Destinations, South America

The Last Dance

July 6, 2009 • By

My finals days in Buenos Aires proved to be some of the best days of my 30s.  I drank, ate and danced my way right to the airport.  Between salsa dancing, vino tinto and a dulce de leche overdose, I could barely pack when the time came for pulling out my suitcases.

I finished class a week ago scoring an 85 on my exam.  It wasn’t by best performance but considering I needed to perfect my salsa moves and eat lots of meat before I left I think it’s completely respectable. On the last day of class, each student is expected to give a speech in Spanish.  I carefully drafted my farewell and included my favorite moments as well.  I am sure this comes as no surprise but before I even uttered a word, the tears began to fall.  Eventually, I composed myself and continued until I reached the part about my newfound friends.  I said, “me encanta….sniffle, cry, sniffle…dulce de leche.”  One of my friends pointed out that my crying preceded the part about my love for Argentina and my newfound friends and pertained directly to my love for dulce de leche.  In other words, I would miss dulce de leche more than anything.  HMMM….It’s totally possible but not likely.

After my speech and numerous good-bye activities, I went on a shopping mission, which ended in the purchase of 2 pairs of boots and a bottle of champagne to celebrate not only my last day but of course my new shoes.  Landra and I decided a panqueque de dulce de leche would be more appropriate since we always prefer dessert to wine.  We finished off the day with a trip to a NY type restaurant and a visit to a club called Rumi.  After a Michael Jackson tribute and an hour of electronic music, Landra and I decided it was not our thing.  Elated we lasted until 3 am, we were even happier when we exited and saw 200 18-year-olds in line.  The highlight of our night occurred in the cab on the way home.  It’s not what you think.  We commented to our driver that we hated electronic music and he managed to find the answer to our prayer or maybe just mine.  He landed on a station playing Air Supply’s, “Lost in Love.”  While I was belting out the lyrics, the cabbie passed our destination.  He tried telling us he was so blinded by our beauty he missed our stop. PLEASE!!!!

On my last party night in Argentina, Landra and I planned to go to a party called Vote to Drink.  You see the country shuts down on Election Day (Sunday) and after 6 pm on Saturday all the bars, clubs and restaurants stopped serving alcohol.  In fact, the bars and clubs closed until Monday night.  It is obligatory for Argentineans 18 and older to vote. However, many are so fed up with the corruption that they try to avoid the process entirely.  My local friend claimed she needed to get drunk in order to vote.  I thought it was pretty funny considering officials try very hard to avert protests and riots and all you hear about it food and money being given to villagers to vote for a particular candidate.

We arrived at our “house party” at 11 pm.  We had no idea what to expect but we figured the chef was an American so it wouldn’t be horrible.  There was a DJ and a house full of strangers.  The party started off slow but after a few drinks and some Michael Jackson tunes it turned into quite the party.

And now for the weird part…

At the beginning of the night, Landra and I met a guy from the States who had been living in Buenos Aires for 9 years.  We talked to him for a little bit but I had this weird feeling I knew something about him.  A few drinks later, I cornered him in the bathroom line and asked him if he had a sister who was 35-years-old.  When he replied yes, I told him I met her at Starbucks a month ago.  I am confident he thought I was nuts especially after I said, “Your sister is the reason I am leaving Buenos Aires on Monday.  She changed my life.” (As you may recall, one day while pondering my future, I met a girl at Starbucks who told me she survived on $20 pesos a day and she missed the modern conveniences of home etc.  I talked with this girl for maybe 15 minutes but she had an impact on my decision to leave.  She happened to mention her brother had been living in Buenos Aires for 9 years.) Now you see where this is going.  I thought 9 years seemed to be a random number and when Fred said he lived in Buenos Aires for 9 years my gut said this had to be his sister at the Starbucks.  I went on to describe her and everything she told me fit.  As in life, there is always more to the story.   Fred told me she married at 22, moved to Ireland and somewhere along the way became addicted to drugs.  In and out of rehab, she divorced and he brought her to Buenos Aires to start over.  She had been living with him until recently when she started using drugs again.  I found it a bit ironic he told me this while smoking pot but…it made me realize how often strangers come into our lives and change it without even knowing it.  I was saddened to learn of this girl’s story but hopeful she can still change.

After I calmed down from my discovery, I rejoined Landra and Brian (trust fund, gifted artist, singing sensation, Harvard boy) on the dance floor.  Brian was conversing with the DJ trying to get the guy to play more 80s and less electronic music.  I don’t know what he said but it worked and we danced until 5 am.

For my final meal, I headed to my favorite neighborhood restaurant.  Still reeling from the night before, I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings until I heard a young man next to me struggling with his Spanish.  Talk about déjà vu.  On my third night in Buenos Aires, I went to this exact restaurant and sat where this guy was sitting but I was the one fumbling over my words.  That is how I met my friend Kate (American teacher living in Chile).  She heard my Spanish, realized I was American and started chatting with me. Here I was a few months later doing the very same for this person.  He had arrived three days prior and enrolled in Spanish classes but didn’t know anything.  I gave him some help ordering dessert and pointed out a few things he should know about Buenos Aires.  My trip had come full circle and it was yet another sign it was time to go home.

Alas, Landra arrived for our final dessert together.  We split a (big surprise here) panqueque de dulce de leche with ice cream.  It was the perfect end to my last night in Buenos Aires.  I shed a few tears when Landra and I parted.  Ironically, it was raining – only the 4th time since my arrival in Buenos Aires.

The next morning I struggled with my 5 bags to the airport.  I didn’t have time to be sad, as I was a bit preoccupied with my bags.  In what universe did I think I would successfully hide 2 checked bags and 3 carry-ons?  Clearly, the nice lady at Lan Airlines wasn’t buying my story.  She charged me $60 for my overweight luggage.  With every passing minute, these bargain boots are becoming a hazard to my health and wallet.