Argentina part III


Alas, the story has arrived at the concluding chapter of this gripping trilogy.  The diabolical porteño, Kuna, tried his best to rid himself of the stupid Americans.  First, he sent them back to Lavalle, where he hoped they would be robbed again, but it did not come to pass.  The Americans continued on the Recoleta Cemetary, where a crazy porteña gave a two hour tour about Argentinean history, famous people, and the buying and selling of gravesites for up to $1,000,000.  Who says this is the 3rd world?
The magic was with the young Americans as they returned to La Boca for a tour of the Bombonera.  While walking down the street, Michael was stopped by a middle aged gentlemen because of his Cubs shirt.  When the gentlemen found out he wasn’t from Argentina, he was disappointed.  Michael asked if he was from Chicago, and he replied that his whole family was, at which point a younger man and woman approached from behind him.  Without missing a beat, Michael recognized the woman as none other than Liz Kaufman, a friend from high school who he hadn’t seen in 6 years.  The guys she was with was her brother.  Buenos Aires is a small city of 15,000,000 people, so the chances of this happening are pretty high.  The two had a drink with the family, and Michael and Liz talked about people from their high school (she has just been to the 10 year reunion over Thanksgiving).
The Bombonera, where the Boca Juniors play their games, was awesome, and all three of the heroes lamented the fact that they would not see a futbol game since it is the off season.  When the crowd starts jumping and shouting during the games, the Bombonera starts to shake.  However, the fans say that it doesn’t shake, but rather it beats like a heart.  “La Bombonera no tiembla, late.”
Later in the day, the Americans took a scenic route back to the train, taking the subway to Belgrano.   While walking down a side street, they passed an apartment building, and out the front door came Colo and his wife, Carolina.  Again, in a city of 15,000,000, this was taken as a sign that the Americans were supposed to feel at home in Buenos Aires.
After a long day in the city, the Americans were shipped off to Iguazu, a town on the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, separated by spectacular waterfalls.  Kuna and his father, Hector, took them to the sketchy station in the north along the Panamerican Highway.  Kuna plans to do some research there on the informal economy.  The bus came quickly.  It was a double-decker, with the VIP people sitting/lying down upstairs.  They were stretched out on the nearly-fully reclining seats.  Michael and Corey relaxed, and the 17 hour bus ride didn’t seem so daunting.  All of a sudden, crappy American music came on at full volume.  It was like the bus company wanted to provide mood music so the people couldn’t sleep, but rather could enjoy chatting like at a bar.  The set list included the following:
Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers
Lady in Red – Chris de Burgh
Winds of Change – Scorpions
Oh Mandy – West Life
How Deep is Your Love – Bee Gees
After All That’s Been Said and Done – Chicago (Aubra, we know you would love that)
Hotel California – The Eagles
Heaven – Bryan Adams
Falling Back in Love with You – Lonnie Mack
Only You – The Platters
Corey and Michael sang along as best they could between cracking up hysterically.  Needless to say, it was an Authentic Argentine Experience (AAE).  There were other AAEs to be had on the bus ride.  A woman next to the American boys had two cell phones, with two different rings for voice mail and text messages.  Both phones went off throughout the entire night, waking up everyone in the area each time.  Corey, who has only had about 2 full nights of sleep the entire month in spite of his personal pillow he brought with him, was about to throw the woman off the bus come four AM. They also watched two amazing movies, The Breakup and The Devil Wears Prada.  However, since the sound didn’t work on the headphone jack, so they just played it over the speakers on the bus, again killing any chance to sleep.  Nice.
Upon arriving in Iguazu, which was really hot, the Americans went to their hostel.  It was awesome – A/C, swimming pool, parrilla (outdoor Argentine grill), dining room, and free internet, and even a decent breakfast with fruit (rare in this country) all for the expensive price of 18 pesos (<US$6) per night.  They met some Argentines there, and sat down to play some Truco (remember the card game?).  Corey and Michael beat the living crap out of the locals, and the Argentines were quite embarrassed.  Kuna was proud back at home, sensing the victory in his porteño blood.
They also met a Spaniard, Mauri, who they ended up hanging out with for most of the trip.  He is a great guy – a physicist, traveling on a stipend from his province in Valencia.  The next day, the two heroes went with Mauri to the Argentine falls.  They are simply stunning and make Niagara Falls look like a dirty Six Flags ride.  It is lush paradise surrounded by literally miles of falls.  Some pictures will be included, but they simply cannot do them justice.  You will have to visit Kuna, who promises to travel with you wherever you want to go if you come down for as long as you want.  “This is just the first of many for my American friends” says the proud Argentine.
The next day the Americans braved crossing the border into Brazil to see the falls on that side.  The falls were also spectacular from that side, although the people were not nearly as cool (Kuna is writing now).  After a long day, the Americans cooked a feast with Mauri and Giulia,  a lovely Italian woman who was also staying at their hostel.  It would be everyone’s last night in the town, and they wanted to celebrate.  Thus, they did what Argentines like to do, bought some meat (steak and chorizo sausage), grilled it on the Parrilla, and drank Quilmes.  It was delicious.
The next day, the weary Americans boarded back on the bus and set off for “home.”  This time, Michael listened to Bill Clinton’s autobiography on his iPod, so he couldn’t hear the crappy music being played overhead.  However, he did notice that they played JLo live in concert (twice), Hoot, and Must Love Dogs on the TVs.  Corey and Michael both decided they would love to meet the person who selects their entertainment for the bus company.  Also, the bus attendant (picture flight attendant, but on a bus) woke them up at 6AM to serve them a crappy Argentine breakfast, consisting of literally cookies/alfajores, a sweet muffin, and some coffee/mate.
Back in BA at the Kunik estate, they three were reunited.  During the whole time the Americans were away, Kuna was playing with “Manuela” and doing some “politics” (ask him what that means).  He also did not appeared to be worried about his American friends, a first for this trip.  Perhaps he was beginning to trust them more and thought they were becoming more experienced in the ways of Argentina?  The final story of the trip will show this was not the case…
Reinvigorated by their reunion, the three heroes set off for the capital.  Martín had to do some more “politics,”  and the Americans went in search of last minute gifts and a final tour through the beautiful San Telmo.  They met up for dinner with Kuna’s friends and former bandmates, Andres and Rodrigo at an Irish pub.  It looked just like an Irish pub anywhere in the world, and the Americans asked if there was a big Irish population in BA.  Andres replied no and that the pub was actually owned by a Spaniard.  Apparently, it is just good marketing.
By the time they had left the restaurant, the train was running on a “sketchy” schedule, where one has no idea when the next train will come.  This is due to some weird Latin American subsidy complications (ask Kuna or Nicolas Estupiñan).  Thus, the three amigos has to take the infamous #60 bus home.  On the walk over, Kuna asked them “Alright guys, we can try paying $1.25, and see what the driver says.” Confused, the Americans said, “Can’t we just pay the $0.80 we always pay?”
“No, we are crossing the province, and it is a different price.”
“So it is a negotiation with the driver?  Aren’t we still just getting dropped along his route?”  they argued.
Kuna relented “OK.  You want to pay $.80? Let’s pay $.80 and see what happens. We might have an AAE.”
The three boarded the bus.  Kuna went first and paid $.80.  Then the Americans got to the pay machine.  In Spanish, the machine told them to tell the bus driver where they were going.  The driver then asked them, and they replied that they were going to San Fernando.  “$1.25 each” said the driver.  The Americans paid and went to the back where Kuna was sitting and freaking out.  The rest of the ride, he was trying to hide from the driver, worried he was going to close the doors on him when he tried to get off because he had paid less than the correct amount of the stupid Americans, and the driver would know this since they were all together.
Alas, nothing happened, but Kuna started yelling at the Americans for being dumb and jeopardizing his safety by not paying the same amount.  The Americans were dumbfounded, since he had not explained that they were supposed to give the amount they wanted to pay when asked where they were going, not the destination.  From there, an argument about culture and willingness to break the law (and pay) ensued.  It was entertaining, and typical of the three traveler’s relationship while down in Argentina.
The Americans will go back thinking they don’t quite understand the systems here enough to think about cheating it.  Kuna will go back thinking Americans are stupid travelers.
On a final note, Corey and Michael have defined the four food groups for Argentines:
1.  Meat
2.  Dulce de Leche
3.  Ice cream (Dulce de Leche is the most common flavor)
4. Alfajores, often with Dulce de Leche inside
You just can’t go wrong with that, although you can get fatter, as the Americans have found out.
Tonight, the Americans return to their soil.  They will miss this beautiful, but strange land of Argentina.  They both would recommend to anyone that they come visit, and they plan to return with their wives and children at a later date, much to the delight of Martin’s parents, Silvia and Héctor.
Kuna has sufficiently recharged his batteries, done his “politics”, and seen his friends/family.  He is now ready for the challenge of a final semester at UNC.  Anarchy is coming (back) to town!
The End.
A %d blogueros les gusta esto: