Sunday, August 24, 2008

it's like when your brain is penetrated...

Entry and exit are excruciatingly painful but the actual journey through the brain is painless.
Friday, the first of August, was our last day in Argentina.

Brenda's and my original plan was to meet at our nearest subte station at 10 a.m. to take the subte to this really nice mall called Abasto, then have lunch somewhere, then go to Havanna and have coffee with lots of cream and liqueur (or just lots of Bailey's, you can have both in one stroke), and the walk home would sober us up, and we'd be good to go to the airport, and everything would go well.

What really happened was that between 10 and 10:30 we were on a wild goose chase for each other. After finding each other, we endured the most hellish ride of our lives until we transferred from Line D to Line B.

Abasto is a legitimately good mall, unlike the mall in Colonia, Uruguay, which boasted topnotch duty-free shopping but instead offered dollar-store selections. It was in Abasto that I learned that the subte cards the University of Belgrano had given us could be used at convenience stores. UB never bothered to tell us this when they gave those cards, because God forbid students be spared a little pocket money. I had 76 pesos left and I needed to use them. I'd be damned if UB saw the money that I could have spent on all the bottled water and alfajores that I bought. In the mall convenience store, I managed to get down to 71 pesos, then down to 70 when we took the subte to another place. Brenda had eaten the stuff she'd bought (much more than 5 pesos worth) and instantly regretting it.

We found a nice place to eat, but we needed to digest a little before having spiked coffee. We took the subte towards home and Havanna, and then nature called. Both of us. We meant to reconvene in an hour to go to Havanna. I got off the subte and walked home, but saw another convenience store, and I wanted water, so I bought it with my card, but as I reached for it, I realized I didn't have my wallet.

After a few minutes of talking to law-enforcing looking men who couldn't have helped me, I realized there was no hope of getting my wallet, and went home to relieve myself. At least I still had my passport and keys. But I had a crisis to sort out. I called the Argentine Visa company but it was absolutely useless because I just kept getting prompted for my BNI, whatever the bloody hell that is, by an automated voice, and continuously pressing 0 didn't get me the human voice that I needed. I bit the bullet and texted every one of my family members to cancel my credit card and bank card ASAP. It wasn't just the inconvenience of not having my cards, or of losing my subte card, or two receipts I meant to show to United, or the loss of about 80 pesos (at least it wasn't 80 dollars) that I'd recently withdrawn, but Julieta had given me a leather monogrammed key chain that I'd attached to that wallet. Fortunately her parting letter was still safe in my purse.

Meanwhile, Brenda's guts weren't agreeing with her, and she took Pepto-Bismol and still felt like crap. Coffee plans were shot.

Susana came with me to the University of Belgrano, where the bus would take us to the airport. She even bought a bottle of water for me, although I shouldn't have had it, because I needed to go rather badly. I tried to go to my happy place, Iguazu Falls, but as those are huge, thundering waterfalls, that didn't work out. Even thoughts of comparatively pissant Niagara Falls made it worse.

Ezeiza airport has the brilliant idea of not only an exit fee which isn't included in the ticket (and no one bloody asked me for the receipt of my exit fee - could I have gotten away with not paying it?), but also of additional security once you're past security. For US-bound flights, anyway. Actually, that could be our own government. And once you're past that post-security, you can't get back out, not even for the bathroom. I was the only one in my group taking a different flight back home, everyone else was on United's non-stop to Dulles. The woman in charge of that security told me in broken English that I couldn't get past the ropes unless I was on that flight. I told her that my friends were all on that flight, and I didn't want to be isolated from them longer than I had to. She effectively told me tough shit. So I did the next best thing, and got everyone to sit close to the ropes across from me.

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