Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Buenos Aires March 2008 Part I - Finally a Computer that works!

Finally, a computer that works!
From: Irene
Sent: March 2, 2008 1:01:27 AM
To: V

Dear V,

Sorry for the delay in getting you an update, but I´ve been having the worst /%&$%"/&%!!! problems with accessing the internet. It took me forever to figure out how to use WiFi with the HTC Touch phone, and the computer in the hotel was somehow excruciatingly slow. In addition, we have had non-stop action here so there was no time to compose emails.

Unlike last year of the big flight-delaying snowstorm, we were actually able to get on our flight and leave on time! You won’t believe the amount of checking I did on the internet for potential weather problems here in Toronto and Chicago (not that bad news would make any difference – if you are delayed you’re delayed). Our “airport limo” to the airport this time was a minivan taxi. Man Yung thought it was great – cheaper and more space!

Waiting to board the plane from Toronto to Chicago, we saw a lot of women at the airport wearing a lot of lululemon, and using the lululemon bags (not the ones you buy, but the ones you get to put your lululemon purchases in) as handbags. I wonder, is this a good or a bad thing? Does this mean we can now use the Loblaws and Dominion enviro-bags as fashion statement too? I can tell you that in this respect Man Yung is already ahead of the pack.

We stopped at Chicago O’Hare airport for a connecting flight to Buenos Aires. The airport was great for several reasons. We didn’t have eat “mystery/surprise” airport food (the special airport restaurants, bars and food courts we’ve encountered always look like they have a fancy food offerings, but mysteriously/surprisingly, the food ends up expensive and bland), O’Hare had MCDONALD’S so we were able to eat McDonald’s (yeah, I know it’s McDonald’s but at least it is consistent McDonald’s). There were some really good deals at the Duty Free. We bought some ridiculously inexpensive Chivas Regal for Martha & Manolo, Osvaldo & Coca and Alberto, and the bottles came with a free gift – fancy orange and black wheeled backpacks with the “Chiva’s Regal” logo. We spent hours wandering the airport, checking out the stores and waiting for the connecting flight – I’d say that’s the miracle of booking through discount flights with extra long waits between connections.

The novelty of being in an airport still hasn’t worn out for me – perhaps because airport = anticipation of the pleasures of being on vacation? Everything seems wonderful – the generic “hangar” airport architecture (so you will get confused as to which airport in the world you are in), lots of “brand name” stores with tons of books and magazines and shiny new “travel necessities” that you don’t need but you would be always tempted to buy because you have nothing else to do, the spectacle of people frantically clawing each other out of the way for a chance to use the electric outlets to recharge their laptops, and a string of Wolfgang Puck themed restaurants charging $4 for a bottle of water and $12 for a sandwich from a fridge! There were also big banners all over the airport indicating that Wi-Fi was enabled in the airport. I tried connecting to it with my phone. Didn’t manage to do it but it sure killed time!

We flew American Airlines this time. I’m a Continental fan myself, but for a promise of a few bucks in discount I would fly any plane! I was disappointed that seats on the plane from Chicago to Buenos Aires did not have their own individual tv screen and video system – they had the old 80’s overhead tv screens in the aisles instead. And the only movie available was some arctic documentary narrated by Queen Latifah. I didn’t bother to strain my neck to watch.

It seems that the trend nowadays in airplane travel is to either 1) bring all your luggage on board as carry-on or 2) check in your luggage and then lose it. The overhead bins are always jammed to capacity, and late boarders have literally no place to put their carry-ons. The poor lady seated next to me was one of the late boarders. She was a business traveler so she had all her stuff in a wheeled suitcase that just squeaked by the airport regulations for carry-ons. Unfortunately, the overhead bins up and down the aisle on both sides were completely full, and the suitcase was too large to fit under the seat in front of her. She was offered the possibility of checking in that piece of luggage, but she refused. So what happened? She stuffed the suitcase in the narrow legroom between her seat and the seat in front of her. So, where did she put her legs for the duration of the 12 hour flight? One of these days I should draw you a diagram. She must have been a Yogi master, because she neither exhibited discomfort nor died of a blood clot. In fact, I was restlessly moving around about 10 times more than her throughout the flight.

We were seated right next to the washrooms at the back of the plane. I thought Man Yung would be bothered by this, but in fact he thinks that these are some of the best seats on the plane, be damned! It wasn’t really that noisy, and we always knew when the washrooms were vacant. With the additional space, we could always get up and stretch without disturbing all the passengers within a 5 seat radius. Why is it that people always seem to look so awkward stumbling from their seats and lining up waiting for the washrooms to be vacant? Well, we completely avoided the embarrassment of having to be airplane washroom queuer-uppers! In fact, in our privileged seating positions we could stare disconcertingly at the people in the queues - more free entertainment than you can shake a leg at.

A couple of hours before landing, the yogi master/business traveler next to me noticed that I was watching tango videos on my phone, and struck up a conversation with me. She was a portena who travels a lot to the States to do business – in fact, she was a doctor who worked for a pharmaceutical company in Argentina. She had just been to Buffalo on business, but she had also traveled to Toronto before, and liked it very much and had a good impression of Torontonians as being really friendly and nice.

I don’t know whether it would be possible in an chance encounter with a stranger from any other country (certainly I don’t think it would be possible with Hong Kong-ers), but our fellow traveler immediately treated us like friends after a very short conversation. We exchanged business cards, phone numbers, email addresses and was invited to go shopping! We knew we were going to be just too busy to take up on her invitation, but it was really so nice of her to offer. In our experience of Argentinians, they are so welcoming and so warm that they are more family than some of our actual family members. Going to Buenos Aires is like going home.

Since we arrived in Bs As it has been really busy. We arrived just past noon on Friday, and we had to call Alberto and M&M right away. After calling Alberto we immediately had plans for Friday with him, and M&M asked us to meet them in the Canyengue class on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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