Sunday, February 6, 2011

El Pingüino y Los Otros

On the final night I spent in Buenos Aires, a few of us went to the barrio Palermo to check out the night life and the people. This place was full of the hipsters of Buenos Aires and definately more “happening” than the other places we had seen at night time. However, along with the increase of young locals also came an increase in pricing. This being said I only had two drinks but we still didn´t return home until about six or seven the following morning. This morning was the first that I slept through breakfast until about noon. It was another hot and humid day in Buenos Aires, so I walked around some of the nearby parks, consumed some empenadas, and then returned to the hostel to cool down in the AC before leaving for the bus station.
After saying good-byes, I left to the bus station via subte, which is the subway. Being a traveler in Buenos Aires, when carrying your bags they advise you to carry your large pack on your back and your smaller in front of you so no person can run by and snatch the smaller bag. Being solo I took extra precautions placing my wallet, camera, and other items in the backpack in front of me, instead of carrying them in the pockets of my pants. The day before, one of the Irish lads had his camera pick-pocketed from him on the subte when a few kids made a ruckas (sp?) about being on the wrong train. Long story a little shorter, I am glad I did this because after exiting the subte and crossing the street, a woman rushed up to me with kleenex and began shouting and trying to clean my backpack because there was lotion all over it. I felt something graze my back pocket, and realizad quickly that I had read about this situation before. It is titled the “mustard trick” where someone spills a substance on a traveller trying to distract the victim to be able to pickpocket them or have the traveler set down the smaller of their bags so another person can grab the smaller bag and run, leaving the traveler with the decision of chasing and leaving the larger bag or simple giving up on the stolen items. Anyway, after about 5 seconds of pure confusion, this recolection hit me and I said to the woman with Kleenex “Todo esta bien” and walked into the bus station as quickly as possible. After a few moments of anger at the entire situation I calmed down and found some napkins, which are basically thin pieces of paper, and cleaned my pack. A half-hour passed waiting for the bus to arrive and eventually I boarded my bus run by a company named, El Pingüino.
The beggining of this trip was very smooth although it was very clear that I was the only person who spoke a spot of english. Off topic, but with this story I find it necessary to share that the spanish here is much different than the spanish in Mexico. For example, “ll” usually make an “y” sound but here it is a “sh” sound. Ex. Como se llama is sh-ama. The letter y is pronounced as “ch”, and there are a lot of other subtle differences. This has made it a little harder to communicate without feeling like a nuesense. Anyway, this didnt seem to present a large problem because communication wasn´t essential. A few broken conversations maybe but nothing more. However, a few hours into our journey after I had begun to drift off to sleep, (the bus was an over night journey) the bus slowed to a stop, shook and the engine died. Not riding many buses I thought this may have just been another stop along the way, but when the driver turned the ignition, the engine refused to turn over until about the sixth attempt. Eventually our journey continued only to have this happen several times throughout the night. Once we were stopped for what seemed to be a couple hours while a mechanic looked over the situation. After this the bus ran well until about 9 am when it died again, and this time with no resurection. Everyone exited the bus and began waiting for news of what comes next. Over the next seven or so hours an old bus came from the city, took us to the nearest bus terminal, they paid for our lunch, and we boarded a new bus to continue our journey.
At first this seemed to be a poor situation but in these hours I met and formed a bond with many of the passengers, learned their stories, discussed rock and roll with a few guys on their way to a concert, shared Fernet (the alcoholic drink of Argentina, which is mixed with Coke, never Pepsi, and ice. Alone it tastes very bitter), and joked about our dislike of El Pingüino. While killing time outside of the broke down bus, one of the passengers would yell at “El Pingüino.” It was really funny but this might be one of those stories that is better if you were acutually there. Although I didnt get to Puerto Madryn until 3 am, I am glad this happened because it was the first situation where I was forced out of my comfort zone and really had to use my spanish, but learned a lot and thouroughly enjoyed myself. Also learned how much the Argentine people love Homero Simpson and “Duff” beer which is actually sold here. Overall, pretty good adventure. Now just enjoying myself in Puerto Madryn and soon off to El Calafate via another long bus ride. But first I have to find a place to watch the Super Bowl tonight.

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