Thursday, February 4, 2010

Exit Strategy

Disclaimer: I will one day write about Chile. About Coyhaique, Puerto Aysen, the ferry from Chacabuco to Quellon, Castro, Ancud, the "farm" in Caulin, Osorno, Valparaiso, and Mendoza - I swear.

But for now, I'm too content with the present in Buenos Aires.

Discerning earnest is difficult while traveling. To your disadvantage you have the myriad of scams and traps designed by locals whose sole intention is to extract as much of your currency as possible. Arguably more damning are the throngs of fellow backpackers that speak english and use your experience as a barometer of their guidebooks accuracy.

The greatest disadvantage is that because I have only so much time here - that if someone is "on the bubble" regarding my trust - the decision must be made immediately - whether I am ready or not.

Only in a handful of faces have I found what I would call, "earnest." One such place is with our landlord and friend here in Buenos Aires - Marko. Though it is understood that he has taken the "next step" by becoming a full blown expat and that we are still merely backpackers - this apartment is a place where I can do as I please.

Where I can joke constantly about nationality and simultaneously forget about it completely. Where I can plan two months of travel, as if I were back in Denver. Where the pressure of a hostel or hospedaje are null. Where I have a door. Where I can sit and share mate or beer or a football match without worry of "wasting resources" - it's always worth it with friends.

I'm trying to say that I am so glad we are here. We are enjoying the sort of travel we always had in mind. To sit around and ponder what we would like to do or see and then do or see it when we want. We can lounge the day drinking mate and reading before heading for tango lessons or a football match or a humid milonga.

I don't think I could or would ever pretend to be a porteno. I don't think I could or would ever assume to fully understand this culture and this people. But, it feel so good to walk out of an apartment building and give a nod to the lady selling fruit and to know where I'm going - which street - which building - etc... I'm still a tourist, still a gringo, but no one has to know..and maybe even I can forget for a little while.

I felt this for the few days we stayed with Marko before we left Buenos Aires the first time...and I think it's why we had to come back. It is a power I now wield over myself - in that I no longer divert my eyes - I can sing and jump at the football match - I can laugh at my poor Spanish, because I know I'm not just using the culture to last a few days in the city - there is a part of me here that I cannot and never will be able to ignore.

But of course, the purpose of this trip is to discover many such places. It has now been decided (though no tickets are purchased) that the first week of April will be our deadline to make our discoveries.

Thanks to Marko's insight into cheap airfare it looks as though the flight home will take us all the way north to Medellin - Colombia (saving us about $300 each).

The details of the area between Buenos Aires and Medellin are yet to be determined, but it's safe to say that the Atacama, Peru, and Ecuador are on the table as well.

Surely, with this time to sit and breathe..and stay up until 4:30am, if I please, writing entries and searching flights and travel information - we will have a solid strategy for the remainder of the trip. Both firm in our determination to reach certain destinations, yet maintaining what has been a largely improvised modus operandi.

It is best this way..

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