open-minded, etc but not with not being able to see people.

And there you have it.  That was how I felt about a week before leaving the US.  Not really earth shatteringly different than the truth of the situation but it will provide some healthy reflection for me whenever I decide to actually acknowledge the fact that a year has passed and this wasn’t a dream.  I shall follow with pictures:
July 2012:

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Dork, you’re wearing snow boots…

August 2012:
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September 2012:
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Argentines are weird…

October 2012:2012-10-17_17-50-54_411

–At Ciudad Universitaria, Universidad de Buenos Aires

November 2012:
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December 2012:

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Move.  NO don’t move.  No, move!

January 2013:

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With Cicada in Coroico, Bolivia

February 2013:IMG_3190

Still always going to be my favorite picture from carnaval

March 2013:

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April 2013:

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Yes, this is a photoshopped picture for my journalism class, but both of the pictures are mine.  Taken in Iruya, Argentina.

May 2013:

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With Nacho in Pinamar, Argentina

June 2013:

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July 2013:

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Sorry I know it’s a crappy phone picture, but I love it 🙂

Till next time, y’all 🙂
Autumn

Palta Rice

So I’m sitting here at the computer trying to think of how I am going to summarize my New Year’s in San Marcos Sierras, Cordoba.  Do I just tell it like a timeline of events?  Just share a few highlights of those two days?  Only pictures?  I feel like the 31st of December and the 1st of January were some of the most eventful days of my trip over the summer, although every day brought new and wonderful (or, in some cases, difficult) experiences.  I really don’t know how to write about them.  Yes, part of that es porque tomé mucho alcohol…but you know…

I may leave some of the good parts out, but here is my attempt to summarize my time in San Marcos through words and pictures, which hardly do it justice.  Upon arrival, we followed Roci and Oli down the dirt road around the cute plaza and up a quaint hill to the “camping,” or camp ground, where we’d be staying.  We saw no one except the people who got off the bus with us (who were few), and the town was in a state of peaceful quiet that I felt like I hadn’t heard at this time of day since Colorado.  It really was a beautiful day, the sunlight pooling and rippling throughout the plaza.

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It was a toasty climb up the dirt hill to the campground, about 10 blocks from the bus station (which was about the width of the entire town, if that), but totally worth it when we arrived at the adorable campground.  I feel like a nerd saying this, but it reminded me of some place in the woods where fairies would live.  A glen, I suppose.  There was a little gurgling creek with overly sized bridges connecting the resilient tufts of  grass on its banks.  Large trees canopied the lots, which were only at about half capacity with tents.  In the middle, there was a large house painted with swirling designs and illustrations in vibrant colors.  An old man greeted us and introduced himself.  Roci and Oli pretty much handled the entire conversation, asking about prices and where we could pitch tents.  They told Maxi and I that we could borrow their extra tent for the time being, but Maxi still set up his hammock anyways. He preferred it.  We found a spot behind the house by the teeny little bathroom and a pile of rusty-looking junk.  My dumpster-diver curiosity getting the best of me, I went and checked it out but there wasn’t much to salvage—the chipped top to an old washer, a shoe that looked right out of a storybook fisherman’s lake, some scrap metal, an empty bag of chips crumpled in a ball, some empty bottles of Quilmes, etc.

Clearly if I continue to be this detailed I’m never going to finish, so here are some pictures of the campground, courtesy of Maxi:

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We didn’t get any pictures of the little creek or the main part of the campground, but you can get the idea 🙂  I think my favorite part were the showers, simply because it had been nearly a week since I’d washed properly.

Anyways, after we set up the tent, I scraped off a week of sweat and dirt in the shower then went with the girls to get some food for dinner while Maxi took his turn.  Oli studies medicine at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA, the free public university)  and Roci was double majoring in acting and directing/cinema.  They both lived mere blocks from me back home in Buenos Aires!  It was nice to talk to some other females for once and take a break from Max.  We actually got along quite well but he was beginning to get on my nerves as it had pretty much just been us two for the entire first week.  I’m sure I wasn’t the most pleasant company after that long either.

It was looking like it would rain when we got back to camp, so we moved everything important inside the tents and I moved on to enjoy the next luxury I had missed in the last week—electricity!  I charged my camera, my phone, Maxi’s laptop, everything.  Then we uploaded pictures to Facebook and let everyone know that we’d yet to be slain by an axe murderer.  Afterwards, I went down to the plaza with Roci and Oli to drink te re re (cold mate with orange juice) and we ran into the whole group from last night.  It was about 4 PM but they’d already emptied a healthy number of cartons of wine.  It was New Year’s Eve after all!

Their group seemed to have grown yet bigger, now including a couple of men in their late 30s/early 40s who seemed like maybe they’d gotten a bit too early of a start on the day’s drinking and kept trying to speak Portuguese to me (Practicamos para carnaval!)  Someone had hollowed out a cantaloupe, written 2013 on it and presented it as the community flagon for the wine.  It did feel a bit classier than drinking straight from the carton.  I passed on the first few rounds though and stuck with mate.  The last few days had worn me out!

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We spent most of the time talking with Nico about his time in Japan trying to get dual citizenship and the cultural difficulties of growing up as a Japanese-Argentine with Japanese parents.  By some crazy coincidence Roci’s ex-boyfriend turned out to be in town, so she and Oli went to say hi.  Eventually, we all got kicked out of the plaza by the police (at 5 PM.)  We weren’t being rowdy and the cops were nice about it, we were just a big group of youngsters pre-celebrating the New Year and they saw it as a volatile situation.  We retreated to the river and continued the festivities.  I texted Maxi, but I guess his phone was in airplane mode so I couldn’t get a hold of him 😦

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^^The group at the river

At the river I talked with John for a really long time about how traveling changes you.  Some of the kids in the group with us had been on the road since before they turned fourteen and had seen things some people wouldn’t even dream to see and some things no one should ever have to see.  It was the first conversation of many that I would have about the monumental changes that I was going through—that we were all going through.  Through the conversation with John I began to really understand myself and my own morphing philosophies about the world.

I am not going to explain the entire conversation, because it was long and I can’t do it justice online, but we spoke much of the innate connection among all of us despite language, cultural, and physical barriers.  A smile is universal.  Bancame un toque (bear with me a second) and then I’ll put fortune-cookie Autumn away, promise.

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^^Cool face we made while chilling by the river

I became infected with a certain magic during my trip that still sloshes through my bloodstream, pumps through my four chambers and races all the way to my fingertips every second.  It influences my ideas, actions, words, everything.  If you read my last post, then you know about Maxi and I’s phrase: We are always lucky.  It was through this cycle of positive thinking that good things kept happening, that we stayed safe, and that we met amazing people.  If there’s anything I learned from my trip, it is that, despite life’s challenges, perseverance and optimism will always make things ok in the end.  Life is much bigger than the hardships we face and we will always struggle to grasp just how massive the bigger picture is.

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^^John and I by the river

The second major theme of my trip that John and I discussed, and that I’m still astounded at daily is nearly impossible to explain as well.  To try and properly explain this I have to tell you about a super cliché graduation speech I heard in 2009.  It was the graduation of my boyfriend at the time.  High school sweetheart.  First love.  All that fun stuff.  Anyways, I’d arrived late and was trying really hard not to be awkward with his entire extended family who I was convinced didn’t like me.  Needless to say I was a little distracted from the ceremony…

If I remember right, the teacher was my ex-boyfriend’s track coach or something and he really admired him so I made my best effort to listen at least to that part.  The speech was cliché in almost every way—the cheesy anecdote intro paired with the loaded question about which fish you want to be in the pond followed by a brief inspirational biography and an attempt to wrap it all up on both a witty and uplifting note.  I vaguely remember being much more concerned about reapplying my lip gloss for the pictures and whether or not he would like the sappy picture collage I’d framed for his graduation gift.  Never would I have realized how much I’d identify with that speech in later years.  The speaker spoke about a concept he had come to find as the main propeller in his life—a concept he’d termed “coincidance.” “Coincidance” was his explanation of how little coincidences occurred in life almost like they were planned in a sort of choreographed dance.  To my 16-year-old self, that was just cheesy and extra fluff to the rest of the graduation speech, but the more time I spend here in Argentina, and especially as I traveled, the more I recognized these “coincidances.”  Some of the things that have happened to me still seem so surreal.  You’ll see as I continue the memoir of my summer.

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^^Bryan and I by the river

Anyways, it started to drizzle a little and we all decided we better cook something before nightfall, so we headed back to camp.  For dinner, Maxi and I made “palta rice”, which soon became our favorite meal of the trip.  Palta is Spanish for avocado and while I wasn’t a huge fan of avocadoes, I certainly became one.  Max shared his love of avocadoes with me and I’m totally hooked now.  We’d mix two or three soft avocadoes with tomato in a pot of rice and add some soy sauce.  It sounds like an awkward mix but it was delightful.  We paired it with some bread and mutually agreed that the meal was a success—YUMMMM x UH-FFINITY.

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^^Cool metal T-rex in San Marcos Sierras

Going to continue this later, I’m hungry now 😉

Chau chauBesos!

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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101 Things About Argentina: Part IV The Last Part!!!!

So…I am supposed to be at Migraciones right now freezing my ass off and waiting in line to get my visa.  I even woke up at 6:30 AM after 5 hours of poor sleep to go and renounce my illegal immigrant status (which is how I currently roll…) but of course, TIA.  Argentina is still not quite sure if I’m a criminal and they have yet to tell me their final decision on that.  They promised me they’d decide in 5 days (which should have been 4 days ago…) but apparently I’m still being reviewed and I should check back later.  Maybe I shouldn’t have jaywalked that one time.

It’s wildly unfair because the caffeine of my morning Nescafe has already began to block adenosine receptors in my brain and organs, slowing down my cellular activity and stimulating my nerve cells to release epinephrine.  This hormone, better known as adrenaline, is now increasing my heart rate, my blood pressure, and blood flow to my muscles, which control my fingers as I type.   These symptoms are contradictory to sleep.  If you’re experiencing something similar this morning I’ll  leave you this dandy final addition to my mini-series of little things that remind me I’m not in the USA to enjoy 🙂 Don’t forget to check out the first, second, and third parts first.

76.  Open any girl’s purse in the USA (if you dare) and you’re 80% guaranteed to find at least one tube of lip gloss.  I’m not sure many of my Argentine girl friends have even heard of the stuff and I’ve yet to see anything but lipstick or chap stick on the shelves in Farmacity here.  I’ve concluded that, while it can probably be found somewhere in china town, along with bacon flavored jam and soy whale liver, Argentina’s lips remain largely unglossed.

77.  Argentine ice cream was churned and cooled (or whatever magic they do to make ice cream) in heaven.

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78.  There is a shortage of change here so everyone is stingy with their monedas.  Stores usually round up a few cents when handing you your change back, so that’s nice, but they’ll almost always ask you, “¿Tenés cincuenta centavos?”  (Do you have fifty cents?) and grumble when you apologize for being coinless.  Olvidate if you only carry around cien pesos.

79.  This kind of goes with the last one but because the stores try and hoard coins they’ll ask you if you want to donate 17 centavos, or however much is easy to round off your bill to, to the Starving Fireman’s International Ice Cream Fund.   Or the like.

80.  If you’ve never heard of the things before, you might think that Argentines go to the bathroom in pairs.  It’s a myth.  There’s just this crazy-weird butt-rinsing machine next to the toilet that they copy-catted from France.  It’s called a bidet.

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81.  Books are really expensive here because of import taxes and other factors (see #64)–text books included.  Apparently copyright laws are only suggestions though because you’ll get most of your university texts as photocopies in a bookstore.  They’ve found cute little loopholes through the copyright laws but what’s the big deal if they blatantly disregard them too?  Shhh…don’t tell.

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^^My management textbook, which is a compilation of select chapters and articles from other books (loophole)

82.  I am often shocked by the influence of English here.  Everyone says it’s the “universal language” (maybe that’s why we don’t seem too interested in teaching other languages in the USA) and many prioritize the teaching and learning of it.  Many English words have made their way into everyday Argentine speak as well.  For example, when I used to say that I was studying Business Marketing here, I would simply say “marketing.”  I took a class called “Fundamentos de Marketing” and we talked all about what “marketing” was, etc.  To market something would often be referred to as “hacer marketing de un producto“–literally, to do marketing of a product….

83. Water and plastic utensils are not free: let me diverge for a moment to tell you my spoon story.

So I bought a bunch of food from a chino for lunch one day–some chips, the makings for a sandwich, and a yogurt–and brought it back to the university to eat in peace and pretend to catch up on my reading for Social Movements (we already know how that worked out…)  I sat down outside the cafeteria (you aren’t allowed to go in unless you buy something…bah humbug…) and set everything out in front of me like I used to in Elementary school all proud and excited at the prospect of filling my tummy, when I realized I didn’t have a spoon with which to eat my yogurt.  In Elementary school that wouldn’t have mattered.  I’d eaten my fair share of liquidy substances with the foil tops of their containers to the awe and admiration of my tablemates.  Having no spoon couldn’t stop me back in the day!!!   But, realizing that a woman of 20 years should probably be a bit more sophisticated and use utensils, I entered the treacherous environment that is the cafeteria and tip-toed to the line where they sometimes buy things.  After I spent a sufficient enough time looking like I’d bought something, I went over to a different counter to ask for a spoon.

–“¿Tenés una cuchara, por favor?” Do you have a spoon please?

–“¿Emmm…compraste algo?”  Did you buy something?  You could see the suspicion in the cook´s eyes right away, like a dog who thinks he’s heard his master’s car in the driveway, instantly on alert.

–“Uhh…¿qué?…¿tenés una cucharita?”  Umm…huh?…do you have a little spoon?

–“¿Compraste algo? ¿Qué compraste?” Did you buy something? What did you buy?

–(Realizing he would not part with his plastic spoons without my buying something and not really wanting to have to use my foil spoon method, I spoke in my most beautifulest yankee-est accent): “YO-guuur, sí, compro YO-guuuurrrr.  ¿Tenés coochawwruh?”  YO-gurt, yes, I buy YO-gurt.  Do you have spoon? For emphasis I make a shoveling motion into my mouth.

–“Y lo compraste acá?” And you bought it here?

–Tilting my head sideways slightly like a little baby bird, “¿Coochawruh?” Spoon? More shoveling motions, this time more desperately and faster—if there were real yogurt on my imaginary spoon it would be all over the stingy cook’s floor.

There is a pregnant pause as the cook gives me a judgmental, unsure look.  Then he tentatively grabs the blessed plastic spoon from a tray full of them.  He starts handing it to me but snatches it back and gives me another doubtful inspection.  I return his gaze with my best feigned innocence and puppy eyes—it’s more effective because technically I didn’t lie about anything.  I did buy yogurt, just not from his overpriced, monopolistic university cafe.  And I do want a spoon.

After a little more language volleying in which I expertly imitated a stupid gringa, he eventually parts with it.  I slide out of the cafeteria with my new plastic spoon clutched tight against my chest like Gollum and the ring, hop away to my stash outside the door of the cafeteria, gather my reserves in the chino plastic bag, and take the stairs two at a time to settle two floors up and eat in peace with my stolen spoon.  Nothing is free, and I swear he gave me a dirty look the next time I went in the cafeteria that same week with a friend and had magically-improved Spanish ten levels.  I keep the spoon in my purse now, just in case I am left without one again.

84.  Most people here seem to think that we curse like sailors in the USA.  Personally, I think they curse like sailors.  Probably, sailors don’t even curse that much.

85.  As if to prove the last point, I constantly see clothing, as I am forced to window shop daily walking down my street, that cracks me up.  I highly doubt that these types of displays would last anywhere in Fort Collins, or even bigger cities in the USA.  Besides the picture below, I have quite recently seen a flowy tank top bejeweled with the F-word, and a Black T-shirt proclaiming that “God is the new black”…whatever that means.

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86.  If you watched my first video way back in August, you will have seen my elevator here.  Most elevators are like that one, tiny little things with two doors that you have to pull shut.  I loved them then and still do now.  I’m not meaning to be demeaning when I say that they make me feel like I’m in the 20’s.  They actually are pretty sweet, I’m serious.

87.  Probably just a city thing but you have to buzz up to someone’s apartment here.  I had a buzzer back in Fort Collins but only because my apartments were seriously weird.  I know it’s not that common, at least in Foco, but here EVERYONE has them, even if they live in a house.  It’s like a doorbell but it makes an delightfully awful buzzing noise.  Then the people in the apartment pick up a little telephone and talk to you downstairs.

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88.  Security is a major concern here.  Upon hearing your voice through the telephone in the above point, it is very unlikely that your friend’s will just buzz you up (press the button that unlocks the door.)  They will instead make a point of coming down to get you just to make sure you aren’t a thief in disguise or something, I don’t know.  Video cameras are also common, as is changing the locks when you lose your keys (which I have done twice 😦 )  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I’m just not used to it coming from a place where it’s not a big deal if you forget to lock your doors.

89.  This picture:

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90.  This is hard to explain but the idea of what types of foods make you fat is different here.  In the USA, when we diet, the first thing that we commonly “unfriend” is sugar.  Here, the idea that “sugar doesn’t make you fat” is quite common.  Instead, greasy and salty foods do (although they eat both regularly 🙂 )

91.  Portion sizes at restaurants.  I mean, where do I even begin?!  My first week I was constantly starving, partly because I was burning so many more calories than usual with all the newness and lack of sleep, but also because Statians just eat HUGE portions and Argentines don’t.  I think if I got a Qdoba burrito today I wouldn’t know what to do with it.  I would be so excited that I’d dive right in but feel full to the brim after half of it.  I could eat a burrito the size of my head back in the day before I came to Argentina.  Now I’ve learned that humans really don’t need all that much at once…

92.  I am going to miss the Fourth of July this year but it’s ok because we got fireworks on Christmas 😛  With the seasons being switched, Christmas is during the summer, which is just plain strange…

93.  Coupled with mayonnaise obsession is the mysterious salsa golf.  It’s basically just mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together.  At first, I was revolted but now I won’t dip my french fries in anything else.

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94.  Clothes dryers and dishwashers are rare, but garbage disposals are non-existent.  I have yet to see one in my eleven months here in Argentina.  I am now sure that garbage disposals were one of the greatest inventions of all time and I just don’t understand whyyyyy they aren’t in all Argentine sinks?  I get so grossed out pulling all of the nasty food chunks from the bottom of the sink after washing the dishes and transferring them to the garbage, and then you have to take out the garbage because it gets all stinky and nasty.  Garbage disposals are beautiful pieces of art to me now and luxuries one can only dream of.  APPRECIATE THEM!

95.  It is common to weigh your produce separately at a grocery store and get a sticker on it before checking out.

96.  When you walk into a party you are typically expected to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek.  When you leave, you go through the same routine.  When you see a friend on the street, in the hallway, or are meeting them for coffee, another kiss.  When you meet someone for the first time, etc.  I love it though, I think I’m going to feel like everyone thinks I smell when I go back to the USA and people don’t kiss me hello and goodbye.

97.  Inflation is so bad in Argentina that it is one of the only countries that will sell a 2013 car for more pesos at the end of the year than at the beginning.  This phenomenon has led to the “blue” market value of the US dollar, which keeps me from going over budget here.

98.  In Tigre, a community just outside of Buenos Aires where the roads are made of water, there are lancha (boat) colectivos, taxis, and even police and trash services!

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99.  While the toilet water doesn’t flush the other way, there are weird looking flushers here.  Usually, there’s a little button on the side of the toilet, but sometimes you have to pull a string.  The standard Statian type of flushers are rare.

100.  [Insert something about tango or psychology (read my post Psychoanalyze This) here]

ANDDDD 101.  When people think of South America, they generally conjure images of tropical rainforests, tribes of natives playing the drums, and maybe Machu Picchu.  Argentina does have some tropical areas, but it is, in reality, a huge country that spans mountains, jungle, desert, and even arctic cold temperatures and glaciers.

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Not to be continued because I’m getting bored of these posts :P…

101 Things About Argentina: Part III

This is the third (of four) parts of my list of 101 things about Argentina.  Read the first and second parts before if you want.  There’s not much of an order to them but anyhow… Enjoy 🙂

51.  Fall (Autumn ❤ ) lasts for months here!!!  It’s incredible when compared to the couple of blissful weeks we get in Colorado before the harsh winter sets in.  I love it.

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52.  It’s uncommon for a 20-year-old student to be living on their own.  Kids live with their parents for many years after colegio (high school) usually.

53.  No Thanksgiving 😦  Sometimes I forget that’s a strictly Statian holiday… Click here to read about my Thanksgiving in Argentina.

54.  Feriados (Argentine days off) are more common than owls at Hogwarts.  I remember reading an article in the local newspaper last semester that claimed that government workers in Argentina technically only work 4 days a week because of the profound amount of feriados and their two weeks of mandatory paid vacation.  Read this for a better understanding of just how many holidays there are.

55.  If you didn’t know, I have a severe addiction to greasy, buttery, slimy, good ol’ ‘Murican movie popcorn.  You know, the kind where you leave the movie theater feeling like your throat has been lined with plasticwrap?  Mmmm irresistible.  Well, that doesn’t exist here.  The most popular option at the movie theater is kettle corn.  Kettle corn.  KETTLE.  CORN.  Don’t ask me how I I find the strength to wake up in the morning in a country that prefers kettle corn.  I may not if they didn’t have dulce de leche.

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56.  Apparently there’s a whole different kind of deck of cards that I didn’t even know existed–Spanish cards.  Our “regular” version of cards here are called “poker cards” but they’re actually less common than the other kind which are used to play truco among other games.  I’m still struggling to get an idea of which suits are which and their values and such.  My whole world shattered pretty much once people told me the suits were coins, cups, clubs (as in the type of weapon, clubs, not the clover-looking ones), and swords.

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57.  Music in English is apparently a single genre of music–at least according to some radio stations here.  One station playing at a party I went to with my host brother sounded like I threw my mom’s, brother’s, six-year-old niece’s, and philosophy teacher’s music libraries onto my hard drive and threw it on shuffle.  Rap=rock=pop=classical=reggae=metal=>English ( => means “if” in math…)

58.  30° conjures up images of icicles and snow in below freezing temperatures to me, but to an Argentine it’s the peak of summer. (Farenheit4Life!)

59.  There’s this incredible invention of a fourth meal in between lunch and dinner–called merienda, or tea time.  I’m waiting for them to come out with an after midnight one.

60.  The Simpsons.  Everyone here is enthralled.  I don’t know if they’ve ever been so popular in the states.  Ever.  Argentines love them.

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61.  It’s actually very uncommon to shave here, everyone waxes.  It’s much much cheaper to do so than in the states, so I can understand the appeal, especially with the warmer weather and more time to expose legs and so on.  I’m a fan, but there’s no way I could afford to keep it up in the USA.  It’s more expensive to shave here though, plus the razor options are limited to crappy disposable gas station equipment…nothing like Intuition or Schick Quattro with replaceable heads and all that fancy dance.

62.  It’s not so bad in the capital of Buenos Aires, but the more rural areas of Argentina are full of street dogs.  Some are clearly diseased or have bugs and are “hecho de mierda” as they say here; some are adorable and cuddle-able and sweet; all of them I want to adopt and love and care for. 😦

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^^Ciruela spent the night keeping me warm in Maxi’s hammock  in Simoca, Tucuman, Argentina and shared breakfast with us in the morning.  I seriously considered taking her with us.

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^^Me getting a hug on New Year’s from the most adorable attendee.  I miss my dogs.

63.  A regular Argentine “horario“:  8 AM–Breakfast/wake up, 9 AM–Start of workday, 1 PM–Lunch time, 5-6 PM–Tea time, 6 PM–Post Office and official-seeming businesses close, 8 PM–Closing for most shops and stores, 9 or 10 PM–Din din, 11 PM–After dinner coffee/postre/tea, 12 AM–Think about pre-gaming/going out, 3 AM–Go to the club, 7 AM–Get early McDonald’s/Get home from club.  Sleep?  What’s that?

64.  Libraries here are primarily academic.  Not every little kid can get excited about getting a library card (Pagemaster nostalgia) because you can’t usually check things out either.  It’s not like back in the US where you can check out The Hulk on DVD, Dirty Dancing on VHS, Ke$ha’s new album, a couple of audio books and a paperback sappy romance novel.  Those things cost money, which is why Argentina is world-famous for it’s second-hand book fairs and markets.  After working in Interlibrary Loan for two years though, I realize that not even a badass book fair beats free.

65.  In general, people here are much more aware of politics and their role in government.  Maybe it’s because of their recent tumultuous past, maybe it’s because voting is obligatory (not voting is punishable with fines and such), but either way people  seem to take much more of an interest in what’s going on around them.  Again, this is just my opinion based on observations.

^^I took this video of the cacerolazo (cacerola means pan and people flood the streets banging on pans and marching to the Casa Rosada to protest the government, hence, cacerolazo) on the 8th of November of last year.

66.  Grades are not given as A, B, C, D. and F.  Instead you get a number 1-10.  Four or above is passing and 10 is really really hard to achieve (theoretically), probably the equivalent of AAA+++, at least in my experience.  Grading practices and philosophies are much different altogether.

67.  Naturally, being on the opposite hemisphere switches the seasons.  This means that it’s summer in November and my name makes no sense.  Why would I be named Autumn if I were born in summer???  Nada que ver

68.  The majority of  broadcasted television is originally in English and can either be dubbed or subtitled.  It’s kind of adorable when you hear the names of Statian shows in a Spanish accent.  It does hinder my Spanish language learning though when I can watch TV in English all the time.

^^La beeg bangh theeeuhrreee.  Somos…Warner!

69.  If you understand much Spanish you may have noticed in that last clip that they use military time here for most things.  If you wonder why, read #63 and think about what it would mean if you said to a friend you wanted to meet at “three”…

70.  People speak Spanish.  Alright.  That is kind of a dumb and obvious difference, but it still surprises me to this day–especially little kids speaking Spanish.  It’s so adorable and strange and boggles my mind to think about growing up speaking something other than what I grew up speaking.  This is very difficult to explain.  I give up.

71.  Most everything you buy here, from your groceries to a new computer can be paid for through a series of cuotas, or quotes.  It’s actually really cool and I would so use it all the time except you have to use a credit card to do so.  In the end I would never end up saving money because of extravagant international card usage fees.

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72.    When I first printed a paper for class here it looked like I was trying to cheat by setting my margins to 2 or 3 inches. I wasn’t though.  It’s because they use a different paper size here.  It’s bigger, so a five page paper here is actually 5 3/4on regular-size letter paper.

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^^It doesn’t look like much but it adds up.

73.  For Girls:  There’s no applicators on tampons here.  In fact, tampons are really not that popular.  I was/am shocked.  Weird.

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^^Really not a very tasteful tampon-brand name….

74.  Deodorant is also weird and different.  It doesn’t usually come in the traditional stick you rub on.  There are some that are like liquid roll-on but the most popular are the sprays.  It’s hard for me to understand how this is effective but people here smell nice in general so I guess it is…

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75.  Coca-Cola is incredibly popular.  I call it Argentine water simply because they drink it like I would drink water.  If you’re in a restaurant asking for water is very rare.  This may be because there’s no such thing as free water–see spoon story in my next post (#83)–but I still find it incredibly strange.  They even give this magical Coca-Cola to little kids who drink it like Kool-Aid.

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To be continued (one last time…)

101 Things About Argentina: Part II

This is a continuation of Part I of my list of things about Argentina.  Start there if you haven’t read it yet by clicking on the link 🙂 So, without further ado:

26.  You put your picture, gender, race, age, and marital status on your resume (curriculum); if you don’t, employers might think you’re hiding something.

27.  Shoe store right next to a fruit/veggie stand right next to an apartment complex—not weird.

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28.  Someone casually lights a cigarette in the school cafeteria, right next to the “Prohibido Fumar” sign; no one casts a second glance.

29.  You panic about a big group project the teacher assigned.  No one starts talking about it until the night before it’s due, and nobody does a single bit of work until the morning of.  The presentation is bound to crash and burn, but the teacher forgets there was any homework at all.  Two weeks later, he remembers, but forgets again the next class period.  If you’re interested for future reference, this is a potential method you should consider if you’d like me to die of a heart attack someday. <–This might just be Universidad Belgrano…still investigating.

30.  Pigeons are more common than ants on a spilled Slurpee. They’re impossibly uglier too.

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32.  You think you must have something in your teeth if you get through the day  all the way to the bus stop in the morning without at least six or seven comments of “princesa“, “linda chica“, or “Te acampaño o te persigo?

Actually, my favorite piropo (these types of comments/pick-up lines) happened to me a couple of weekends ago while I was standing at a bus stop with my friend Marianita outside the city center in Olivos.  A little truck with three or four guys, all in their mid-twenties or thirties pulled across the road and into the wrong lane and rolled down their window.  “Perdón chicas, pero estoy media perdido,” said the driver (Sorry girls but I’m a little lost), “Me pueden decir como llegar a tus corazónes?” Could you tell me how to get to your hearts?  Then he drove away with a wink.  I was left a little bit confused, my naive mind calculating how to get to the center of the city exactly from where we were.  It clicked within a matter of seconds though and both Marianita and I coughed a little from the cheesiness of it all.  I don’t necessarily like the piropos, though.

Most are harmless enough and the guys in the truck made me smile at least, but sometimes they’re just gross and disgusting.  I don’t think it’s common to have this happen to you, but last Tuesday I was walking by myself on Santa Fe coming back from the gym at around 10 PM (still dinner-time-ish) and a young guy around my age followed me for about a block asking for a kiss and actually grabbed me. I whirled around telling him to go away in more explicit language and raised my arm when he got close to me again…  The streets were strangely empty but a watching doorman pulled him away from me, made sure I was ok and told me to continue before I got a chance to slap the jerk harassing me.  I shouldn’t have spoken English to tell him to go away, but the words that come out of my mouth in those situations aren’t necessarily well thought out.  He’d effectively pissed me off though.  Anyhow, I don’t think it’s a really common experience to have and the guy seemed drugged or drunk :/

33.  You’re a shark and seats on the bus are the minnows.

34.  You have a separate bag for your mate supplies and a mental map of refill stations throughout the day so you don’t run out of hot water (or at least for some Argentines.)

35.  By the end of the day your purse is full of ads for learning English, painting your baby’s bedroom, pizza delivery, and various other promos you were too polite to refuse on your five block walk home.

36.  Empanadas, dulce de leche, and medialunas all have their own food groups, here’s my personal food pyramid:

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37.  Two pieces of bread with jam and a single half mug of Nescafe fills you up like a regular meal used to in the United States.

38.  A little girl comes up to you in a restaurant where you and your amigos are morfando una pizza and asks you for a slice.  She won’t leave until you oblige, and then she goes outside and eats it in front of the window.  She’s not homeless or anything (she’s wearing a private school uniform…), only craving pizza and feeling bold.

39.  Pizza is delicious (as proved the little girl in #38), but delicious in Argentina for a more gourmet reason than the United States (still miss my Papa John’s Special Garlic Dipping Sauce: aka butter mixed with a bit of cream and powdered garlic for use on already artery-hostile pizza.)

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40.  Someone puts a pair of socks on your lap on the colectivo with tape across them spelling out “ADDIDAS.”  He follows with a presentation involving tying the socks to the bus seats and comically stretching them as far as possible to prove that they are sturdy before emphatically announcing that they are offered for a limited time and ONLY FIFTEEN PESOS FOR NOT ONE, BUT TWO, that’s TWO durable pairs!!!

41.  Red lights outside of the city center are just suggestions.

42.  Almost all of the cars are manuals.  For this reason the lights go from green–yellow–red–yellow–green.

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43.  It no longer surprises me  when my bus driver gets road rage, slamming on the brakes and calling a fellow driver an “hijo de puta” with a characteristically Italian shake of the fist.

44.  Mayonnaise obsession.  Seriously, a whole aisle in the grocery store is devoted to mayonnaise.  Since ranch dressing is virtually nonexistant, guess what the choice topping for salads here is?  Not kidding.  I used to think this was weird and gross.  Now I don’t know what a meal is like without mayonnaise.

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45.  I may have mentioned this before but milk is usually purchased in bags like the ones below.  Yes, they do have cartons (although they’re square and weird), but I’ve yet to see a typical plastic bottle or translucent jug like the ones so common to the USA.

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46.  When I order a whiskey/7Up I don’t get 7Up with whiskey, I get whiskey with a couple shots of 7Up.  Sometimes they give me the can too just in case I want to dilute my drink after the first shocking sips.

47.  You have to light the oven and the stove with matches, a task which took me many fortnights to master.  I still fear lighting the pilot light on the oven, actually….

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^^Our box of matches next to the oven/stove

48.  The doormen water the sidewalks early in the morning  just in case the grass decides to peek through the cement surface one day.  These porteros will be there to tenderly care for such growth when it comes, I’m sure.  Maybe it’s a city thing, or maybe it’s a preemptive strike against the dog poop that is seeming to invade the city, qué sé yo

49.  Everyday one plays a life-size version of Minesweeper walking along the streets of Buenos Aires.  Ironically, the parks seem to be eerily clear of feces, but the same cannot be said of the sidewalks.  Walking in heels is quite the feat among the cracked, uneven tiles with the occasional sneaky bomb of dog poo that make up Buenos Aires’ sidewalks.    I guess when you’re a dog walker with 20 dogs in tow you might find it a bit tedious to bag it ALLLLLL (see #5.)

50.  Electronics are insanely expensive because of import taxes.  I bought my Droid Razr (which got stolen a few weeks ago 😦 ) in February of 2012.  It came out sometime in 2011 I think.  Right now in the US, you can get one brand new without a contract for about $200 (free with a contract.)  This one pictured here is the equivalent of $520 WITH a new or renewed contract.  I hate to think of what it would be unlocked!

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To be continued…

Liebster Award

LiebsterAward_3lilapplesI was super pumped when I found out I’d been nominated for a Liebster Award by The Tipsy Nomads.  I had no idea what it was, I just lit up at the word “Award.”  After I stopped running laps around the house and cheering, I looked up what the award actually was with this handy page.

The Rules

  • Answer the 11 questions from the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new bloggers and ask them 11 questions
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself

Because The Tipsy Nomads is a blog about drinks around the world, their questions for me were naturally about drinking 🙂  Please read my >>Disclaimer<< before you start freaking out that I’m a crazy drunkard.

11 Questions From the Person Who Nominated Me:

1.  What is the most money you have ever spent in one night, just on drinks and where was it and what were you drinking?

This is going to be a tough one.  I am really cheap so when I go out I try not to spend that much money.  That doesn’t mean I don’t drink though…  The most I’ve ever spent in one night has been for a party I’m throwing—probably Dad’s (Natalie’s) 20th birthday party.  I planned on everyone paying me back…but that just didn’t happen.Image  I spent a lot on my goodbye party too—1/2 keg of Sunshine Wheat from New Belgium Brewery, three bottles of vodka for my classic cranberry punch, bottle of tequila, 40-rack of crappy beer, bottle of whisky, and I think something girly, like Malibu.  Probably around $300 total.  I have incredible luck though.  The nights where I drink the best I tend to spend the least.  Strange.  Drinking more=being richer?  Should test this hypothesis. 😉

<<Jello Shots I made for the party

2.  What is your favourite alcoholic drink?

ImageTough.  So many to choose from…In the USA it was a 7&7 (whiskey and 7-up) and my favorite shot was a dirty girl scout or grapefruit vodka with chocolate chips.  Here I have become incredibly fond of fernet and coke.  Nothing can deter me from a good wheat beer made in Fort Collins though 😉

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>>(At right)  Me and one of my best friends, Nick, getting a beer sampler on Saint Patrick’s day at Fort Collins Brewery

3.  What was the cheapest drink you have ever tried and where was it and what did it taste like?

Besides free?  Haha 😉  In the USA: Sundance Bar & Saloon…a whiskey-something (whiskey water probably…I’m not sure but it came from a tap) for 25ȼ.  Here in Argentina: The Alamo’s beer.  No one knows what it is but it gives you a horrendous hangover and makes you do crazy things.  With you and a friend’s entrance plus 5 pesos (about $1) you can get four liters of the stuff.  Yes, four (4) liters for $1.

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4. Give us your funniest drinking story. 

That’s going to be a difficult one to choose…This one took place in Fort Collins.  It was my freshman year.  I was dating this guy whose roommate threw excellent parties in their house (apparently he wasn’t so great about clean-up, but luckily I didn’t live there.)  He’d always have a theme and this one was “Adventure.”  You were supposed to dress up as your favorite adventurer or somehow conform to the theme, so, naturally, my friends and I went all out.  I was Xena the Warrior Princess and I’d made my costume myself.  I’d even hot glued golden ribbons directly onto my ankles (apparently I kept proudly telling everyone this throughout the night…)

Image^^Not my most flattering picture but a bit too much of a foreshadow for the night…

When we entered the party, we were relatively early.  My boyfriend wasn’t there yet, but he told us he’d left us some Arbor Mist (carbonated wine stuff) in the fridge.  We got started slowly but felt kind of uncomfortable as more and more people arrived in regular clothing.  I wasn’t ashamed of my costume—it was awesome as you can see—but it was clear we’d put a little more effort into these costumes than everyone else.  My boyfriend called me and asked what we wanted him to pick up for us on his way to the party and my friend requested this stuff called “Hot Damn!”  It’s the bargain brand of cinnamon schnapps.  I’d had it once before and, still being a beginner drinker, it was girly and smooth enough for me to handle.

He arrived with the liquor and we took a shot to celebrate.  Then I took another shot with a friend who we didn’t know we had in common.  Then a couple more friends got there and we all took a shot together.  Then I took a shot with my best friend.  Then I took a shot with a random guy who was waiting in line for the bathroom because he said my costume was “awesome.”  At that point I realized that this Hot Damn!  wasn’t the same kind I’d had before….it was 100 proof.  All of this plus two other drinks in the course of an hour…and the scene was set.

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Cut to: Us in the basement, young sweaty college kids packed in tight, playing pool and beer pong and swinging on the decorative “adventure vines”.  Loud music but not too loud to talk.  Suddenly my best friend’s jaw drops.

“Oh my gawd!” she says, “I know that girl.  She worked at the Texas Roadhouse!”

Now, my best friend used to be a hostess at the Texas Roadhouse and let me tell y’all how much she hated it: A WHOLE DARN LOT.  It wasn’t necessarily a horrible job but all of the girls were really mean to her.  She’d been driven to finally quit her job about a month before the party and hadn’t seen any of the girls since.

“Where?”  I sway as I attempt to stand on my tip toes and get a better view.

“There, in the black, with the black hair talking to that one girl.  See her?  She has her back to us.  [Insert expletive here] I can’t believe she’s here!”

“Was she a bitch?”  I ask bluntly.

“Well, yeah…they all were.”

“Imma go talkto’er,” I declare, and start marching over.  My friend grabs me by the shoulder.

“Autumn!  No!  Don’t start anything, she doesn’t even know we’re here…it could,” she pauses, “I don’t know, it could mess up my recommendation from there or something.”

“Don’t worry,” I assure her, “I’m just gonna talk to‘er realquick.”  And I march off again.

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I think I really had just intended to talk to this girl…but in the few meter’s walk I must have changed my mind because I only said two words.  I just stood there glaring at the back of her head until she turned around, confused.  Then I delivered my two words with my fist, “Hey bitch.”

Not my classiest moment for sure…and it gets worse.  I had fallen down after my fist made contact and she’d dragged me up by my hair.  I think it would have hurt much worse if I’d had all of my senses, but I was pummeling her with my hands and kicking like a blind cat dipped in water.  Our friends broke us apart before we got rowdier.

Cut to: The girl and I are in the backyard screaming at each other and struggling against the friends who are holding us back from tearing each other apart.  A circle has formed of at least thirty people screaming, “GIRL FIGHT!” I am determined to defend my friend’s honor at whatever cost.  People are streaming out of the house trying to see what’s going on when I elbow my friend in the ribs and she loses her grip on me.  Sacrifices, I guess.

I must have really been in character.  I don’t know what exactly went through my mind but my hand dropped to my left hip and drew my plastic sword dramatically.  Gripping it tightly with both hands I let out a frightening drunk battle cry as I ran at her and shoved the gray plastic into her throat.  The plastic wasn’t substantial enough to do any harm and, from the accounts of my friends, made the whole scene comical and anti-climactic.  I didn’t do much more than annoy her and get her rambling about how stupid freshman are.

Cut to: Me sitting on my boyfriend’s bed, my shield and sword safely out of my reach and all of my closest friends pledging their support and telling me that I was not out of my mind.  I wanted nothing more than to put my armor back on and attack, but they told me the guys of the house were handling it.

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Many other things happened that night.  In the morning I had the worst hangover that I’ve ever had in my life.  Two days later, when I noticed silly string on the front lawn, I was devastated that I’d missed the silly string fight…apparently I started it.  Who knows what other shenanigans I got into…but I was surrounded by my closest friends who I know kept me (sort of) under control.

The girl, who my friends and I now refer to as TXRH bitch, was not actually that mean to my best friend.  I feel bad that I attacked her so viciously and suddenly.  She did not even know who I was.  I don’t think I did either (except Xena.)  It turned out that she was dating the next door neighbor and we had a lot in common actually, but it led to a slight rivalry between the two houses over the next year.  Shame on me.

Sometimes people will see me at a party and remember me as Xena, even though I swear I’ve never met them.  The smell of cinnamon still makes me uneasy, and I haven’t gotten in a fight since that night.  I hope to keep it that way.  The next time I might be totally unarmed.

So I’m only going to share that story but I wrote another post about a particularly crazy night I had in Brazil during Carnaval.  You can read it here.

5.  What is your best hangover cure/routine?

Water.  Food.  Vitamins.  When I’m planning an irresponsible night I try to lessen the blow to my liver by downing a glass of water for every shot/drink I have.  This is surprisingly effective.  The best offense is a good defense 😉  I just deleted about two paragraphs of inappropriate jokes…sorry, but I can’t afford to deteriorate my image further during this post.

ANYHOW, if I do end up feeling not so fortunate the morning after an eventful night, I have to eat.  I maintain that Qdoba breakfast burritos can cure any hangover of mine.  I sure do miss those.

6.  What is your all-time favourite drinking song?

Blackout—Breathe Carolina

7.  Where in the world is your favourite drinking spot?

On any roof, beach, or around any campfire.  Ideally, a campfire on the roof of a beach house, but that would be tricky.  I prefer to drink outside.  I don’t know if I have a particular spot though.

I’m being easily led astray on tangents today so here you go:

The Roof Is On Fire--Bloodhound Gang

8.  Have you ever played a drinking game? If so what was it and how did it work?

Um, duh, I go to college in the Shtaytes 😉  Besides the typical beer pong and card games like King’s cup, I enjoy a good mustache game.  To play the mustache game one tapes a mustache to the TV and the group takes a drink every time the mustache lines up perfectly with someone’s face.

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9.  Have you ever snuck a drink in somewhere where it wasn’t allowed? How did you do it?

You’re funny hahaha. And this survey is making me sound like a notorious party girl.  Not necessarily true.  We once snuck an entire bottle of Jager into an almost empty bar, and were refilling our glasses under the table like the classless, poor college students we were.  And of course my friends and I snuck our fair share of alcohol into the dorms as well.

10.  Were you ever busted drinking while underage by a parent or anyone else?

My mom knows all about my twin in Connecticut who happens to be 23.  She’s even gone to the breweries with her a couple of times. Image

I was caught by the cops once though—outside of my favorite bar.  It was a slow night and I tried to convince the cops that I really was 21 for about 15 minutes.  He’d called me in nationally and state-wide with no hits on my name…which didn’t necessarily mean I was a fraud. But I finally folded and he let me off without a ticket and without any documentation when I brought him my second fake ID the next day (which I’d tried to iron and messed up anyways…long story)

11.  Why do you think that drinking and travelling go hand in hand so well?

I think that drinking is a social activity.  That’s why it’s so popular among young people and travelers.  It is a great way to get to know people, improve perceived language ability :P, and share experiences.  ImagePlus, it’s globally practiced on a regular basis.

vv My host brother drinking at his graduation party 🙂

Blogs I Nominate (I only nominated a few.  Yup, I’m stumping the cycle, deal with it):

Yanama? from Larusayankee

Mark from Mark Goes To Europe

Brandon from I Told My Mom I’d Make This Blog

Nay? from A Year without peanut butter

Anyone from Chrisman2College

By the way, sorry if I got your name wrong 😦  I couldn’t find some of them!

Questions for the Nominated:

  1. If you had to pick one place in the world to make your “home base”, where would it be and why?
  2. What’s your funniest language barrier story?
  3. What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had with airport security?
  4. Have you ever been sick abroad?  Do tell.
  5. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?  (cliché but always interesting)
  6. Have you ever not been able to find a certain can’t-live-without product abroad?  What was it, where, and what did you do?
  7. Pick a favorite travel photo:
  8. What is the coolest-looking passport stamp you’ve ever gotten (or seen)?
  9. Do you have a New Year’s resolution this year and are you keeping it?
  10. What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever received?
  11. How long is the longest you’ve ever stayed awake?

Eleven Things About Me:

  1. I belly dance. 100_8835
  2. I’m always forgetting things/losing things/late.
  3. The doctors told my mom I was going to have Down’s Syndrome and that I was a boy.
  4. I’m OCD about brushing my teeth and I almost always do it twice before going to bed.
  5. My favorite color is green
  6. My favorite season is fall (surprised?)
  7. When I was little I threw the cat in the bathtub, with my brother in it.
  8. When I was little my brother locked me in the bathroom in a zipped (and tied) duffle bag.
  9. When I was little I used to generate real fake tears to get my brother in trouble.
  10. When I was little my brother convinced me to let him cut my arm repeatedly with his Swiss Army knife so I could be part of his “club.”
  11. I still sometimes look at my thumb and first finger to figure out left and right.

The Cookie Incident and How I Got Over My Fear of Strangers

In general, I am a very independent girl.  I don’t like to have things done for me and I like to think I’m self-sufficient.  Even when I was a baby I refused to eat unless I could hold the spoon myself because I just don’t like asking for help!  This has certainly caused me a great deal of trouble in the past, especially with school, and is something I’m trying to work on.

So, at first, hitchhiking was naturally very hard for me.  I felt like I was soliciting people for charit-ous rides.  In reality it is nothing like that, but my fierce independence was left stubbornly struggling with the idea that people were really giving us a ride out of the pure goodness of their hearts.  One man we hitchhiked with from Cruz del Eje to Deán Funes put it like this (in Spanish):  “I actually don’t pick up hitchhikers for any humble reason at all.  It’s purely selfish.  When I was younger I hitchhiked all of southern Argentina and now, picking them up is my rare opportunity to relive that now that I have a family and am settled down.”  A lot of people who gave us rides had actually been hitchhikers in their youth and therefore felt more inclined to let strangers into their cars.  Others had never picked anyone up before but were bored and wanted someone to talk to.  Each driver was a unique and incredible character; the next time I go I’m going to make a point of at least taking a picture of every person we ride with to visually document their stories.  They all contributed to my picture of Argentina’s warm, social culture and diversity.

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^^taken from World Inhabit

Despite our first few lucky rides, though, I still felt uncomfortable verbally asking people for rides.  I much preferred standing on the side of the road with a sign and letting people stop out of their own curiosity.  The problem is, that’s not always effective.  This was the case for us once we got back to Carlos Paz after Playa de los Hippie.  We managed to get a ride really quickly from the trailhead of the playa by a couple (or a brother and sister, I couldn’t tell) who were going back to their hometown of Carlos Paz.  They were sweet and talkative, but Maxi and I were totally brain-dead tired and with caras de culo (mad at each other) because of the cookie episode after hiking out from the beach.  I’ll tell you what happened, but I can’t promise I’m not still ‘opinionated’ about the incident:

After only a few hours of sleep on the beach, a little bit of a hangover, and a long hike out under Cordoba’s stifling blanket of summer heat, we emerged at the top of the hill on the road back to Cuesta Blanca as a pair of ravenous, sweaty backpackers.  The fruit stand I told you about was open and busy with tourists chatting over a beer or fellow hippies refueling with snacks.  We flung our things to the floor, I took my shoes off (greeted by many awkward glances, but it felt marvelous so I didn’t care), and Maxi sat down.  He bought food the last time so it was my turn.  I had eleven pesos, which wasn’t much, but we just planned on buying a couple of apples or peaches.  I waited in line for what seemed like forever and was about to abandon all dignity and lay down on the cool tile floor in the middle of the store when my number came up.  They were out of fruit.  ;agsoiahsgoihwaegih Rawr.

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Well, thinking on my feet and looking behind the counter I chose an economical bag of cookies that would at least hold us over until we got to a real supermarket.  I was positively starving and beat as I got back to the table and slumped into the chair across from Maxi.

He just shook his head, “No, we can’t eat these.  They have meat in them.”  If you didn’t know, both Maxi and I are vegetarians.

“Uh…?”  I was kind of just gaping at Maxi, lacking the energy to even bring my jaw to close.

“Yeah, they have beef fat, read the ingredients.”  I scanned the ingredients and sure enough, the twentieth ingredient or so was “grasa vacuna.” I lazily dragged my eyes back up and stared at him.

“See? All of the cookies here have it.”  I looked back down at the tiny font as if I’d missed something.  Nope.  Still there.  I’d never realized that the cookies I’d been eating for months had beef fat in them.  Suprisingly, I haven’t died from them yet.  Looking back at the line for food though, now twice as long, I almost did.

“Ok, well,” I sighed, “we won’t buy cookies again, but… I already bought these and the line is going to take forever again and…I dunno.  Can’t we just make an exception this one time and eat them?”

Maxi raised his eyebrows.  “No…I won’t eat them. It’s not about making an exception; it’s about the cow that died to make the grease for those cookies.  If I made exceptions all the time, I wouldn’t be a vegetarian.”

Now, I love Maxi.  He was a great trip companion and he put up with a lot from me…but in that moment I’ll tell you what I wanted to do: I wanted to tear open the bag of cookies, stuff three in my mouth to momentarily satisfy my growling tummy, and take another handful to crush and crumble in his hair all while releasing a near-inhuman snarl of frustration.  Here’s your stupid beef fat cookies!!! I had just walked a long way uphill with my heavy pack in the heat, waited in line for twenty minutes, and I just wanted my f*****g cookies.  But I didn’t do that.

Instead, I swallowed, took a deep breath and aimed one of my well-known teeth-grinding glares straight into Maxi’s eyes.  He just innocently asked if I could go find something else to eat as if my glare had no effect on him. Verbally making it clear to how unhappy I was about this, I melodramatically got up and all but stomped back over to the counter (as best I could barefoot.)  I managed to cut the line after a couple of customers and trade in the HUGE bag of cookies for two alfajorcitos, not even the size of my fist, that lacked sufficient dulce de leche and tasted mildly stale.

Consequently, I was already in a sour mood when we were going back to Carlos Paz, to say the least.  When the man and woman (I don’t want to call them a couple if they were brother and sister…it feels weird) dropped us off, we got some real food and parked at a gas station, researching how to get to our next destination.  I held a sign for a while to get out of the city, then Maxi held it, then me again, then Maxi…and so on.  Eventually Maxi suggested we start asking individual drivers who were filling up and see if we could convince them on a more personal level.  I already felt weird holding a sign and accepting rides from strangers—asking them directly was like selling myself or…I don’t know, but I didn’t like it.  I refused and instead sat unhappily with all of our things while Maxi went and did the dirty work.  Maybe I was being bitchy, but I just felt like it would come across wrong for a girl to ask a ride from random strangers.  It went against the core lessons of everything I had learned in preschool.

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I went to the bathroom to change and rinse my face in the sink.  When I came back, I found Maxi using his broken Spanish to try and convince a young couple in their thirties to give us a ride.  The man’s girlfriend looked extremely skeptical about the whole thing as he tried to convince her that it wouldn’t be a big deal to just drive us to at least the bus station.  That’s where I stepped in. 😉

I told them that we had been sitting there for a couple of hours trying to find something and we had just resigned to taking a bus—that we’d been traveling for a few days and were exhausted.   The girlfriend seemed to warm up to the idea a little bit seeing that Maxi was traveling with a girl.  Remember, girls aren’t psycho axe murderers, we’re little innocent lambs who smell like flowers and love puppies.  During the ride they both relaxed considerably and told us it was the first time they’d picked up hitchhikers.  Even though they weren’t really taking us more than a few kilometers, they warmed up to the experience so much that by the end of the ride they told us they’d have invited us to dinner if they didn’t already have tickets to a theater show.  As we got out, the man gave us the rosary from his rear-view mirror “for our journey.”  Even though I’m not really religious, the gesture was touching and I still have the rosary hanging in my room to remind me of the kindness of the people we met on the road.

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As I had more and more positive experiences with hitchhiking and discovered both the selfish and selfless reasons that drivers had for letting us tag along, I became more comfortable asking for a lift.  I still don’t feel completely at ease going up to a truck driver in a gas station and asking where they’re headed, but I don’t feel like I’m asking if they want a little ‘company’ either.  I would say that hitchhiking can be explained like many people explain the irrational fear of snakes (that I personally feel I share with the other sane people of the planet…):  They’re more afraid of you than you are them.  It’s true.  Just like the average person would be scared to hitchhike, the average driver (at least in the US) would be scared of picking one up.  Once you draw away the curtains of fear you find that the sun is shining and it’s a very positive experience.

P.S.  The magic of the river at Playa de los Hippie magically cured my rash.  Turns out I wasn’t stung in my sleep by a lethal scorpion!  Hooray!  Sure did give me a scare though…

Peace, Love, and Fernet

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The sunlight softly feathers across my skin.  Mmmm warmth.  No, this is uncomfortable.  I hazily drag my blanket further into the shade and continue to snooze.

I roll over, sweaty and sticky.  Time to move again.

We followed the shade all the way up into the trees, 30 meters from the beach and slept in until ten.  That’s a difficult thing to do when you are sleeping outside and the light starts to harass you at 5:30 in the morning.  I managed though, considering the night that I’d had.  Maxi, luckily, had slept through the entire episode of me crying, yelling, shivering, and sitting in burning embers to ease the freeze that had enveloped every inch of me.  No fair.

After the man with the flashlight had gotten way too close to our camping spot for comfort, I stealthily army crawled back over to Maxi in hopes of waking him again.  No such luck; but being diligently quiet and discreet effectively concealed us anyways.  I spent the rest of the night dozing off only to wake up every fifteen or so trembling with cold again and repeatedly singing my clothes in the fire to stay warm.  The sun was a very welcome guest in the morning, but only for a half hour or so before I felt suffocated with heat.  Funny to think how I would’ve given anything to feel that way only four hours earlier, but I digress.

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We rounded up our stuff at around noon.  I bathed in the river for the first time since the hostel in Rosario—three days without a shower.  I was hoping that would be the record for the trip. Hahahaha, yeah right.  Maxi chided me for using shampoo and conditioner but my hair was so disgusting. 😦  I learned not to care eventually, but the first few weeks I had to learn to ease up on the hygiene.

The desert climate was in full blast by eleven thirty as we tried to obscure the remains of our campfire.  Families were coming to the beach to lounge and spend the day away from the city on the weekend, so we needed to get a move on and figure out what we wanted to do.  I had no desire to spend another night of misery freezing my ass off on the beach but we decided to talk about it over lunch.

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As we were putting the finishing touches on the campfire cover-up, an official-looking guy came up to us asking if we’d spent the night there.  Do I play the innocent, naïve yankee who doesn’t speak Spanish?  Do I run?  Running was pretty much out of the question since Maxi and I still hadn’t perfected our psychic communication and all speed would be lost with my multiple bags involved.  Innocent, naïve yankee it was!  He told us that it was illegal to camp on the beach but my wide baby eyes kept him from giving us a ticket.  Instead he was actually very helpful.  He told us about this beach that people usually camp on called “Playa de los Hippies.”  Beach of the Hippies.

I peered down at my orange, pink, blue and white flowy bombachas (kind of like harem pants but with light fabric) and insane flip flop tan.  Yep, sounded right up our alley.  We gathered our things and went to the bridge to follow the man’s directions.  I figured out who the mysterious flashlight man was.  Apparently we weren’t the only vagrants on the beach that night.  Two guys, around their late twenties, with dreads, guitars, and backpacks were pushing sand over what used to be a fireplace just meters from our crime scene of last night.  It might have been cool to spend the night with them but too late.  Hippie Beach here we come!

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^^Our campsite at Hippie Beach 🙂

As we crossed the bridge and took the turn off for the road that we were told to follow to the trailhead for the beach, a woman in an orange vest stopped us.  She was a kind of tourism coordinator and handing out maps and pamphlets to the people around.  We got another warning about the illegality of camping by the side of the river here but she was also really nice.  She gave us a pamphlet and told us to be careful…there were scorpions around here.  While beginning our walk I skimmed the pamphlet.  There were two types in these parts; one that was super poisonous and would kill you within a few hours, and one that was capable of ruining your next couple of days depending on where it stung you.  Both were characterized by a red bumpy, itchy rash, potentially followed by swelling, dizziness, vomiting, and of course, death.  I suddenly became hyperaware of the itchiness of my skin and looked at my arms only to begin to panic in earnest.  Red bumps seemed to be popping up all over my arms.  I looked at my shoulders, my chest, my legs…down my pants.  Yep, there too.

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^^Hard to see…but they’re there 😦

Oh my God.  I was going to die, I was sure of it (clearly, I didn’t.)  Max said it was probably just irritation from the sand.  They didn’t itch that badly anyways…so I agreed to hold tight.  I am a hypochondriac after all…and I slept on the ground in the sand with a crappy airplane blanket the night before.  I put the scorpion pamphlet away and tried to focus on how miserable the heat was to walk in with my heavy pack.  Distracting enough.

The beach was about two and a half hour’s walk from the river…uphill.  Luckily we got some girls to give us a lift most of the way to the top of the hill where the road ended and the trek began.  We bought some fruit and water for the way and hiked in.  So much for my rinse in the river that morning—by the time we could see what was probably Hippie Beach we were both drenched and smelly.  I tried to keep the whining down to a minimum but really, there’s only so much I can restrain myself.  I was definitely ready to take the first campsite available when we got down to the river again…but Maxi was more in the mood to explore for the perfect place I guess.

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^^Me NOT whining

There were old campers, young campers, families out for the weekend, and even semi-permanent residents (some people seemed to just live their summers there…) It really was incredibly similar to Fort Collins’ landscape by the Poudre but with an even more relaxed vibe.  After Maxi and I finally spread the tarp out in our “perfect” camping spot we did the only logical thing—strip.  And get into our swim suits of course 😛  While I was relieved to be out of normal clothing I was positively alarmed by the amount of ‘bug bites’ I had.  I knew they weren’t bug bites.  It was some sort of rash.  Most likely caused by lethal scorpions.  Big red welts all over my legs and stomach and arms and everywhere—EVERYWHERE—decorated my skin.  They itched too, but not as badly as mosquito bites.  I showed Max again and he repeated I should probably hold off on worrying for at least a couple of days.  There was nothing we could do anyways except let the cool river water heal me.  I promised myself to stay hypersensitive to any waves of nausea.

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Splash.  Total relief.  Harsh heat and frigid cold seemed to be the weather’s only two settings here in Cordoba, but cool water, alcohol, friends, and camp fires helped make it bearable.  After a short swim I went and washed my clothes in the river while Maxi napped and explored.  It wasn’t too crowded really and it was amazing to be out of the city, away from roads in the peace and quiet.   We relaxed and ate our fruit.  Just thinking about our day makes me close my eyes and yearn for that kind of carefree relaxation right now.  Such bliss.

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As the hours flew by, I decided to gather as much dry firewood as possible.  I would keep the fire going as long as possible tonight to avoid a repeat of the anterior.  Mala suerte.  There didn’t seem to be dry wood ANYWHERE.  I did find a small dead tree like half a mile away that I drug back to our tarp, but it turned out to be surprisingly little firewood.  Instead, Max and I cooked dinner and decided we’d just go join someone else’s campfire with a peace offering of fernet.  Hippies are all about peace, love and sharing right?

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Yup!  We ate our dinner in the dark on our tarp.  There were loud questionable moans coming from down the hill so we didn’t dare venture away for fear of who’s free love we’d walk in on.  Instead we laid low for the next twenty minutes or so…  Awkward.  But at least we were able to laugh about it.  When I finished my last bite, I layered up and followed the light of campfire down the hill.  We met Franco, Nacho, and Diego who were all university students from Cordoba capital; we played the guitar and drank fernet and crappy wine and laughed and talked while enjoying the fire.  Halfway through the night some drunk old men who made a habit of camping on the beach and mooching off the tourists’ liquor and smokes joined us and it was officially a hippy fest.  I’m pretty sure I remained the only girl all night, but I officially let my hippy side take over.

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It grew colder and colder.  Not even the fernet could keep me warm by the time sleep got a hold of me and the boys offered us their extra tent.  I brought my airplane blanket in with me, even though I didn’t quite trust it anymore as my rash was growing worse, and crashed.  I couldn’t sleep past nine AM as the sun conquered the night’s freeze and determined to prove its superiority by cooking us.  Note to self: Take vengeance on the sun for never being there when I want it to.

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Maxi and I had decided to spend half the next day in Playa de los Hippie before hiking out and hitching back to Carlos Paz and onward.  We wanted to make it to La Rioja, a little tourist city in the mountains, for New Year’s.  After we ate some bread and washed any last dregs of hangover off in the river we decided to explore the river and found the dique.  We were able to bring Maxi’s camera with us through the water in my Otter Box that I got free at CSU!  Below are some of the cool fotos.

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