My Trip To South America

 

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In 2003, I took a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I was there to collaborate with some wonderful people from the Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales (Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences) at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (University of Buenos Aires).

My trip started with a fairly long flight (7,124 kilometers, 4,427 miles) that left at about 10:00 p.m. from Miami, and arrived at about 7:00 the next morning in Buenos Aires.  You should note that there is a 1 hour time difference between east coast time and Buenos Aires.  Before I landed, I got to see the most wonderful sunrise I have ever seen.  Southern Hemisphere, nothing but ocean, from about 30,000 feet (9,144 meters).

I arrived at the airport, picked up my luggage, and was in turn picked up by our first contact: Patricia Kandus.  Patricia kindly drove us to our hotel the Loi Suites Arenales  which is a wonderful hotel in downtown Buenos Aires.  There we changed clothes, and cleaned up a little bit before we visited the university.

I really like the way they work down there.  They show up at the office around 10 a.m. to noon. and work to about 7 to 9 p.m.  Myself, not being a morning person, just loved it.  That means that dinner is also much later.  You never think about where you are going to eat before 9 p.m., and if you show up at the restaurants before 10 p.m., you are the early crowd.  3 a.m.?  No problem, the restaurants and bars are still kicking.  I must be getting old, I never found out what happens past 3.

Later, at the university, I was introduced to Paula Pratolongo.  Paula is pretty much my counterpart in South America.  She is an extremely intelligent biologist who also works with computers.  Really weird.  I on the other hand am a computer guy who also works with biology.  There is some strange sort of inverse parallelism going on that I won't bother going into here.  Lets just say its spooky. 

Paula went above and beyond all expectations during the rest of the trip by being my personal translator.  For some bizarre reason, she believes she speaks English poorly, and doesn't believe me when I tell her truthfully that she speaks better English (American)  that 50 percent of U.S. citizens (she was probably told that by the British.  Pah - Don't get me started on that one).  I can't begin to thank her enough for this because outside of the university, absolutely no-one speaks English.  That includes some of the staff at the hotel (which claims they speak English), and every taxi driver that I encountered during the trip.  If it wasn't for her I wouldn't have had a chance in the city.  She even kindly made me flash cards to show the taxi drivers so that I could get to the university and back.  I would say a lot more, but I promised her that I wouldn't use anything more than her name.  She is apparently very shy.  I am very impressed by her, and if you know me, you know that means she is extraordinary.  I am not easily impressed.  She has promised to visit one day, so you may get to meet her (Update!  Looks like she will be coming here soon.  I am her official sponsor for a visiting scientist position with my lab with a June 2005 target date for arrival).

The official language of Argentina is Spanish.  However, the variety of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires is called the Lunfardo.  If you know Spanish, you can probably get along, just remember that "Y" and "ll" sound like "sh",  while "b" and "v" sound like "w".

I had lots of great meals over there.  The surprising thing to me was the amount of Italian food that I found.  Ate absolutely everything that ever found its way in front of me with no troubles at all.  I had some really good wines, and I will say, a rather mediocre Argentine beer called Quilmes.  The bock version is slightly darker, and much better.  I did however, eventually find an Irish pub that served Guinness, which was much more my liking.

We visited The Panara River Delta via a boat tour, and it is simply astounding.  Unlike our Mississippi Delta, which has been royally screwed up by dredging, channels, and diversions, theirs is healthy.  It is also the source for some of our most aggressive invasive species (Water Hyacinth, the Nutria, Fire ants, just to name a few), but we can't hold that against them.  We also eventually made a trip to Bahia Aventura San Clemente del Tuyú, which is a very nice nature park with an incredible old lighthouse that you can take a glass elevator to the top, and get an incredible view of the delta region.

I spent many days exploring the city and the outdoor market.  The only "incident" we had was when the local football (soccer) team Boca won the Libertadores Cup for the fifth time.  People rioted in the downtown streets.  Cops, teargas, fires, the whole nine yards.  I never will understand why people riot when their team wins....but I can say that if Boca ever wins the World Cup, they are going to burn the entire city to the ground.

Taxis, taxis everywhere.  More taxis than you can shake a stick at.  And you can take a trip across town for less than it takes to even sit in a cab in the U.S.  Forget waiting for a taxi.  I never waited more than 30 seconds for a taxi, and that includes 3:00 a.m. excursions.

The seasons over there are opposite here, as you would expect being in the southern hemisphere, and the weather was fantastic the entire time.

I would highly recommend visiting this city if you ever have the chance.

Regrettably, my time there ended, and I flew home.  The flight leaves at about 10 p.m. from Buenos Aires, and arrives about 7 a.m. the next morning in Miami.  When I took off at night, I got to see an absolutely breathtaking site.  The city is probably the largest, densest populated place I have ever seen, and the density of the lights on the ground is incredible.   As you take off, you get to see the enormity of this city.  It is absolutely beautiful.

The worst part of the entire trip occurs with the 6 hour layover in the Miami airport to catch a flight back to New Orleans.  Other than that, I have absolutely nothing but praise to say for the destination.

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This site was last updated 11/17/05