Monday, June 30, 2014

Good Morning Star shine........

That line from a 1970's song has never seemed more appropriate than this morning! After a really out cold, dead sleep, I am awakened by the shrill , jarring alarm that you find on iPhones now a days and rousted out of my nice cozy duvet covered sleep to head out to breakfast and begin my day...

Ok so I get it.. time to rise and shine ,but it is 7am and there is no hint of a rising in .. are you kidding me? It is pitch black out and the birds are not even thinking about singing. But being the good room-mate that I try to be, I get some clothes on and head down to breakfast so my roomie won't have to eat alone. She has traveled extensively, and has been teaching elementary school for 35 years and we will leave it at that.

I am now into my third cup of coffee and am thinking that this will be a very hard week to get the protein that my body has become accustomed to... many thanks for GNC and their packets of shake protein mix that I can use when I feel in a pinch.

So how did yesterday go? Was it less eventful than the day before? I mean really .. how can anyone have another day as adventure and excitement filled as my first 24 hours? You say to yourself, yep! I agree with her.... isn't possible. Trust me, it is. After seeing Karine and Shady ( pronounced Sha - dee ) off at breakfast, I had another latte and then gathered my bearings and belongings and just relaxed until the rest of the crew was up and about. Come to find out that they have completely acclimated to Argentine time and were out partying until 4 am. This did not stop them and soon the stragglers wandered down stairs and we went out into the sunshine of a B.A. morning.

There was a plan in effect - hit the Opera House first and then wander down to the south part of the city; check out a couple of parks ( one where there is supposed to be " the" game screen of the city ready for Tuesday's game , then off to Recollete ( sp ) , check out Eva Perron's tomb,  get food, gather our stuff and head to the aeroporte for travel to Patagonia.

We actually did all that we planned and found Evita's final resting place ( in and amongst what can only be considered a local weeping angels hang out! ) Food became a necessity as we walked ALL over town and as luck would have it , we found a local place that served the most fantastic , rustic , authentic Argentinian food. White sweet potatoes baked and covered with a mixture on one of cheese and spinach and pumpkin , the covered with honey and nuts. Casseroles of pumpkin and cheeses and spinach and empanadas full of pumpkin.... we ate and ate and ate....

To counter our excessive eating , we walked back to the hotel to get our airport transfers and on the way we saw : Tom's" like shoes with world cup team flags...... oh how we all drooled for the want of a pair representing the USA. It was not to be ... Sunday and the store was closed.

The rest of the trip to the airport was uneventful.... but the excitement continued as one of our merry band left her passport in the taxi and another found that her luggage was overweight based on in country Argentinian standards and had to pay  200 pesos to get her bags loaded on the plane........ extra fee paid: bags checked ; taxis driver returns and brings lost passport: passenger elated..

Sleep is calling and I plan on staying awake long enough to buckle my seat belt..... and then  ....wait ! We are landing? Already? But I haven't had any sleep........oh I did? two hours later? Sure  thing: feels great.

Check at the hotel after a 40km ride and we are good to go..........sleep sleep sleep.......

ADD moment: see that woven shawl in the native artisans section of the hotel? and all the other handmade stuff............. sounds like a take home idea to me......................


Sunday, June 29, 2014

How much trouble can you get into into 14 hours?

The Day flew by.... well  what I can remember about it! As the iEARN group gathered and then gathered me into the warmth of group existence, we headed out into the streets of B.A ( Yup! We are comfortable enough now to call this place B.A - for short you know...) A quick look at a map and we were off looking for the big pink building that takes up and entire city block - the home of El Presidente. I guess for at least right now I should call her Mdme President. Lots of picture taking ensued and we checked out all the Argentina futbol gear , which means mostly stuff with Messi's name on  it. In front of the palace, we took probably the best selfie I have seen in a long time. We decided since the tour of the home was free , that we would take the government up on. We lined up, sent all of our stuff through the x-ray machine and got our English speakers tour tickets. First time in a long time we are all feeling pretty good about our navigational and communication skills when one of my partners in  crime discovered that she herself was a victim of crime. Someone had lifted her phone out of her bag and wandered away into the crowd................we were crushed. This beautiful and historic city had wounded one of the "family"....................we left and headed back to the safety of the hotel where we could watch the Brasil game and root against them.... it would be party on a epic scale!!

Game on! Vamos Chile!! Our dreams of watching the game ended abruptly when 2 more of our travelers suggested that we head out to the artsy section of town called La Boca. Great call actually! It was amazing and the handicraft work and paintings were sublime!! Tango dancers were everywhere and they offered lessons or for a few pesos you could dress up like a tango dancer, strike a pose and have your photo taken......... We were hunting for something else: FOOD!! local Argentinian food!! But here's the problem - it is now midafternoon............not a great call to fill up on food when we are supposed to meet up with others later.... but on the other hand , a great excuse to watch the end of the game which gone into crazy overtime and was headed for penalty kicks!! We found a local eatery - ordered empanadas and proceeded to watch the game with a bunch of crazy Brasil fans. Don't get me wrong, there were Chile fans there too , us and about 10 other fans. We did however find one lone Mexico fan , who had had slightly too much of a local beverage and was very happy telling us how much he loved the USA............... game over .... Chile loses a heartbreaker and our Mexican fan decides he wants pictures with his new friends and he wants to tango with one of the iEARN gals...... we needed to get her out of there fast , so we made our excuses and headed back on the bus to the hotel. Back in relative safety again, we took naps or showers or shopped and planned to meet up again around 8:30 for supper...............Have I mentioned that people eat at like 9-10pm and don't go to bed until 3 or 4 am. Apparently I had just missed all the partying when I got in this morning. Holey Moley ! Was it just this morning? Meeting at our scheduled time , we headed off again across winding streets and skinny  alleys until we reached a local place called DaDa. It was tiny and we got the last two booths in the place. Each ordered something different and we all got a taste of a taste of Argentina. My rib eye ( ojo biftek) was to die for............ As we finished our first 24 hours in B.A. , we walked down Florida Street and got the opportunity to take in a street show with some fantastic singing.  It was a beautiful brisk evening and the walk did us great. We have done so much today in a span of 12 hours it is hard to believe. The rest of the group who's flight was delayed had arrived and was hungry so off they went and I put this tired bag of bones to bed for what I hoped would be a well deserved night of rest.....
The saga of life is a continuing story that with most reach a level of stability and some sort of contentment with all that is and all that seemingly will be...........I can't do that. I am constantly looking for the next new thing or the next thing I haven't done or eaten or.. well you get the point. So to add to the I was petrified and just knew I couldn't do it list was to navigate around Buenos Aires as a non-native non Spanish speaker ( wonder what the school acronym for that would be ). I left you all yesterday as I had found out that the rest of my group would not be arriving until 14 hours later than me. Now you need to realize that when I say that , what I am actually saying is that the plane would land 14 hours after mine did. Then my friends would need to deplane, go through customs , get their luggage and then find a way to the hotel and finally..... ride the 30-45 minutes to the hotel.

In light of the new development in my day, I made the executive decision to leave the airport and strike out on my the dark and not speaking the language............

Now some may say, " Wow! Dumb move there Mrs B".... but honestly, what were my options? I  spoke with the information desk and they directed me to the shuttle bus ticket counter and for $140.00 pesos, I was the proud owner of a shuttle and hotel transfer ticket ( something I hoped I had communicated correctly or who knew where I was going). I wandered out of terminal A and found terminal B , the home of the shuttle transfer and away we went. Some 30 minutes later, I found myself at the hotel transfer terminal for the bus. So far so good!! I was directed to the correct hotel transfer car , luggage was stowed and I was safely secure in the back seat. That is when the whole , You did great thing, started to crumble. As we all gave our destinations to the driver , and he looked at his GPS , that little voice in the back of my head started screaming..... My turn: I would like to go to Ibis Hotel. It is on Uruguay Street. The driver said , Where? Well I mean he said , Que? A quick call to his supervisor got him directions ( ummm what was the GPS for? ) and we were off. B.A. is a lovely city that doesn't wake up until about 1pm and this was now 6am. Needless to say, there was nothing happening.

No matter I think, this is probably a good thing. We will get to the hotel faster, I can get a shower and go get a nap. THERE IT IS!!!!! Ibis Hotel. Home for the next two days!! Whoo Hoo!  ( I know , you are all thinking that this adventure wasn't so bad. Right? Admit it! ) I head to the check in desk and the little man began checking for the group in the system..... and he checks and checks and ummm checks . No booking. My heart fell out of my body. Trying to act calm and composed, I squeaked.. What do you mean? Long story short - wrong hotel , middle of the night ( early morning ) and a great human being that found the right Ibis Hotel, called me a cab and sent me off the 5 winding blocks to the correct hotel. The cabbie was awesome and refused to leave until I was inside the door and so he earned his $30.00 pesos for my 5 block ride.

Yea!!! the right hotel!! And the group is in the system.... a room for me? Yea !! a room for me! A room for me right now? Noooooooooooo!!! Could you go sit in the corner couch and wait ma'am? Off I went and found my new couch home for the next 4 hours!

Thus endeth the last few hours of the first few hours in Argentina.....

I was shaken out of my groggy daze about 10 o'clock as one of the iEARN folks already at the hotel found me. Actually got into my room , took that shower and got ready to begin the next 12 hours in the bustling city of Buenos Aires ......   

Saturday, June 28, 2014

a brand new start

This a brand new and squeaky clean.... at least at the moment there are no cutesy pictures or engaging fonts..... that will come when time provides. However, the point of any blog is to get the skinny out there as it is happening and so here goes! I am here! Well , my body is here............. my brain is somewhere trying to slumber and not doing that at all ..... so it has effectively ceased to function on any high level activities.

So where was I , oh yes .. I am here. Where is here you ask? Here is downtown Buenos Aires at 9:28 in the morning. I have been travelling since 5 am Friday morning and the adventures didn't really start until today. I had a rather uneventful flight from Charlotte to JFK and except for what seemed like a never ending layover can only be described as normal. My flight on Aerolineas Argentinas began as we all lined up to board. Now you have to understand, this is a chica that has been through the transformations of travel and boarding since it was logical and by the rear of the plane first to the cattle car ,  herding mentality that is most prevalent  today. So , I digress.... as I said, we all lined up herd mentality to get onto the plane. Now, I am thinking... this must be a really full flight based on the number of people crowded into the waiting area. It was a pleasant surprise when we were all boarded and the two seats between me and the next passenger were empty. See now in my mind, that means we each have two seats to spread out in and sleep overnight in the flight.

Mistake # 1 : don't assume anything about extra space.

The other passenger to share my wealth of space was smaller and shorter than me. So... logic says she can't possibly take up more than her share of the seats, right? Au contraire! She feel asleep first and she hade almost three seats worth. Hmm, says I ..... gotta squish in here somehow and I did manage to contort myself so that I was completely off the floor.............. a bit uncomfortable , but she finally got the point and then we shared.

Mistake # 2 Don't assume that you will get edible food on an country's international flight just because you have in the past.

Whew! Not even sure what the orange stuff was that was swimming around in the little metal dish, but hunger dictated that I scoff it down and so I did. I ate more carbs in that small meal than in a whole week I swear.

Mistake # 3 Don't assume that because you look pitiful you will get help.

Actually , I was told I was functioning quite well on my limited Spanglish and the further adventures of the day will bear that out. I was grateful for one flight attendant who picked me out as an American almost immediately. I wonder if it was the bright red , sparkly, sequined hat with stars all over it?? She was very pleasant and not the least condescending  , like geesh stupid American - could you please know Spanish? She worked with me as I muddled through with hand signals, English and shaking my head as I understood the Spanish that she was using.

Breakfast was a carb delight again and so I opted for the yogurt and a very strong cup of black coffee. Somewhat awakened from that , I was ready to land in 10 minutes! What , you said how many minutes? 10 ? But... But.... I mean I haven't used the toilet, or brushed my hair or teeth....... I can't leave my seat now...... ok......guess it will wait. Landing was smooth..............probably the smoothest I've felt in years .... it is very dark so I can't see to much of the city. That will come later when the group gets here and we tour about. Thus endeth the first leg of the journey. Meeting everyone in 4 hours or so.

WHAT?!!!!! Say it isn't so! Their flight has been cancelled/delayed and they never left? Not leaving until this morning and arriving at 8:30 pm? Do what? 14 hrs in an airport waiting? I think not!! So off I set.............not idea where I am going and only a hotel and booking person's name between me and the mean streets of Buenos Aires...............................