Beyond the Backyard #6: A Little Something to Remember Us By… – Buenos Aires, Argentina

A Little Something to Remember Us By…

Good Gosh…English!!
Back in Buenos Aires, I decided to resume my Spanish classes with the better of the two schools. There’s nothing like subjuctive verbs to tempt you out of bed in the morning. And since I was already taking Spanish classes, Jacob decided to give my language education a little extra boost at home as well. So he stopped speaking English to me. Argghh. The only exposure I had to my native tongue was BBC news and my emails, so I made quick friends with the local internet cafe. It was a nice relief to make plans with Daniel, a friend from Toronto who was in Buenos Aires for a bit. It was an evening of only English… ahhh…

However, I think it’s done the trick. The Spanish is coming a lot easier, and the first question people ask me isn’t usually “De donde sos?” anymore.

By the way, idioms don’t translate well. If you tell an Argentine that your head is swimming with verbs, they’ll look at you like you have two heads, both of them empty.

A little something to remember us by
One of the hostels I’d been at the previous week had given me a gift to remember them by. Somewhere along the line, something or someone had gone unwashed a little too long and had started to breed. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else; the only person I share things with is Jacob, and he doesn’t have hair.

But sitting in my Spanish class on Thursday, I felt something creep. In my hair. Something was moving…across my head…down my neck…

**gory details edited out**

So on my lunch break, I headed down to the corner pharmacy. “Un shampoo por piojos, por favor”. After some choppy Spanish, I finally got from the pharmacist what I certainly didn’t want in the first place: lice shampoo.

Then I headed home with my new cosmetic product. I could imagine locals staring at my head and thinking, Oh look, there’s something moving in there. The bus ride couldn’t end fast enough. Once at home, I ripped open the box and examined the new stuff. The instructions said to leave the gel in my hair for 10 minutes. I doubled it. I wanted those lice out, dead or alive (although I preferred dead). And to the manufacturer’s credit, the goo really did smell like green apple.

After brushing my hair out with this tiny comb designed to rip out all of your hair by the root and leave you bald, I think I can finally say that I won the battle.

Of course, everything had to be washed in boiling water as well..clothes, towels, sheets, comforter, sleeping bag, the works. And to make it all worse, we had just done laundry the day before. We’re on a first-name basis with the local laundromat now.

Colonia, Uruguay
Jacob’s Argentine visa expired this weekend, so we made hasty plans to visit Colonia, Uruguay for the weekend so he could renew his visa for another three months. Our method of transportation across the Rio Plata, one of the world’s widest rivers, was the Buquebus, a high speed ferry that (almost) cost as much as a domestic airline ticket. In typical fashion, we get there just in the nick of time to grab our tickets, redeem our tax coupons, and rush through security and customs (which was a massive joke anyways). Less than an hour later, we were in Colonia.

Colonia used to be an old Portuguese fortress against the Spanish expansion and colonization in South America in bygone days, but now it’s been transformed into a quaint pueblo that lives and dies by tourism. Cars stopped for pedestrians, motorbikes ruled the roads, and dogs roamed freely, while busy Buenos Aires was still visible on the opposite bank of the Rio Plata. The town was cute. We walked the Ciudad Vieja (Old City) plaza. Then we walked it again. And again. And again, until I finally had enough of the same square and the blistering cold wind whipping off the river and we retreated to the open-air hostel with the impossible locks that were designed to keep us locked in as much as everyone else out.

The next day we rented a motorbike. Jacob drove (he wouldn’t let me try! Probably better that way…) and proved that despite everything he says about being Mexican born and (partially) bred, he really has too much Canadiana in him; he signalled before he turned, checked his blind spot before changing lanes, and kept a watchful eye out for other traffic, be it on foot, moped, car, or donkey. The cities down here need more Canadians on the road, and more locals on the sidewalks.

Then Jacob left to go back to Buenos Aires, where his work as a chocolate taster (or so you’d think, judging by what he comes home with) at the Cadbury factory awaited him, and I bought a ticket to Paysandu, Uruguay, leaving Colonia at the cheery hour of 5:55 am.

The never-ending bus ride
After an early morning wake up, quickly shoving all my things in my backpack, and wrestling with the lock on the hostel door, I finally trudged my way to the bus station at the wee morning hour that my bus was scheduled to leave. (Don’t worry, it was safe. For a small town, there was a surprising amount of traffic at that ungodly hour.) The bus came, and I promptly found my seat and fell asleep dreaming of old ladies telling me to keep my feet off the seats (whether or not that actually happened, I’m not sure, but it sure was realistic…in Spanish and all).

The fare collector, an kindly middle-aged Uruguayan who soon became too friendly, struck up a discussion with me revolving around how young I was to be travelling on my own. (I had even exaggerated my age and rounded up by a couple of years.) Apparently he was from Salto, because he spent a good deal of time trying to convince me to go to Salto instead of Paysandu because the hot springs near Salto were better than all the rest. So off to Salto it was…

…finally arriving there in mid-afternoon. Finally made it to the hot springs. After several weeks of wondering what exactly hot springs are like, I can now answer that question with authority and say they make you feel like a lobster cooking. Seriously. You can actually see the steam rising from the pools of boiling water. For a few hours, it was nice feeling like a steaming lobster.

In Salto again I met another very friendly, possibly over-friendly, Uruguayan, only this time younger than the previous one (although still older than me and my newly invented birthdate). This young Uruguayan introduced me to his equally young friend and proceeded to try to woo me with local music and a gift of a hastily burned Red Hot Chili Peppers CD that left me wondering about the locals in this country…

Punta del Este

Forget Muskoka (Southern Ontario’s cottage country). I’m buying a beach home in Punta del Este. I hope journalism pays well.

Back on the Home Front
One of my mom’s more recent emails after reading my last article: “Guess what! Your adventures have now grounded you as my hair is now grey!”

Mission accomplished.

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