The first thing I noticed in Argentina was how much of the language I could understand. Here the accents are one hundred times better than in Chile. Seemingly overnight I have become nearly fluent. Yes, I am still far from mastering the verbal part of the language, but now I can understand almost everything that is directed my way. This only boosts my confidence. In putting a new langauge to practice confidence is often half the struggle.
The bus ride over the Andes Mountains to Bariloche was not what I had expected. We did not go on any trechorous switch backs through snow covered mountains. Regardless, it was still a good ride. Most people would dread the fact that nearly every other day they have to get on a bus ride ranging from three to twenty hours, but I love it. So far I have been fortunante with the seating arrangements. Nearly every ride has been comfortable. Additionally, each ride becomes more scenic than the previous.
My heart actually hurt a little in viewing the lush green countryside just outside of Puerto Varas. There were arces upon arces of green farm lands stuck in between constant patches of evergreen trees. I am not a farm boy, but viewing this part of the country made me want to pack up and move here for good. It is fall time, the perfect time of year for this setting. Everything had such a countryside, homey feel to it. The pass into Argentina was different, yet nearly as beatiful. The surrounding hills (or mountains?) were layered in colors. Brown, red, and green. The turning of the seasons was doing wonders for the area.
Crossing the border was easy--too easy. We were supposed to declare any food items. I had eggs, cheese, and carrots. I went up to one of the officals at the Chilean border. He told me to go to another window. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to me, so I just got back on the bus. On the Argentinain side a dog searched our luggage, but apparently not for food. I got back on the bus with the assumption that it was based on the honor system.
The bus did not arrive into Bariloche until just before sunset. Getting there put me in a small state of stress. The bus terminal was not in the city. I had no Argentinaina pesos, there were no ATM machines, I did not know how far the town was, or what time it was*, or what the exchange rate was. With the option of a taxi or bus being elminated I walked towards town.
The sun was setting on the mountains surrounding Bariloche. After twenty minutes of walking I found an ATM machine. It did not work. I panicked a little. I later learned that it was because it was out of cash for the day. The next machine worked. I had taken out 200 pesos. I recieved two bills of one hundred pesos. That would not do. From my experience in Chile, and what I had heard about Argentina, nobody ever has any change. I did a second transaction so I could get a 50 peso bill. Of course, this cost me another four dollar transaction fee. My intial reaction was that a hundred peso bill was huge, and nobody would take it. I soon learned that the exchange rate was 4:1, and 100 pesos is only twenty five dollars. Even so, I soon had several cashiers ask me for small bills. At a grocery store my total was 23.25. I paid with 25.00, yet the cashier asked me if I had any coins. This is a crazy system, and one that may cause me more trouble since ATM machines tend to only give large bills.
I spend the next day wandering the streets of Bariloche enamered with this new country. I could understand the langauge. No thick accents, no dropped syllabals, no slang. More than that the people we friendly. Whereas in Chile I had come to expect people to push past me in line, here I actually had a lady look me in the eye, and say that she was after me. I was so stunned I had to ask her to repeat it in case I had misheard. But there is no confusing ´despues´(after) with ´antes´(before).
Last night at the hostel I met some Argentinains. They invited me to play a board game. I did not know at the time that I would be playing Risk with them until 2:30am. Despite being tired, I enjoyed the game. It gave me an opportunity to listen to Spanish, meet people, and loose control of Africa and the Middle East. They gave me adivse on where to go next. Currently (it is 5pm on May 10) I am on a bus for Mendoza, Argentina. I am several hours into a ride that will last until tomorrow.
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