So it’s official. I’ve been with my family for exactly a week today, so I guess you could say I really do live in Argentina now, how crazy is that?! Technically I’ve been here over a week if you want to count our stopover in Buenos Aires, but I arrived in Capilla Del Monte on Thursday the 26th of Jan and have been loving it here ever since.
I’ll start from the start, hopefully I won’t bore you with over sharing, I’m thinking I’ll give you the basic run down of what it’s been like since we left Auckland, and I’ll go into detail about Buenos Aires in another post, sound good? Good.
We left Auckland on Monday the 23rd of Jan (yes I do have to put the full date; you have no idea how confusing the time difference is) and let me tell you, that day was one of the most hectic of my life so far. In all honesty I can hardly remember the nitty-gritty details since so much has happened since then, but I can remember that it was a mad rush trying to get everything packed within weight limits, deciding what I really needed, and what things I could part with in an attempt to reduce the 3kgs of extra things… That of course doesn’t count the 54kgs of carry on luggage I had… well maybe not quite 54 but i can assure you my suitcase, plus my ‘handbag’ as well as my camera bag sure felt closer to 54kgs than the 8 point something it really was. As for the rest of the day it was spent frantically churning out badges and pins, fingertips of cousins getting burnt on hot glue guns, parents and an aunty saying surely there can’t be that many more, grandparents stressing about placement of flags on blazers…. it was a very crazy few hours to say the least, and this was before the bag debacle!
Finally leaving the house was a whole other situation, with panicked last-minute checks making sure I had everything (I didn’t), forgotten goodbyes to cats (obviously I had to find her before I went), deciding which car I was going to go in (sorry mum, you’re welcome best friend), coming to the conclusion that sunglasses were the best way to hide the tears in my eyes (but praying my make up lasted) and trying to remember every single detail of Auckland as we drove to the airport (there is a surprisingly large variety in the colour of grass as it turns out). The whole process was a mixture of emotions, of course I was excited to be embarking on the next chapter of my life, but at the same time I was nervous, sad and one or two second thoughts crossed my mind but soon I was too busy to take proper notice of them.
We (Lou, Tiana and I) got to the airport first and unloaded my 17 (3 very large) bags and saw Dad as we were walking to through the car park so we the 4 of us waited inside for everyone else to arrive (Mum, Grandma and Grandad, and Claire with Anna and Lily) which they did in typical Philp/Carrick/Hart fashion, hair blowing everywhere and a slight manic look on their faces. Of course there was drama, I couldn’t get my boarding pass without help, yes I was coming home on May 18 (if you say so), my bag was too heavy (goodbye $200) but finally everything was sorted and I only had to get through the next hour and a bit before I went through customs. Which was not easy. Long story short, the decision was made to wait in the bar for Roger who was helping sort out my visa (another long story), meanwhile the rest of the group was meeting the chaperones and Stuart was looking for me.
All in all it was confusing and stressful to say the least but the chips were a great last meal though! Finally it was time to go, which really meant wait 10 minutes for all the photos to be taken, be the last one to go through, and also be the one who has trouble with her ePassport, has to start again, and gets in trouble from customs. Then realises when its time to get changed that someone had forgot to put both socks and a singlet in your bag so you have to rock shoes without socks and stick with the slip you were wearing underneath your blouse. I think now is the time to mention that before I got changed, my uniform was very similar to that of an air hostess, and I found out just how similar when I went to buy a bottle of water and got asked if I wanted to use my staff discount, never mind the Rotary Student Exchange emblem on my blazer pocket, the badges all over it and my name tag that I would have thought would be the final piece of evidence to suggest that although I may look very similar, I am not in fact, an Air Hostess, contrary to popular belief. It was fun and games that’s for sure, and we mustn’t forget that I knew absolutely nobody in the group which was also great fun while we sat around waiting to board. Which we did at about 7:30 (don’t quote me on that because all I can really remember is when we took off). It was about 8:00 when I looked out the windows at my last views of New Zealand, the friendly screen in front of me “Kia Ora Jacqui” a girl I’d never met before in my life sitting next to me, who i would also spend the next three days with, along with the other 7 strangers in our group.
The flight itself was pretty good considering it was 11 hours. To begin with I kept looking out the window (in the opposite direction of everyone else) so nobody would notice my sweaty eyes but I gradually settled in and chose some movies, and before I knew it, dinner was being served. I was not so excited when I heard the first option was Argentine Beef Casserole, but my stomach perked up at the sound of the chicken, however much to my disappointment it was beef or beef, as everyone else apparently had the same idea as me. I pushed through the beef anyway and carried on with my movie, before having a snooze, watching another movie, breakfast and before long we were into the last 10 minutes and we were coming into Buenos Aires, which I kept track of as I watched our altitude slowly drop as we began our descent into Jorge Newbery Airport, Buenos Aires, at approximately 3:15 on Monday the 23rd of Jan, 2017.
We stepped off the plane and into the air bridge and it was literally like a stepping into a wall of heat. No air conditioning, long pants, a singlet plus a shirt, no socks still, carrying my excessively heavy two extra bags, in 34 + degree heat… Getting through security was a breeze, my tendency to make sure I knew everything about everything paid off when I was asked the name of the hotel we would be staying at, which prevented me from looking (and sounding) like everyone else who was calling out across everyone trying to figure out a) what the officer was saying and b) what the answer was (the Waldorf Hotel). My stress about the arrival card (the make, model and series of my phone? Other accessories?) was unwarranted as I’ve been here for a week and someone has yet to ask to see it so I’m beginning to think that it may have all been slightly irrelevant. Either that or something to do with my New Zealand passport which most people take a look at, smile and wave me through.
We saw our guide, Laura, who turned out to be absolutely lovely, and after the mandatory toilet stop we went outside to wait for the bus which would take us to the hotel. The drive was so interesting, I don’t know what I was expecting but in some places there were tall office buildings, and 200m down the road would be run down, half collapsed buildings and dead rooftop gardens. It also seems that going from place to place has a toll, as I learnt when I realised the road suddenly had about 15 lanes… after we got to the hotel, had settled in, showered, we changed into cooler clothes and decided we would all go out and explore the new city we had just been dropped into.
The buildings were one of the first things all of us noticed, the incredible architecture and masonry was something that you might expect to see in the streets of Rome or Paris and yet the building next door might be a glass high-rise, but at the same time it was equally likely to be a skinny apartment building, grungy walls covered in air conditioning units with wires hanging from windows and gutters… Even the shopping mall (Galeria) down the road looked absolutely amazing, and we hadn’t even seen inside it yet! Needless to say it became easy to see why Argentina is called the Paris of South America. Once we got back we saw Merv and Gill heading out so we organised to meet them at 8:30 and go out for dinner, our second of what would turn out to be a 34 hour Monday. Ordering dinner was much easier said than done, as we soon realised that while most us knew at least a little bit of spanish it was nowhere near enough to understand the menu, let alone actually order anything, and of course none of us had data, which made it even more difficult not being able to translate anything. After about 15 minutes of discussion and confused, frustrated looks we finally decided it would be easiest just to get three pizzas, one cheese and two ham and cheese, the only ones we knew wouldn’t entail any surprise toppings, and share them at the near by Plaza San Martin. We finally got home about 11:30 where we promptly fell asleep ready for a big day in the morning.
This is where I’m going to try to give the skeleton version of events, and I’ll go into more detail later. The next two full days we had there were amazing, on Tuesday we toured the city, getting to see both the rich and poor areas, we visited a cemetery home to Evita, that was more like a small town filled with mausoleums, coffins on display for all to see, saw the church where Pope Francis worked (work seems like the wrong word…) before he was the Pope, the parliament buildings where the President worked and arrived in his helicopter, visited the tourist orientated town of La Boca, and that evening went to a Tango lesson, dinner and watched a show in the restaurant (where some may have had a few to many glasses of wine on top of their Argentine Mojito), before returning home at around 1am. The late night would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t sleep for even a second so I made the most of the time by practicing my Spanish and sorting out all of my photos into albums. It got to about 4am when i decided that I would go for a walk and try to get to the roof, which I may have been able to, however the second I saw the dimly lit top floor at the top of the stairs I promptly speed walked back to the safety of my bed and waited for it to get light.
We (Lili and I) woke up about 8 so we went down to breakfast, which I still hadn’t got used to. We were greeted with a huge selection, different cereals, sweet and savoury croissants, bread, sliced french stick, ham and cheese, so many spreads including the famed dulce de leche, not to mention the selection of drinks and yoghurt and milk! Wednesday soon became my favourite day in Argentina so far, and words cannot describe how much I enjoyed it, and I think it’s safe to say that since then nothing has quite compared to that day. We went to Estancia Santa Susana, a ranch in Buenos Aires province, about an hour and a half drive from the city where we rode horses, were taken for a ride in a carriage, had a huge, huge Argentine BBQ which consisted of chorizo, black sausage, steak, a very large bit of chicken, bread rolls and 4 different salads, of course with wine and beer!
After lunch was where it got really great, it was the gauchos (cowboys/horsemen) time to shine. They did all sorts of cool things, directing the horses around and lining them up along the fence for photos, but the most impressive part was what they did next. It was a competition between the three men called Corrida de sorjita, which consisted of a small ring hanging from a frame, which they had to try to get on a wooden stick the size of a pen while cantering past it, then offering it to someone in the audience for a kiss. They were very skilled to say the least and one of them only missed twice out of about 10. Then one of them took some people for a ride around the paddock and everyone went their separate ways. Except for us who got to what I assume was make the most of the rotary name, and got to hang around and three of the group were lucky enough to ride their own horse with one of the gaucho next to them. All in all the day was so amazing, being so close to the horses and the whole experience from the food to the place to almost getting bitten by a snake made the whole day unforgettable.
With Wednesday being our last day in Buenos Aires, and for everyone else, Argentina, we decided to go out for dinner one last time which once again was easier said than done. In an attempt to try to cover some new ground we walked a different way however soon enough, just like I predicted in my head we would as we headed in the usual direction, we ended up back at our original stomping ground until we stopped at burger king. Which would have been fine had we not been with a vegetarian, who wasn’t catered for by Burger Kings menu… Lily and I decided the three of us would keep searching for something else and meet the other at the park when we had got something, which ended up taking about an hour, until I finally convinced them that the way I was suggesting we go was in fact where all the food places were. Eventually we settled on pizza, but I was still full from lunch so I passed on anything for me (I told myself I was full but really I couldn’t speak enough to order). We made our way back to the park and soon found that everyone else was nowhere to be, and must have given up waiting. Much to our dismay we got back to the hotel to find that this was not the case, and the lack of data meant that we (Lily) had no idea where they were, until we heard the loud voice of John on the way back to his room. As it turned out they had been looking in every McDonald’s and pizzeria they could find but gave up when it got to 12 and headed home, but all is well that ends well and soon it turned into a party in our room with Lily and John eating the left over Squiggles, Alexis teaching Hugh some Tahitian dance moves from Norfolk Island while Aotea and I quietly watched the madness from my side of the room.
Once we were sure everything was packed with only the things needed for the morning left out, it was about 2:30 when we went to sleep, until we got the wake up call at 3:45 so we quickly got dressed, painted on our faces and scurried downstairs for a coffee before we packed the bus and left for the airport. You’ll notice I didn’t mention handing the swipe cards back… that was because we forgot. It took me until I took my phone case off and found the card to realise my mistake, and from what I heard on the bus, others had done the same, finding them in pockets and all sorts of other ‘safe’ places. Just as last time did, the airport process went smoothly, even if it was difficult to understand at some times, but after I took out my New Zealand passport, everything seemed to go a lot more smoothly. We took some photos before we parted ways but then it was off in our separate directions, but I was lucky enough to get the details of the Amazing Laura should any thing go wrong. The only tricky part was putting my bags through the X-ray and me through the metal detector, as I could hear no word of English being spoken, so I copied the actions of those in front of me, putting my bags down with a smile and waiting for the nod of a head before walking through and collecting them on the other side. Or so I thought, this was before my bracelet set off the alarm (of course it was going to wait until I was out of an english speaking area) which required a swift pat down but once it was decided that I wasn’t carrying a gun or a bomb I was on my merry way. All that was left to do now was wait for the next leg of my journey to begin…
That’s all from me for now, the next time I write it’ll be about flying to Cordoba, arriving in Capilla Del Monte and all the adventures I’ve had here so far.
Chau – Jacqui Philp