Sunday, July 25, 2010

Travel Prep Adventures!

To my dearest readers,

I apologize for the hiatus but I have been on vacation in Buenos Aires for the last six days with limited Internet acces. So much has happened between now and my last post, so I've decided to divide it up into two posts; one for the trip itself and one for the 36 hours beforehand. Enjoy!


Crap day. Literally. I have been enduring an internal battle over the amount of food I would like to eat and the amount of food my body will accept; around 2:30pm, it became apparent that my body had won this fight (as per usual) and I spent the rest of the day in the bathroom or lying in bed. By the end of the day, I had not packed and had several errands to run before leaving for Buenos Aires monday night. In addition, I had to organize and prepare documents in order to obtain my cedula (Chilean form of ID) at 10AM the next morning. I resolved to go to bed early, get a good night's sleep and start fresh the next morning with a shower.


4:45AM-I lie wide awake in my bed, stressing about packing and running errands while simultaneously willing myself to go back to sleep. This continues for three hours and is clearly a great use of time.

7:45AM-I finally fall asleep.

8:30AM-My alarm goes off.

9:20AM-I finally wake up, close to an hour behind schedule. I throw on some clothes, forget about the shower and shove what I can stomach into my mouth, which is the equivalent of a small glass of water and three crackers.

10:15AM- We receive our tickets at the government office and wait. (Disclaimer: Tickets of any kind in Chile are equivalent to the golden ticket in a Wonka chocolate bar; with them you have the opportunity to ride in a Wonkavator or be considered legal in a foreign country). Our number: 132. The number they are currently serving: 63.

11:05AM-The office is currently serving the number 80. We are moving at tortoise speed. Desperate, I ask my program director if she thinks I'll have time to run to a cambio (money exchange) quick and return in time for our number to be called. She says buena suerte (good luck) and I take off running for the metro.

11:16AM-Although I have boarded the metro seven minutes before, we have yet to reach the next station. An announcement informs me that the red line is experiencing technical difficulties today and that the train should be moving shortly. The pleasant voice thanks me for my patience and I anxiously writhe in my seat.

11:35AM-I arrive at my intended metro station. I run up the stairs and emerge into the outside world, only to find that, although I know the location of the cambio, I have taken the wrong exit from the station (there are four) and have no idea where I am. Rather than re-enter the station, I embark on my adventure to exchange travellers checks, running through the streets and in and out of cambios (although there are 40+ cambios in this area, only one accepts this form of money). Amidst trying to understand directions in Spanish and sprinting multiple blocks, let us recall that I have had eaten practically nothing and had diarrhea less than 24 hours ago.

11:47AM-I find my intended cambio. The man behind the desk thinks it's acceptable to chat casually with his friend and count out the bills at a tortoise pace. I grit my teeth and try not to pass out.

11:58AM-I board the train and call one of my friends who is at the office. She tells me they are serving number 115; I try to use the energy produced by my brain to make the train go faster.

12:00PM-I think to myself that perhaps it would have been a better idea to cash the travellers checks in Argentine pesos, since I will be inhabiting that country in fifteen hours.

12:14PM-Once again, I am stuck between stations. I get up and stand two centimeters (metric system! everywhere but the US!) from the door so I am prepared to leap off the train.

12:19PM-I shed two layers of clothing, strap my purse across my body and take off sprinting in the direction of the government office. I tell myself that if I get there in time, it's totally worth it, even if I vomit afterwards.

12:25PM- I enter the office, see my program director and run to her side, asking IN ENGLISH (at this point I have no brain) if I've missed my appointment. She tells me to relax and not to worry; the entire computer record system for all of Chile has crashed and they have no idea why or when it will come back. We are 9 numbers away from being served

1:00PM-We decide to eat lunch. While the others eat empanadas with meat and queso (cheese), I drink water and eat 3 more crackers.

1:45PM-It is apparent that the system will not reboot anytime soon, meaning we will not be receving our cedulas today. This presents multiple problems: 1) We are travelling out of the country in approximately 12 hours and need ID and 2) when we return to Santiago on Sunday, we will be exceeding the thirty day trial period to register our presence in Chile by one day and our visas will no longer be valid. Our program director assures us that we can enter Argentina and re-enter Chile as tourists but that upon our return, we will have to begin the process of acquiring a student visa all over again. This is a HUGE hassle but all I can think about is that I need to find my travel sized shampoo.

2:15PM-I return to my host house and pack like a mad woman. I plan to leave in 30 minutes to catch the metro with a friend for our afternoon orientation, even though it starts at 2:30.

3:15PM-We arrive at the location of the orientation, however, it appears we are the only ones in the entire building.

3:20PM-I call my program director and she asks us to meet her our front to take us to the correct location (it was printed incorrectly on the information sheet). As we walk to the next building over, she informs us that the rest of the group has just witnessed a street dog being hit by a car. WORST. DAY. EVER.

4:30PM-The orientation meeting ends and I feel that I have wasted the better part of an hour of my life. I return home, finish packing and head to another friend's house to catch our transfer to the airport.

7:50PM-We check in and discover that our flight is delayed 45 minutes.

8:20PM-We arrive at the gate and the others eat salad, meat and cheese for dinner while I eat half a plate of plain noodles with a bit of salt for "spice". (What? I'm not bitter)

9:30PM-I ask the people at the flight desk if they know what time our flight will leave for Buenos Aires. They reply with a simple "no" and carry on their previous conversation.

9:55PM-The time our flight is supposed to take off.

11:30PM-After a rousing game of Uno (how appropriate) we are allowed to board the plane.

12:00AM-I look out the window as we cross the gorgeous Andes Mountains and am thankful that this day is over.


3:30AM (Buenos Aires time)-We arrive at our hostel and are split into two rooms; 3 in a private room and 3 in a shared room. I enter the shared room to find two other people already sleeping in there. Are they women? Men? Who knows? I stick my passport in my pajama pants and promptly pass out with exhaustion.

Shout out goes to all my fellow program mates for making it through this sucky day to enjoy an amazing week in Buenos Aires!



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