~ 3AM on the median of Av 9 de Julio, Centro, Buenos Aires
Doug and I had just finished sipping some café con leche while he explained to me what an MVC framework was. In my back pocket I carried the lecture’s key notes, crumpled paper-thin Argentine restaurant napkins crawling with arrows and references to ORMs, controllers, views, etc. My mind was boggled as we walked towards our apartment.
Doug must have a thing for dogs, and I mean the wrong kind of thing (https://perhapsyouspeakenglish.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/dont-bark-at-rabid-dogs-istanbul-2012/). We walked by a group of street mutts. I was a little nervous, I looked at them, they seemed calm, we passed. A few seconds later, the two of us both looked at each other and looked back… they were sneaking up on us… we B O L T E D. The chase was on, and the barking was effing scary.
Doug ran across the street and then continued running in the same direction. I stayed on the median and channeled my inner Forrest Gump. I saw a hedge approaching and thought, well, I hope there isn’t a ditch on the other side. I hurdled it, landed safely, and ran across the street to join Doug… the dogs stayed on the median, guarding their territory. Time for bed.
Traveling: I’m slowly going through the stages of getting inured to being the only brown person that people have ever seen in real life. (First it was funny, like a Russell Peters skit, then it was surprise, then came the denial, then being jaded, then back to everything seeming like a Russell Peters skit).
Imagine my surprise when the people most surprised to talk to me in Barcelona (a civilized design city, and pillar of western Europe) were the henchman serving the Pakistani Mafia. This isn’t some big deal — they’re all over the place in Barca, especially on the street Las Ramblas where even though the government has banned the sale of alcohol after 11pm, a bunch of brown dudes stick red beer cans in your face every 5 steps.
It’s hard to reach into the dredges of my drunken memories, but I found out some interesting tidbits.
- THERE ARE A FUCK LOAD OF PAKISTANIS in Barcelona. Out of the fuck loads, like all of them are in some way affiliated with the Pakistani Mafia.
- They sell all the street drugs. In my conversations with Khaled, an enterprising young gentlemen outside the Razz Ma Tazz club, I learned that he could hook me up with cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy, and other unnamed mumbo jumbo. Oh and because I was brown and spoke two words of Hindi he’d throw in some stuff for free.
- Don’t buy drugs from the street Pakistani mafia vendors. Apparently they suck.
- It’s really common for young Pakistanis to come over to Barca and other countries near Iberia. They have a huge operation.
- Apparently the government doesn’t give a fuck, because well ILLEGAL shit.
Haoran has a video of a drunk me exchanging life stories with a Pakistani mafioso, I’ll see if I can dig it up.
Before leaving the US, we knew that it would be a good idea to get yellow fever shots. After all, we planned on going to tropical areas like Iguazu Falls (Northern Argentina) and Lima (Peru). Alas, we were lazy and disorganized, so we found ourselves still unvaccinated in San Carlos de Bariloche with just a few weeks to go before we traveled to warmer climes. Girish found out that the main regional hospital provided vaccines on Fridays. We got up on the early side and prodded Doug, but he waved us off and muttered, “Next week’s better…”
So Girish and I headed off by ourselves, and we managed to mime and talk our way into fiebre amarillo shots. After taking down information from our passports, a secretary told us to return in an hour with the registration cards she handed to us.
When we returned, we sat in a waiting area. Our names were called at the same time, and we walked into a room where two nurses were preparing our syringes. They casually asked us our ages, probably to verify against the information we had provided earlier. Girish said he was 22. His nurse and I both looked at him quizzically, and then we got injected. Afterwards, as we ambled back to Las Moiras, I asked Girish how he could be 22, since I recalled once establishing that he was older than me (23 at the time). He said he was definitely 22, and then proceeded to do the calculation… he seemed astonished to learn that he was actually 23. Anyway, the quality of healthcare in Argentina is said to vary greatly, but the ease with which we obtained yellow fever vaccinations impressed me.
Not every Regus front desk looks like this.
Amidst the frenzied, impulsive “planning” for the trip down to Buenos Aires, the three of us made a pact to get actually get some shit done while traveling. For Doug, this meant continuing work at his fulltime job as a remote computer programmer. For Kenny, this meant learning programming, and for me, this meant some combination of helping Kenny and taking random Coursera classes.
God how our ambitions lie to us.
To facilitate these visions of productivity, we came across some great travel hacking resources from Maneesh Sethi, a popular online blogger. He had a blog article that made you jump through some hoops to get access to some of his flight hacking resources, one of which was entitled “free office space around the world.” The free office space is Regus, from whom you can finagle some deal where you can use their office space in cities around the world. We actually tried it in NYC, and it was great and productive. (Although, we did end up getting kicked out of an NYC Regus for having our shoes off. Dirty hippies). In Buenos Aires that was a different story.
Doug was the first to venture to a Regus in BA. He came back reporting a really shitty office and lack of Internet. Fuuuuuck. We located the Regus in the most prime office building in BA and went there. The problem was that we looked like scrubs who had enough gear to survive the Gathering of the Juggalos. Doug was perpetually sucking on the tip of his camelbak tentacle, all my shirts were waayy too nipply, and Kenny… well Kenny didn’t pack any merino wool.
We walked into the office building in BA and found out that the Regus space was on the 20th floor. They asked us to name our company to get in and made us take passport pictures (only 2/3 of us were brown, luckily).
We are, to this day, known as the Guiding Hand Social Club to Regus offices. Our collective entity has 18 months of free Regus office accrued in our name. Great success, and finally great internet (and Mate!) at the best fuckin Regus in BA (it’s in Puerto Madero, but don’t tell anyone).
The adventure town of Bariloche is known for its pristine views and outdoorsy visitors. We looked up a beautiful bike ride to do in the morning. The ride would take us all around the lakes in Bariloche. Nevermind that none of us hadn’t ridden bikes in, oh, about 6 months. Nevermind that instead of ~15 miles as advertised, the ride turned out to be TWENTY MILES OVER HILLS. Oh, and nevermind that in our group we had: (1) guy in ketosis who loved adventure stuff (DOUG!), (1) guy who couldn’t take normal poops because of a severe lack of fiber (ME), and (1) guy with a very bony butt (KENNY).
The circuito chico was a beautiful exercise in agony. We’d bike up rolling hills, and zoom down the other side while screaming war cries at the top of our lungs. We came across a little secret cove by following a path through the woods. We saw sights that weren’t meant for the world of men (seriously, there was a dude walking his CAT on a leash in the middle of the forest. WTF?). Bariloche is unmatched beauty.
And then we were only half way. Every part of my body was sore. I was complaining because I have a bubble butt, but then I realized Kenny’s bony ass must be even MORE sore. Somehow we limped to the Swiss village on the map. We found restaurant and ordered (3) large pizzas, some fondue, another pizza, and some more dessert.
Then we realized we still had 1/4 of the way to go…. combine that with getting lost and taking some anti-detours, and you get three dumb, sore, awe-inspired Americans.
We ended up missing the cutoff time to return out bikes and caused a scare. The bike rental dude called our hostel to inquire about the stupid Americans. I’m sure he was glad that we weren’t dead tho.
One late night in Istanbul, Doug and I were making the long trek back to our flat in Balthilimani. We walked by the Bosphorus, smoking cigarettes. We finally made it to the street right before our flat.
It was really dark — only a couple of street lamps gave their light. Doug was wearing his fucking 3 wolves howling at the moon shirt. We’re about 10 min from our flight, and then we notice that to our left, maybe like 25 yards away, was a pack of mangy stray dogs. They looked mean.
The Brilliant Doug, wearing his wolves shirt, takes one look at them and barks. Yes, Doug barked at the pack of rabid mangy stray dogs. They paused for an infinitesimal moment … and then started barking and charging us, foaming at the mouth. A pack of mangy stray dogs. We shat our pants and fucking booooked it up the hill to our flat. We didn’t risk looking back. It was some scary shit.
AirBnb is quite popular in Argentina. The first apartment we stayed at was owned by Claudia, whom we never saw – she had a building caretaker to manage residents’ concerns. The keys were left in a combination lockbox attached to the front gate of her building. The unusual thing about the gate was that you had to turn the key in the lock to leave as well as to enter. Somehow or other, when we were evacuating the apartment, both sets of keys ended up in the lock box while we (Girish and I… Doug was spending the day at a Regus office, more on that another time) were still inside. WTF!
Luckily, the gate wasn’t solid — we could slip our hands through the bars and touch the lockbox. However, we couldn’t see the dials that we had to turn to produce the code. We had no mirrors at hand, so we started using the reflection produced by my iPhone screen. It wasn’t going well, and we were growing nervous when we realized what any selfie-taking dame would have thought of automatically: we could use the phone’s reverse aperture to see the lockbox. From there it was a hop, skip, and jump to get our backpacks into the cab of a grumpy old man and ride to Hostel Obelisco in bustling Centro.