"Argentina 2002-03" story # 1

Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina           December 3, 2002

Hello, everyone!!! Hello from Argentina!
     Great. I flew into the airport of Buenos Aires two mornings ago. Then, I walked outside. I walked two miles with two heavy bags to the on-ramp of the autopista (highway). I began hitchhiking. My final destination: Bariloche, a beautiful touristy town near Patagonia beside the Andes, where I plan to make my stay the next three months.
     On a map of the world, Bariloche appears to be as far from Buenos Aires as my hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, is from Dallas, Texas. Thatīs right. I was in a strange land, and I was using as my hitchhiking guide a "map of the world." Generally, itīs good advice not to go hitchhiking without some knowledge of the area or at least a map that labels more than seven cities from the country youīre in, maybe even some roads. I had neither. But, I had high hopes!
     Bariloche was southwest. I knew the airport I was at was twenty miles outside of Buenos Aires, but I had no idea to which side of Buenos Aires it was. I was able to get some direction by reasoning that if the highway going left led to Buenos Aires - a place I DIDNīT want to go to - then logically the highway in the opposite direction would lead oppositely to: the place I DID want to go to - namely, Bariloche.
     The late morning sun shone hot, and one man out walking came by to find out where I was going. ĻSon mil-seisientos kilometras," he informed me. (The place youīre going is a thousand miles away.) "Bueno suerte." (Good luck.)
     Although green forest and tall, blue pine trees surrounded the highway, we were still within the web of the city. Cars understandably didnīt stop for me, because public transport was still readily available.
     So, I moved to a highway bus stop, changing my focus now from hitchhiking. But, all the buses ignored me here. Instead, three cars pulled over in front of me. They all thought I could help them with area street directions.
     "Gee, I donīt know," I told them. "Just let me pull out my world globe and check."
     No, just kidding. I told them. "Yo no sé. No soy de aqui." (I donīt know. Iīm not from here.)
     The fourth car to stop and ask me for directions - three guys in a compact car with windows down - asked where was I from.
     "Te invitamos a una fiesta," one guy said. (We invite you to a party.)
     "OK." All right, my first ride in Argentina! Who needs Bariloche? weīre going to a party!
     The car remained stopped in the middle of a moderately busy highway lane, as I threw my backpack in the trunk and squeezed in.
     A lot of people would say that folded up in the backseat surrounded by three guys in a country crippled by economic crisis is not the best position to be in. But, then again, those are the same people who donīt go hitchhiking with world maps. Those are the same people who donīt go to parties.
     Parties, to be more specific, at fine-wood homes on two-acre lawns with swimming pool and tennis court. Electronic music clunked out from a stereo system on a broad backyard patio. Lively, bright sun shined in the soft, shaven grass or got absorbed by the bodies of the party-goers.
     A dozen people were first there, including the three guys Iīd come with: Mauricio, the younger, slightly-picked-on driver; Gustavo, a small, bald thirty-one year old; and Fernando, an energetic, high-pitched, brown-skinned guy. At first, I thought between two and three of them were gay.
     But, then again, all Argentinian guys kiss cheeks when saying hello. And - as I learned on the day - even heterosexual guys are kind of pretty boys and peaceful and caring, not macho.
     I met a guy with an Argentina map, and we discovered that Iīd hitchhiked twenty minutes in a south-southeast direction, only slightly off-track.
     More partiers showed up. The was to be an electronic music party, and full of drugs. People came wearing funky-colored clothes and sunglasses. They were snorting and energy-giving, natural drug called "vetamina," or doing hallucinogens. Gustavo kept offering me some, but I refused.
     Some people couldnīt stop dancing. It was kind of freaky, especially some girl in a lime-green shirt, pink glasses, and orange shoes, who moved to the music non-stop.
     I thought about leaving, but then I saw a beautiful little bird sitting on a lawn chair. This "bird" was beautiful: she was tall, thin and wearing white, and she had needle-thin, bleach-blond hair and funky sun-glasses.
     Speaking the Argentinian "castellano" version of spanish was difficult; but, I introduced myself. Romina was the birdīs name, and, at first, we got along wonderfully. I donīt know if it had something to do with the hallucinogens she was taking or not, but we spent the next, great thirty minutes talking and touching hands, knees, and shoulders. Maybe she thought I was someone else. Woohoo for hallucinogens!
     Iīm just kidding, of course, Iīm totally anti-drugs. Especially since Fernando - who Iīd almost certainly thought was gay - began taking offense to my talking to Romina. He told me that I was in his "tierra" (land), so he got the girl or something. This was pure crap.
     A minute later, I got up to talk to the host of the party, whoīd fallen down laughing when he heard how Iīd hitchhiked there. He delighted in the fact that I was the first person ever to fly into Buenos Aires and come straight to his party directly from Miami.
     Fernando stole my seat at this time. Although he seemingly had no luck with Romina, things between her and I were never the same again, as she mostly avoided me. Ratos!
     The party roared on, as a new dj took hold of everyone with progressive beats that smashed through his veins. By six oīclock, cars were parked all about the lawn, and well over a hundred people were there.
     None of the Argentinians was without his own style. Some girls danced in bikinis by the pool. Many guys jumped around without shirts.
     There was a pale, shirt-less guy with long, ugly hair. A very tan, huge-boobed girl with pink streaks in her blond hair. Two black-clothed, dark-sunglassed, James Dean-haired guys and their orange-and-black-wearing, dark-sunglassed girlfriends. A girl comically wearing a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) hat. Many huge-muscled, but most gentle guys with hair of every size and length.
     The sun finally set around eight oīclock, but still the people danced. One guy pulled himself up a bar about the patio and kicked ten feet in the air. A guy wearing only orange board shorts, whose hair was longish in back, only shook his hips for seven hours and gave everyone the peace sign. An ordinary-looking guy was the funniest, swinging his arms, knees, butt, and facial expressions around like a hyped-up go-go dancer; the highlight of his hillarity was when he bent over, gripped an imaginary rope over his shoulder, and marched slowly, while a car inched along behind him, looking as if he was pulling it. And when the music reached its air-tearing climaxes, everyoneīs feet left the ground, including mine. It was a lot of fun.
     My ride left at around nine-thirty. A large guy got a lift with us, meaning there were now five of us cramped in Mauricioīs little car.
     I pointed out the obvious. "Si passamos alguien haciendo el dedo, no tenemos espacio." (If we pass another person hitchhiking, we donīt have space.) We laughed.
     My drivers - especially Mauricio and Gustavo - had looked out for me all day long like an old friend, always making sure that I "sentia comodo" (felt comfortable/at home). They told me to keep in touch, and I didnīt even mind our cheek-kisses good-bye this time. Even from Fernando.
     As I walked away towards the bus terminal, Fernando asked what happened between me and Romina. I informed him sheīd given me her number. "Da-me lo!" he said, looking serious. (Give it to me!) But, then, he just laughed.
     I got an overnight bus that would take me outside of Buenos Aires, towards Bariloche. And I reflected on the crazy day and what Iīd learned:
     In castellano spanish, they call "you" - "vos" instead of "tu", which screws everything up. And they pronounce "y"īs and "ll"īs as "ch"īs, effecting words like: I, already, yesterday, and chicken.
     "Barbado!" Romina taught me, is a hip slang meaning fun/cool
     "Hacer el dedo" (make the thumb) means to hitchhike
     You have a "buena onda" (good wave) if you project a kind spirit
     The Argentinian crisis situation isnīt as bad as the media makes it
     Argentinians are very approachable and welcoming, think hitchhiking to a party is cool, and always want you to feel comfortable
     And, most importantly, even though a caring Argentinian guy might seem effeminant, donīt let him near your girl!

Adios, Modern Oddyseus

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com