BA and the Road Home

Published: July 8th 2014
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It took a while to get up since it was in the mid 40s in Buenos Aires (BA). I took a long hot shower, called the rents, and watch France v Germany at the hostel. I was cheering for the Germans. After the game I walked into town to exchange my Uruguayan pesos for Argentine pesos. Apparently on the streets you can get a much better exchange rate than the official rate you'd get at the cambio. There's a bunch of people standing around on Florida street yelling "Cambio cambio! Change change!" I used them to do my conversions. They take back to a makeshift office in the high rises around the area called "Blue Dollar Caves". The official exchange rate from USD to ARS is about 8, but on the street you can get an exchange rate of 10 to 11. It's not as extreme for Uruguayan pesos since they're not as desirable as the USD. The unofficial higher exchange rate is called the "Blue Dollar Rate," which is why the exchange rooms are called "Blue Dollar Caves." They come from the obtaining of foreign currency in other countries being illegal in Argentina and that the Argentine peso is volatile currency while the USD is stable. You can exchange for Argentine pesos, but not for anything else. I bought some postcards and stamps to mail home from a small shop then walked to the city's center. I saw a monument that was an obelisk with a small hole at the top for the light of the rising and setting sun to shine through. It looked almost exactly like the Washington Monument except about 2/3 the size. The surrounding square was huge and surrounded on all sides by wide streets and high rises with video screens and advertisements all over them. It reminded me of Times Square. I walked to a pizzaria called Guerrin. It's the oldest and most famous pizzaria in the city. Started in the 1930s and has had many celebrities visit it. I walked past the Argentine Congress on the way back to the hostel. When I got back I realized I left the damn postcards and stamps I had just bought on the table at the restaurant. I watched the Brazil v Colombia game at the hostel and cheered for Colombia. The rest of the night a drank a little and chatted with friends back home while informing everyone at the hostel that it was America's birthday and telling anyone who would listen about how great the US is. Yeah, I had a few drinks, so what?

I watched the Argentina v Belgium game and cheered for Belgium. There was a guy staying in the hostel from Colombia that kept blowing a damn vuvuzela inside. He had an unkept, bushy beard, but on only half of his face. It looked like he had lost a bet or something. The leftover pizza from 2 days ago served as my lunch. I showered and walked 5 miles to the Argentine Wine and Dinner Experience I signed up for. I got there about 20 minutes early so I chilled at the nearby bar and watched part of the Netherlands v Costa Rica game. At the event Te first thing they had us do is smell the 20 main scents of Argentine wine and try and identify them. I got the most right in the group, 8/20. I met some guys from Florida. The son just graduated from UF and the dad went to Virginia. Turns out he was at the '83 NCAA Tourney final! Whaaaaaaaat! So jealous. Next they taught us about the aspects of Argentine wines and showed us how to make 3 different wine based cocktails and what foods they go with. After the wine part they took us upstairs for the dinner part. There I met Australian couple Clint and Jess who had been traveling South America since April. Jess was extremely good looking and reminded me of a woman I went to Australia with. So I shamelessly flirted with her all night. We learned how to make empanadas from scratch and had a competition to see who could make the most creative one. I decided to go simple and make the most American one. A DOUBLE EMPANADA! More/bigger is better! Some other ones were a stegosaurus, velociraptor, dolphin, heart, lion's head, gator with meat in its mouth. The gator won. They said the most creative they saw was made from an engineer at NASA. It was a cow that when you squeezed it's utters cheese came out and when you squeezed it's ass meat came out. Woah. Then they brought us Argentine steaks and told us the process of making them. While we are they described the hand signals that Argentines use, since Argentines are like Italians and can't talk without using their hands. About this time Jess had gotten too drunk off of wine and had to be cut off. We were taught how to prepare matte, which is their version of coffee. While we made and drank matte we are vanilla wafers with dulce de leche and chocolate. I talked briefly with one of the fellow customers who happened to be an NC State alumni who studied accounting. After the event was over we took a group picture with our matte's. I went downstairs with Clint and Jess where I met their friends. We went into town to a bar and had a few drinks. I had a discussion about travel with a woman from Uruguay who turned out to be the guide-in-training for the group. The group of people, minus Clint and Jess, were on a 15 week trip around South America where they had a guide with them 24/7, as well as a different guide for each country. The Uruguayan woman was along as a trainee and was about to lead a group on her own through Bolivia in a few weeks. She told me about how she traveled a lot of places by working on a cruise line and is gonna start working on a New Zealand farm in 4 months. Jess and Clint met the group in Peru several weeks ago. I had a conversation with Zoey, a 27 year old woman from Leeds, England, who just finished her training as a lawyer, about incarceration and talked about travel with Clint, Jess, Zoey, and a 19 year old girl in the group from London. I shared a cab with Jess and Clint back to their place since it was close to mine and I walked back to the hostel.

I woke up early to go on my bike tour, but it was pouring rain. Although the tour agency had a "rain or shine" policy about their tours I decide not to go on account of it also being 40 degrees and I only had a rain coat, shorts, and short sleeves. Instead I slept in. When I got up I rearranged my backpack in preparation for tomorrow. Went out and got 12 empanadas so I could eat the leftovers for a late night snack and for lunch tomorrow. I came back to the hostel to eat them and found out they had olives in them. Olives, the worst damn vegetable/fruit (not sure what it is) there is on the whole planet. I took the olives out of the ones I ate, but the damage was done. Even with the origin of the nastiness gone you could still taste that it was there. After I got to a compromise between being full and losing my appetite I gave the rest of the empanadas out to the people in the hostel. The rest of the night, probably 9pm-2am, I hung out with Simas, from Lithuania. He was stuck in BA for a few weeks because he was waiting on his Brazilian work visa. He was going to work in Brazil as a systems analyst for some tech company. He wanted to eventually start his own adventure tourism company that's solely web based. Things like dropping a group with a guide in the middle of rainforest and having them hike through all the amazing parts of the Amazon and do things like cliff diving and swimming through the Amazon to get from A to B. I told him that when he got it started that I would be his first customer. We talked about travel to places like India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Mongolia, etc., European and US government, as well as our own adventures. Apparently he had been to China, Vietnam, and Laos during a trip and decided to get back to Lithuania by just bus, which means he would have to go through India, the Middle East, the Caucus, and Eastern Europe. He had checked if he needed visas and didn't so he went on the trip. When he got to Pakistan he got deported back to India because he had been to Israel on a previous trip and they saw the stamp in his passport. Apparently once you've been to Israel you can't go to most of the Middle East unless you get a new passport or get the Israeli immigration to stamp a separate paper to keep with your passport. I paid for my shuttle to the airport for tomorrow before I went to bed.

I woke up early to eat breakfast at the hostel. I ate with the cute girl that worked the desk and introduced her to Seinfeld and Two and a Half Men. 3.5 hours later when I left for the airport she was still watching it. I think I got her addicted. After breakfast I walked to Florida street to buy those postcards again, called my mom to get the grandparents' addresses, and went to the post office to mail them. I got back to the hostel and chilled with Simas for a little bit. We talked about business opportunities, investments, funeral homes, and desperate ways to make money for travel. I am now definitely going to sell my plasma and am thinking about the prospect of trying to get into a sleep study or being a guinea pig for FDA medical trials and vaccination trials. Working on a cruise line or a cargo ship is another option for travel and making money, as well as finding a well off person who needs a partner to sail places with. I got his contact info and we said our goodbyes. I showered, packed everything, and waited in the hostel lobby for my airport shuttle. At the airport argentine exit customs was easy. I called my mom and grandparents and ate a brownie and Coke for a snack. On the plane to Lima, Peru I sat next to two nice Peruvian ladies who spoke very little English. I surprised myself at how good my Spanish had gotten as we had a nice conversation in Spanglish. The Lima International Airport didn't have any WiFi and outlets were scarce, so I had to share an outlet bank with a bunch of high schoolers who were on a chaperoned trip. While I was waiting on my flight I was approached by 5 girls all in some sort of Argentine uniform. It turns out they were the national Argentine U-17 Women's Indoor Volleyball team. They asked me all sorts of questions before moving on to another person in the airport. It was quite random.


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