Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Now This Is Happening

Note: this post has sat and marinated for months. Blogger is smart, and publishes it chronologically based on when it was created, but today is the 28th of June, so most of what is written is quite old. Any how, on with it.

Things have changed. I'm in Medellin, and have been for two weeks now. Cappo left last week, continuing North to Santa Marta to try and squeeze in an Open Water PADI certification course and a 4 day trek to La Ciudad Perdida in Tayrona National Park. These are two activities we've discussed for weeks, but as it stands, I need to lay low and conserve cash while I find a proper job. So for now I'm bartending at the Pit Stop hostel in exchange for free accomodation (and free internet!). The hostel is pretty amazing, with a pool, pool table in the bar, basketball court, and a TV room with dangerously comfortable couches and a collection of more than 500 DVDs. It's in a nice neighborhood, called Patio Bonito, walking distance from the main hub of clubs and restaurants, Zona Rosa. The streets are lined with towering bamboo trees and a little river constitutes the center lane of Calle Poblito. Now I just need a job until the Brothers Sherman arrive in a few weeks (tbd).

So when I last left off, we were arriving in Santiago, Chile. We pulled up in the middle of morning rush hour. Exhausted and dragging our packs with stiff legs, we wandered about until we found the path toward the metro, which, quite logically, involved a zigzagging path through a shopping mall. But we figured it out, finagled a ticket, and stood waiting on the platform. Trains came once every 2 or 3 minutes, but every single one was packed to the brim. It would have been entirely impossible for us to even imagine entering, considering the size of our packs (mine in particular).

We saw maybe 8 trains go by before we figured out that the lead car might be our best bet. So that worked, but as we were standing, smushed against the door, an old man starting breathing heavily into my shoulder. I shot him some dirty looks. He leaned in closer, and I felt his paw clawing at my pocket. In the daze of early morning I had neglected to stash my wallet in my backpack, so I was fortunate that this guy was one of the least talented pickpockets of all time. I elbowed him in the ribs, twisted my pocket away so it was out of reach, and feigned as if I was going to bite his face off, snapping at him the way Chester would have.

He got off at the next stop.

I managed to joke about the encounter with some young businessmen who had been watching. They also told us where to get off in order to find our friend Macarena's apartment.

We met Macarena and her friend Vicente in the pampas in Bolivia. Together we represented half of our 8 person tour group. We were clearly honored to have her as our host for the weekend, and thrilled with the saved pesos, as Chile is second only to Brazil as the most expensive South American country. Our only nervousness stemmed from Macarena's lack of proficiency in English, considering our well-established lack of Spanish.

Our Spanish (and our confidence therein) was going through a rough patch at that point, because Patagonia is so packed with gringos. When you are not forced to practice it everyday, a new language fades quite quickly. In addition, Chilean Spanish is faster and more slang-ridden than anywhere else on the continent. With this in mind, we arrived with dictionaries in hand. Macca was soon teasing Cap that the dictionary was his Bible. Chalk it up to his fastidiousness; my strategy involves pretending to understand then making educated guesses until I get it right, as opposed to looking in The Book. Both ways work. Cap learns more.

Macarena is an architect, for a big firm as far was we can tell. Knowing this, it was strange to us that she was not required to appear at work until 2 pm on the day of our arrival (Friday). We figured it was probably just a Friday thing, and so no big deal. When she again neglected to go to work Monday, and then not until late in the afternoon Tuesday, we began to grow suspicious. Not suspicious that Macca did not have the job she claimed -- of this there seemed no doubt -- but conscious of our growing realization that the people of Chile (and Argentina too, if we're going wide and being honest), don't endow their occupations with the same life-and-death significance that many more Westernized populations do. It was wonderful.

Saturday afternoon we left for Valparaiso/Viña del Mar, about 2 hrs West, on the Pacific coast. Macca had a wedding to attend, so Benny, Cap and I hung around Viña, had dinner, wandered over to a rock'n'roll grunge bar, then through the sketchy part of town, because we really could not afford not to.

(Vicente = Benny)

We ended up down on the docks at the wedding reception. The party room was half full, but bouncing. Cap and Macca started dancing. I practiced my Spanish, looking out on the water. Party, party.

Anyway, we'd been hearing all week about "After...", hearing that Saturday night we'd go to "After" and it'd be great. This refers to the after-hours house party we went to after the reception. No one ever mentioned that it was primarily a house of homosexuals. There were two women there, other than Macca, with whom Cappo snuck away, leaving me to fend for myself.

I sipped beers and tried to be polite, but it was late at night and I felt threatened. I'm told I said some very funny, if only borderline appropriate, things. Also, sometimes I can't control the volume of my voice. The point is, I was on Benny's doorstep talking to a dog when he came home at dawn. Safe and alone.

I spent the next day playing on Benny's brothers computer, drinking delicious coffee and blasting old-school hip-hop tunes, wondering where Cappo was, and when we might go home. I rode home in the boot (just like I had on the way there) because it was way more comfortable than crunching three in the backseat.

Back at Macca's we napped. Then the night before we left for Mendoza, Cappo and I cooked a big meal of Indian-style curried veggies and chicken, w rice and good wine. It was the least we could do.

In Mendoza we drank wine, took a self-guided bicycle tour, helped some gorgeous little snotty Norwegian girls enjoy a birthday dinner, bought a bottle of champagne and drank it before enjoying dinner on our overnight bus to Buenos Aires. They served us more champagne, and red wine, and we watched Final Destination 3, which was perfectly terrible and entertaining. We had bought Cama (read: first class) seats since it was ostensibly our last lengthy busride on the continent, and we wanted to be sure we did it up right. I'm quite sure we managed to relax, and woke up as we arrived in the big city and lord the whole world was there before us, waiting to be taken, tenderly held or maybe shaken, depending who you ask.

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