"South America on $320" story # 1

Buenos Aires, Argentina           April 17, 2002

Well, guys, it's been a while, but, "Hey, everybody." I'm back.
     You'll have to excuse me for the long silence; six months ago, that always ebbing tide we call life tore through my carefully constructed oceanside hut with a surprise tsunami. And I've been busy navigating the craggly stones that washed ashore with it. I've plunged in a few times, I'll admit. And though the undertow was fierce, I "pressed on" to reach the turn at the bluff. Standing as I am now, I can make out a fluffy gold beach, for as long as the eye can see. With a little craft, I'll be there soon, and hopefully some coconuts that just floated by will reach at the same time.
     The whole thing has all been quite queer. I'd always thought my travel writing could only end with some fun story on how I'd contracted malaria or fallen off a tall mountain or been pulled apart by gorillas I was arguing with. When, in fact, my art met is modest match, on July 14, 2001 ... in a seventeen-year old girl.
     But this girl, in a white and black bikini on Copacabana Beach, was not without her weapons. Oh no. She packed skin like a tazer, a smile like a razor, and laughter like acid. Above all, she loved you like a Japanese kamikaze pilot.
     She seemed the sweetest girl. And, after all, we'd met aneath the majestic green mountains of romantic Rio de Janeiro. We fell in love.
     Boy, those were great times. Even for five weeks after I returned to the States, the relationship went fantastically. But, it wasn't too surprising when she ended it, probably tiring especially of my ranting to her about wanting to enjoy an entire summer in Argentina before I spent more than a month with her. A few tears were shed, yeah; but, I was a traveller. I sucked it up and went to work to earn money for Argentina.
     Over the next three weeks, the Argentina plans really fell into place. But, at the same time, I started to really think. And wonder. And obsess. Regrets flew through my mind, all taking the name of my lost girl: "Georgia." Georgia. My first experience with love had kicked ass. Especially with her. What if I never again met a girl whose arm was so constantly around me? Screw Argentina. I ceased writing. My passion was for Georgia.
     Passion rules all. Scilla and Charybdis couldn't have kept me from seeing this girl again.
     As it turned out, Georgia didn't share in my enthusiasm nor, at this point in time, even care to see me again. But she understood that I needed to know there was a reason we weren't made for each other; I had to see this girl again.
     The day came for my return trip to Georgia's land, finally. Miserably, problems arose when the Brazilian Embassy denied me an entry visa for their country (due to an unpaid fine I owed their government).
     My lovesickness was really devouring me, now. I had to see this girl again, was all that I knew. Ignoring the stated fact of the Embassy that I wouldn't fly to Brazil on this day, I headed to the airport, a desperate Tin Man up against a nation.
     Amazingly, I boarded the plane that evening, as my passport was checked thrice by Varig airline employees who didn't notice I lacked a current "visto". Next morning, the plane was in Sao Paulo, hometown of my love.
     Speeding from the airplane, I lost myself from the group. I spotted a door marked for domestic arrivals and ducked inside. Pretty sneaky, huh?
     Only, a lady saw me and sent me to passport check. They noticed my outgoing fine. I paid it: $300. Then, they saw I didn't have a visa. I slumped back and sat down. Brazil wasn't going to let me in.
     I waited my exact fate. An immigrations official sat beside me and asked, "Venha aqui so pra pagar a multa e voltar?" (Did you come here just to pay the fine and then go home?) I buried my head in my hands.
     Just when it seemed things couldn't get worse (except that I might be thrown in jail or given ANOTHER fine), things took a turn for the better when I got deported.
     As an experienced deportee, I can honestly recommend it as something everybody should do now and again. Varig Airlines rewarded my new deportation with a free, open-ended roundtrip ticket to Buenos Aires to land my visa. I even got put up and shown around once there by Sebastien, a travelling Argentinian I'd met during Carnival in Olinda. A new motto was born: "Don't get a travel agent; get deported!"
     My get-away weekend pulled me in the wrong direction of Georgia, though. I lamented to a girl my age named Laura on the night busride into Buenos Aires. My fumbling Spanish left no doubt as to which American continent I was from. When I told Laura my Brazilian girlfriend had broke up with me, she said, "Por que?" (Why?) "No le entiende?" (She doesn't understand you?) A smile lit up the milky Argentinian skin beneath her dark hair. She knew she'd gotten me good with that double-meaning zinger, and it claimed my title for BEST JOKE IN SPANISH I'VE EVER GOTTEN.
     Ha, ha.
     Gringo-targeted wisecracks aside, Buenos Aires made a fine weekend destination for people who've been ejected by countries. Individualized, open-air shops stood as pillars for the apartments above, both crowding the wide avenues that seemed to go on and on forever in this five-story town. Soft grass made frequent interruptions, at parks and plazas where young couples could be seen holding hands and kissing - a sight which, in my current state, really stomped my spirit.
     A part of the city that captivated my spirit was its tango. In one lean street-performing duo, the guy wore dark slacks and a classy white shirt. The girl had on a scarlet top and a black skirt with a rose on it. Letting the poignant music commandeer their snake-like march, the man dipped her and the girl wrapped her legs around him. All passersby were seduced into a marmelade-thick allure for the dance.
     The only aspect of Argentinian culture that I wasn't ready for was the custom for guys to kiss the cheeks of even guys when greeting. Especially when the guy I was meeting had a stubby beard, eww.
     And so, that about wraps up a happy ending for our story. Every aspect of my problems has been successfully resolved, hasn't it? I got quickly kissed several times on my return to South America, I made it to Argentina, and I even got revenge for the fine I paid Brazil by receiving a free airline ticket. That's happy!
     Well ... not really at all. I was still miserable.
     Following my weekend of Argentinian partying 'til six in the morning with Sebastien, I got my visa for Brazil and flew to Sao Paulo.
     Now, it was time to see my girl ...

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