At the risk of sounding like a filthy hippy, even leaving a country can be a journey, albeit an emotional one, maaan. Two of my closest friends, along with my mrs came to the airport with me and waited around with me until it was time to clear security. It was one of the hardest goodbyes in a long time and there’s never a right time to turn around and head through the Passenger Only gates, you just want to stay there that bit longer then that bit longer again, neither one wanting to make the first move and break away. Buuuuut it has to be done, there’s a whole continent waiting for me through those gates where I don’t speak a bastard word of the language.
I cleared security, trying to load my laptop back into my bag with one hand and hold my trousers up with the other while I waited for the tray with my belt to roll through, hung around trying not to sob too loudly in public until we were allowed to board, settled into my seat and proceeded to empty the contents of my saliva glands into my pillow for the ensuing 12 hours.
Aerolineas Argentinas has such a bad rep but I have no complaints ay, I was fed, the staff were fine, the aircraft remained in the air for the duration of the flight and I was in one piece when I stepped off the plane last Sunday and cleared customs, looking every inch the tourist with my worldly belongings strapped to my torso and a “look at me, I’m lost and vulnerable” look plastered across my face. I might as well have had “Rob Me” tattooed on my forehead. Thankfully no one did. If you look lost and confused for long enough eventually someone will either take everything you own at knife point or help you. This time it was the latter, a guy who could speak English pointed me in the right direction and I managed to get the shuttle to town then the complimentary taxi to a backpackers.
And so much for picking up Spanish while I’m here, as soon as I’m required to use the minuscule bit I learnt in Auckland the part of my brain its stored in gets scared and refuses to come out resulting in a blank stare and gaping any village idiot would be proud of. In place of words there’s drooling and the most coherent noise I can managed is, “errrrrr…” Its about this point they realise I’m English and either give up or take pity and between us we work out what I want. It’s not like Spain where if they don’t understand you just say it louder… (I jest of course, I hope I’m not that person.)
Oh, and so far the most dangerous thing I’ve seen isn’t the armed robbers tourists seem to think are lurking in every doorway but the drivers. They’re all fucking mental and I’m staying right by 9 de Julio, the sod off great big seven-lane-each-way monster of a road which quite frankly scares the fuck out of me. I mean, there’s crossing lights but the motorists still sweep in from the side whilst the little man is definitely green at speeds that don’t make me entirely comfortable, blaring their horns. By the time I get to the other side I’m a nervous wreck. I’m surprised no ones had to make that phone call home to my mother yet because they found me curled up in a corner in the foetal position rocking and weeping.
Anyway, I’m here and attempting to pick up the language. By the time I leave South America I’ll have a level of Spanish I can communicate easily with. This is my goal. Well, that and not getting flattened by lunatics in fast, metal boxes, or being completely exsanguinated by mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls. Yeah, I got all my jabs done before I left New Zealand to come to South America, I had needles stuck in me containing vaccinations for hep A, hep B, yellow fever, tetanus, diphtheria and typhoid. And you thought I resembled an expensive pin cushion before I left Auckland. Admittedly I passed on the rabies jabs on account of the sheer cost of them, three jabs at NZ$120 each, I decided that rabies should be relatively easy to avoid as long as I don’t pat the cute little monkey with the foam at its mouth or try to steal a stray dog’s food because it looked nicer than my bowl of noodles. Yes, I think I should be able to survive this without contracting the always-fatal human form of rabies.
But one thing you can’t avoid are the fucking mosquitoes because you don’t see them until they’ve got their face buried in your flesh, they’re like vicious little ninjas, not that they’re little over here. I felt something sharp in my leg the other night, I looked down and a mozzie the size of a bear was trying to make off with a limb, and I swear it was looking at me and daring me to do something about it.
Two diseases carried by mozzies over here are malaria, carried by the night time biting blood suckers but more common in the urban areas are the ones that carry dengue fever and prefer to savage victims in the daytime. No vaccination, nothing you can do about it. You just have to ride the intense, flu-like symptoms out until it goes away and the more times you contract it the more times you’re likely to snuff it. Happy thoughts. I don’t like having blood removed from my body and I don’t like flu-like symptoms. Me and the mosquitoes of South America are gonna have some issues methinks. This. Is. War.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Stayed at: Lime House Youth Hostel