Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've got it bad, so bad...

We were supposed to stay one more day in Uruguay, but we changed our itinerary a bit in order to attend a "Bomba del Tiempo" performance in Buenos Aires. This crazy drum show/party happens every Monday night, and it's quite an experience. Basically there's a group of twelve guys (and one girl) on a stage with African drums, a conductor in front, and hundreds of drunken Argentines and gringos gyrating and moshing below the stage. Like I said, it's an experience. The drummers are amazing, and as far as I could tell it was all improvised after the opening rhythm. David and I were honored that night by the surprise guest appearance of Pinche Juan, aka Anonimo Intransingente e Intolerante, aka Cone Cahuitl, best known as Rubén Albarrán, or the lead singer from the Mexican band Café Tacuba (who was in town for a huge music festival the weekend prior). He's kind of a weird dude, to say the least. Anyone who has heard Café Tacuba would recognize his unique voice immediately (if the braided pigtails, purple shirt and lime green pants didn't set him apart already). For almost two hours he invented mindlessly profound lyrics to the beat of the drums, jumping around the stage like someone possessed. Alien sociologists would mistake it for a religious experience. I had fun, but attending once in my life was more than enough.

On Tuesday David and I explored the Recoleta neighborhood on foot, visiting the Fine Arts Museum and the Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita is buried. Necessary tourist stuff for the most part, but interesting regardless. That night we went out to dinner with Emily at a divine restaurant called Cumana. I ordered the "spicy" mondongo argentino (Argentine "spicy" is like the mild hot sauce at Taco Bell) and it was without a doubt the best stew I've ever eaten. Chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and red pepper, plus some delicious mystery meat (steak?). Ahh, my mouth is watering...

We woke up to pouring rain on Wednesday, which dampened our desire to do anything at all outside. Since we'd seen most of the city already though, playing pool in the hostel was fine with me. In the late afternoon we went to the movies with a German girl from the hostel named Sarah. David and I were planning on watching the thrilling "Orphan" film, but Sarah put her foot down and we ended up watching "My Life in Ruins", a romantic comedy. It was better than I expected, but my expectations were extremely low.

I had been praying for sunshine during our Thursday trip to La Plata, and He came through marvelously. La Plata is the capital city of the province of Buenos Aires, around one hour outside of the metropolis. It's famous for its architecture and for being the home of Club Estudiantes de La Plata, one of Argentina's famous soccer teams. We arrived around 3pm and walked around the entire city in three hours, visiting cultural centers, theaters, museums, churches and plazas. I absolutely fell in love with the neo-gothic Catedral de La Plata, an enormous church with intricate architecture and soaring spires. We made it back by 7pm and I spontaneously invited Emily to see a play, since it was my last night in Buenos Aires and I wanted to do something to celebrate her birthday. We tried to see Phantom of the Opera, which had come straight from Broadway a few weeks earlier, but that theater was having a private event so we went to see Othello next door. It was my first time ever at a live play, and I was awestruck by the talented singers and the elaborate sets. I'm definitely gonna watch more plays when I get the chance. After the play we ate some midnight dinner and I walked her home. We saw another labor protest (at midnight?! Really?) and were serenaded by some gunshots from a passing motorcyclist. It was kinda frightening, actually. But God was watching over us, so we made it home safe and sound.

Our third and final bus ride of the trip left at noon on Friday. It would take roughly 21 hours from Buenos Aires to Porto Alegre, but we were ready to dominate it like the two before. This time we were shocked to be served lunch (we even took pictures) and watch three different films along the way (Get Smart, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Righteous Kill). The Argentine buses are definitely the most luxurious. Even so, I couldn't sleep this time for some reason. We pulled into the station at 9am and took a taxi in the rain to our hotel (there are no hostels in Porto Alegre, which is an indication of how touristy it is, or isn't). We napped for several hours, explored the city on foot, and grabbed some lunch. Then we went back to the hotel and napped again, planning to wake up at 8pm for dinner but instead sleeping until 10pm. We were tired, ok? For dinner we splurged at a restaurant recommended to us by the dude in the tourist office called "Tudo Pelo Social". I guess it wasn't really a splurge, at $5 each for all we could eat. Delicious. Then we walked around the nightlife center of Porto Alegre- it was Saturday night, after all- and chose a club with live MPB (Brazilian pop). I love live music. Love it. Unfortunately nausea hit me really fast and we had to go back to the hotel early, around 2am. Maybe it was all that greasy food.

On Sunday David and I had been planning to go to the soccer stadium and watch the match between Grêmio and Internacional, Porto Alegre's two biggest teams. But the hotel staff told us that it was sold out, and since we didn't have the kind of money the scalpers would be demanding, we decided to explore everything the city had to offer that morning and then end up at a lively bar where we could watch the game with the locals. We did just that, and it was fantastic. Once again, like in Montevideo, it was rather refreshing to visit a non-touristy city. We didn't hear any English at all, and that's the way I like it in a foreign country.

Our flight left at 6pm on Monday, but we had to check out of the hotel by noon. After our lazy morning of stuffing ourselves at the continental breakfast and watching soccer on the TV in our room, we packed our bags and headed out. First we sat on the steps in a main plaza for a bit, people-watching behind our Paraguayan Ray-Ban shades and simply enjoying the sun. Then we realized that people-watching for four hours is a little too much, so we found a theater and paid $2 to watch "District 9", an American film about aliens in South Africa. It wasn't my favorite, but I can't say it was a waste of money. We caught our flight with no difficulties (besides playing Snake on our cell phones and not hearing the first three times we were invited to board), and after a normal 30-minute delay we were off. The flight itself felt so short after all our bus rides; we were actually wishing it were longer. Alas, at 8pm we witnessed the spectacular panorama of Rio at night and landed softly on the tarmac. By 8:30pm we had caught our airporter bus for $4 ("No thank you, Mr. Taxi Driver, $45 for a ride home is not a good price."), and by 10pm I was back in my room, showered and ready to sleep.

It's funny, because the moment I got home I just wanted to leave again. Not because things with my host were not going well (which they weren't), and not because it was still raining in Rio (which it was). Traveling is just crazy that way. The more I travel, the worse my addiction. They call it a "bug", and I am most certainly infected with the strongest strain. I hope I'm never cured.

No comments:

Post a Comment