Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alive, in Buenos Aires

A day later and indeed, a few bucks short - we have arrived in Buenos Aires.

If the last forty-eight hours are any indication of the path that lay before us, God help us. Of course, nothing we can´t handle, but I am hoping for more subtlety and romance to divulge - rather than the abrupt drama that is the city.

But first...

I try not to believe in jinxs (and now I know of at least one we can avoid on the return trip), but after smooth passage via Delta from Denver to Atlanta to Miami - it was only a matter of time. Originally, we chose Aeorlineas Argentina because it was reasonably priced, but more so because it flew direct from Miami to Buenos Aires. All other airlines stopped in either Mexico or Panama City. I still think we made the best choice but it is difficult to ignore hindsight.

Upon arriving in Miami we were greeted first and foremost by that all too familiar wave of humidity. At that moment I found myself longing for the swelter of the Sandhills - bizarre.
Continuing up the ramp the sentimentality was overcome with the excitement of our pending final leg of the twenty-eight hour haul. But Miami International is a rather large airport and rather than wandering aimlessly we opted for the information kiosk.

When we told the clerk which airline we were seeking, his chin sucked into his neck - pursed his lips - rolled his eyes to the top of his head: Y´all are brave...DAMN y´all are brave!

Immediately, we shriveled. Why exactly should we be brave? Who wants to be brave? Not me.

The gentlemen proceeded to inform us that Aerolineas Argentina is the bane of MIA - the target of countless industry jokes - ´´That airline is held together with bubble gum and duct tape.¨ ¨Sometimes they try to take off with two..even one engine!¨

Thansk for the heads up!

Luckily, the flight was cancelled due to, ¨No aircraft.¨ So we had an entire day in Miami to ruminate on the possible flaws with this airline - to ponder and joke about the potential for crashing into the Gulf of Mexico or the Andes. Huzzah!

Of course, the flight itself went off without a hitch. The craft was not state of the art, but the meal was good and the ride smooth and I was lulled into the simpler, slower way.

That was until my pack arrived in baggage claim with the brain (top compartment) unclipped and hanging next to the body. It was a very strange kind of panic that came over me. My pack seemed smaller, but that could have been because it was buried under the weight of a pyramid of luggage - it didn´t necessarily mean that anything was missing.

Then I saw that two of my five carrabiners used to hold my zippers shut were missing. Long story short, because this is dramatically overhyped - my external hard-drive (which we intended to load with thousands of touristy photos) was gone. In retrospect, I´m not too surprised - more surprised that my first naive blunder would come so soon upon arriving.

The sick insecurity of knowing that a stranger has access to all of your photos, videos, writing, etc... left me pretty vulnerable - I was caving after being swept through customs, no questions asked - only to be blindsided.

We soldiered on though - in the grand scheme of things it was a minimal loss - all our files had been backed-up on Kaitlin´s harddrive before we left..and we brought mine because it didn´t even really work that well. Good riddance.

- I hope every day does not produce such long winded entries -

Our cab ride was another harrowing experience. Before we walked through the automatic doors - we were picked up by a taxi. We were told the rate would be $350 pesos..which seemed exorbitant compared to the exchange rates and the info we had seen online about fares from the airport to the city center, but hey.. we were on our way..

The since of injustice ebbed and flowed as I took in the drive. It was difficult to stay focused on the fare as we passed the training facility for the Argentine National Futbol team and the sporadic cars parked in the median and shoulder with people just sitting staring at the countryside. We asked the driver what they were doing, ¨Just passing the day,¨ he said.

We arrived after a while and the fare showed $460 pesos - I knew we were getting ripped off, but I just wanted to get into the hostel and collapse - so between Kaitlin and myself we shelled out $500 pesos. The driver attempted some poor slight of hand and produced four hundred peso bills and two ten peso bills. He then tried to convince us that we had given him $420 pesos.. it was pretty surreal for about five minutes as Kaitlin tried to grasp what the man was saying and I (limited by my lack of Spanish) was unable to tell the guy to go jump off a bridge. Once he realized we weren´t going to submit - he changed his story and said he was just giving us our change (still shorted $20 pesos from the already inflated fare). We shook hands and he drove away. Bizarre.

This entry has already swelled beyond acceptable proportion and we need to hit the grocery store before it gets dark. I´ll be back later with impressions from our exploratory walks around the area and perhaps a picture of the massive socialist protest that shut down the cities major thoroughfares for almost an hour. Till then...

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