31 January 2011

la vida loki

It's been an absolutely insane week. I don't even know where to begin. The people here are ridiculous, the work is ridiculous, everything is just out of control. I've been moved into the staff room, which may be the closest thing to a frat house I've ever lived in. In the past week I've had drinks bought for me and been told I had the best body 'of all' by patrons. I'm going to take that last one to mean that I have the best body of all the women in all the world of all time. Pretty big compliment. I mean, I don't even work out. This is easily the funnest job I've ever had.

I went whitewater rafting a few days ago with some guys who came into the bar, a Kiwi and a South African. I think they really only asked me so they could get a discount for having more people, but it was still so much fun. Such an adrenaline rush.

The last time I went whitewater rafting, I was maybe 16 or so, and I was in Colorado with my softball team. So basically I'm an expert by now.

Last Wednesday was Straya Day (Australia Day). We had an all-day celebration, with drinking games and a barbecue and all sorts of insanity. To follow that up, I tried to get everyone on the bandwagon to celebrate Kansas Day a couple of days ago, but no one was having it.

I sang 'Rehab' with a couple of the other barladies the other day. I chose the song because, well, we work in a bar, and if I were a good enough singer to have a 'wheelhouse,' Amy Winehouse songs would be in it. Also singing with us was an Argentine guy named Gonzalo. He was Pumba in the Buenos Aires company of the Lion King musical, and he was hilarious. We sat at the bar with the South African guy and the Kiwi, making origami swans. After a series of escalating dares, Gonzalo jumped up on the bar and started singing Britney Spears in a dress. Because he did this (and rocked it), Kiwi lad (aka Sammy) had to walk up and down the bar in a bikini. Good fun.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this because the night before, my camera had broken while I was taking pictures with the other barladies. I'm not actually sure what happened; I just know that I asked someone to hold it while I went to the bathroom, and I came back to find it broken. Thankfully, another bargirl, Jane from London, broke hers on the same night and took it to get fixed the next day. She got a great rate on it, and gave me the guy's card, so I went by today. The man looked it over and told me to come back in an hour for a quote.

While I waited, I went for a stroll to find some of the local markets. The most common souvenirs from here are things made from wool (hats, sweaters, gloves, socks, legwarmers, everything), silver jewelry, and cheesy souvenir tees. It's all pretty cheap; for instance, a sweater will set you back around $10, and a tee will cost you more like $3. So let me know if you want anything.

Anyway, I got back to the camera shop, and the guy told me he could fix it, and it would be S/60. That's $20. I jumped on that, since the last time I had a similar problem in the States, I was told to give up and just buy a new camera. When the man was finished and my camera was in proper working order, I was over the moon. "You are a genius," I told the man. "You are a man among men. A legend." He seemed unimpressed. I bet he gets that all the time.

22 January 2011


She made us drinks to drink, we drunk 'em, got drunk
And now I think she thinks I'm cool
She gave me a wink, I winked back
And now I think that we hit it off something proper like
-T-Pain, 'Bartender'

So. My first two nights of working in the pit are in the books. There have been ups and downs, but for the most part, it's been a lot of fun.

I've definitely made some rookie mistakes, though. I've blanked on drink recipes, and forgotten to open bottles for customers, and just done lots of silly things like that. I guess there was a French woman complaining about my slow service the first night, but another French speaker at the bar told her I was new, and to cut me some slack.

I was ridiculously nervous my first night, but that was probably mostly because we weren't very busy and had a little bit of time on our hands. Night two was so busy that I had no time to be nervous. There have been quite a few people teasing me about being new, and one guy came up to me and said, "Hey! You are the girl who won the contest the other night! You are very elastic!" in a heavy accent.

Last night was karaoke night, and I was told that I'd be forced to sing something as some sort of nightmarish bar staff initiation ritual. I decided on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song because it's not actually singing, and so many people know the words. In the end, though, we were busy enough that having even one less person behind the bar might have been detrimental, lucky for me.

I was in my new bed in the staff dorm by two am. Someone had left a couple of backpacks up there, even though my stuff was already there (there are no spare lockers) and the bed was reserved, and it looked like someone had napped in there. I flipped the pillow, put the bags on the ground, and slept until four in the afternoon.

20 January 2011

the professional

First off, I added pics to my last post, so if you haven't seen those yet, you should probably check them out.

So after rolling into the Loki at five in the morning, I took a brief nap, but awoke with a determination to get things done. After that mammoth blog post, I went to talk with the bar manager about working here. I had a little spiel prepared in my head, about how I thought this would be a great way to get my foot in the door of the hospitality industry, and even though I don't have any actual bar experience, I've worked in similar environments, and blah blah blah. . . but when I went to talk to him, I said, "Hi, I've been told to talk to you about bar work?" and he simply told me to come back at 6:30 so he could put my name on the schedule. That simple.

He put me down for two shifts this week, because they just had a girl leave really suddenly and they needed someone to pick them up. That was it. No training, no interview process, nothing. So I sat around talking and playing 'drinking games' with the group that I met on the bus.

Now, when I say we played drinking games, I mean we sat around a table and talked and played silly memory games with funny rules and nursed beers. We exchanged travel tips, talked about missing people from home and growing through travel, and enjoyed dinner together. There was a Czech girl who had spent an exchange year attending high school in Montana! How cool is that? She and I had a talk about how seriously Americans take high school athletics, and how we have a chance to rediscover ourselves when we travel alone. She actually spent a month camping alone in New Zealand after she left London and broke up with her boyfriend, because she'd been with him for ten years and felt like she'd forgotten who she was. Our whole conversation was really interesting.

When 9:30 rolled around, the hostel bar started up their own games. They also seem to have missed the point, because these games didn't involve raucous consumption of alcohol or chugging contests or anything like that; they were more about friendly competition (or maybe that should actually be the point of drinking games, and American college students are the ones missing the point. . .). The winners of these games were given a shot and sometimes a hostel tee shirt. You'd better believe I was in it for the shirts because I hate shots.

Game one was bingo. I'm not crazy about bingo, because it's all luck. I think my luck is average, and if things go well for me in life, I can usually attribute them to hard work or good karma. You can't control how well you do in bingo, and that annoys me.

However, once we got started, I seemed to be doing pretty well. The rules were as follows: the first person to fill in a line had to run between a couple of tables and hit the bar so the bartenders could check their numbers and then give them a shot. Lines involving the free space in the middle of the card didn't count. After that, the first person to fill in their card would also get a shot and a tee shirt.

Given my stance on bingo and games of chance, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself with only one spot missing along the top row. The others encouraged me to creep closer to the bar so I would have an advantage, since we were seated in the corner. "I'm not much of a sprinter," I kept telling them. "This could be embarrassing."

Fortunately, I didn't trip when that last number was called, but I did look like a fool racing nobody to the bar. I gave my shot to another girl in the group and laughed about my luck, which I was certain had been exhausted in those first few minutes of bingo.

But within about ten minutes, I had filled every spot on my card but two, and one of those was the free space. Again, I edged closer to the bar and prepared for what I was sure would turn out to be nothing.

Guess who's got two thumbs and a free hostel tee shirt? That's right, this girl.

Giddy because of the luck I never knew I had, I settled down for game two: a memory game. We divided up into groups of three and tried to memorize a series of ridiculous images on the television screen. Did I ever tell you that in high school, I used to rock tests because of my semi-photographic memory? Oh yes. Another free shot for Lizzie.

The next game was musical chairs. If you know me, you know I am incredibly clumsy. But I have mad hip-checking skills. I was actually renowned on my hall in college because I could rearrange my friends' dorm furniture by bumping it along with my ample booty, and that ability serves me well in games like musical chairs. Unfortunately, I was undone by a slick spot on the floor, and only came in second place.

The final competition involved an empty cereal box on the floor, and a circle of competitors. One by one we tried to pick up the cereal box using only our mouths, with our hands behind our backs and knees off the floor. After each round, a half-inch of the cereal box would be torn off.

Almost everyone was using some sort of squat or lunge approach, but I've got weak knees and super-flexible joints, so I spread my feet apart, locked my knees, and did the damn thing. Not exactly ladylike, but you know what? After the first round, the emcee was announcing me as "The Professional from Kansas" (which I'm pretty sure is not a good thing), and a few people actually dropped out because they felt there was no way they could compete against me.

My toughest competition was actually a 6'4'' Aussie guy named Kyle, who kept coming over to me and trying to make a deal where we would split the prize tee shirt 50-50 down the middle. As in we would each get half of a tee shirt. I politely declined.

By the final round, there was nothing left of that cereal box but a flat slab of cardboard. I was worried, because my legs were shaking and I thought my knees might go at any second. I ended up falling into the splits, which led a few people to call for my disqualification, but the judges wouldn't hear of it.

Guess who's got two thumbs and two hostel tee shirts? That's right, this girl.

Guess who's got two thumbs and woke up this morning with aching hamstrings and popping hip flexors? I don't think I need to say.

Anyway, it's about an hour before I'm supposed to report for duty, and I have to try and get my stuff moved into the staff dorm. I'm sort of getting thrown into the pit with a night shift, but there will be at least two other people behind the bar and there's supposed to be a band playing, so it should be pretty relaxed. Wish me luck!

19 January 2011

"have faith."

"And I buy the bar a double round of crown, and everybody's getting down, and this town ain't never gonna be the same. . ."
-Big & Rich, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy"

Wow. What an exhausting four days I've had since I wrote last. This is going to be one of those really, really long posts so try and get comfortable before you get started. Maybe grab a drink or something, run to the bathroom just in case. Okay. You ready?

Let's get started.

Last you heard I was setting off by taxi to catch my 6 pm bus out of Buenos Aires. This being my first major bus trip, I figured it would be similar to a flight in that I should be ready to go an hour prior to departure. Turns out I was wrong. Of course, I was panicking when six'o'clock came and went with no sign of my bus, but apparently the six'o'clock printed on my ticket was the time that the bus would show up, not the time it would leave. Or maybe it was just late. Who knows.

I settled into my seat and was pleased to find myself seated beside a slim Argentine businesswoman, probably the best possible seatmate to have for a three-day bus journey. And then, about thirty seconds later, I realized that I was in the wrong seat. My actual seatmate was a man who roughly resembled a more tan version of the captain of the spaceship in Wall-E. He kind of looked like a big baby. I never got his name, but I know that his surname was Lopez. I imagine his first name being something like Miguel or Gabriel, like the Latino comedian who refers to his body type as 'fluffy.'

The first night was a lesson in confusion for me. I could not for the life of me find the bathroom on that bus, and the roadside diner we stopped at had neither toilet paper nor potable water. No teeth brushing for me.

We watched whatever DVD's people had brought with them, which often meant that they were bootlegged and of horrible quality. There was Walled In (Los Muros in Spanish), All Good Things (Crimen en Familia), The Expendables (didn't catch the Spanish name of that one), The Centurion (couldn't be bothered to watch any of it), Ice Age 2, G-Force (Fuerza G), and several more that were equally forgettable. Oh, and there were several discs of music videos of Latino top 100 hits and things like that. That was actually ridiculous.

From Buenos Aires, we drove almost due west towards Mendoza, arriving Sunday morning. After that, we crossed the Andes (which are incredible) and went through customs. There was a little setback here, as we were stuck in traffic on an otherwise-lonely mountain road for around two hours because, as I heard it, someone in another car had died. There were ambulances and everything.

Customs took another few hours. We just stood around on and admired the mountains for a bit while our bags were checked and the bus was cleared. Pretty boring, but I bought some chips to distract myself. This was around the time I discovered that long-distance bus journeys make
my feet swell up a lot. Like a LOT. My shoes didn't fit any more, and it was really embarrassing.

That evening, we hit up another little restaurant on the side of the road, called the Oasis. There were more dodgy bathrooms with no toilet paper and no flushing capabilities. [Word to the wise: Bring wet wipes when you travel. For so many reasons.]

I was about out of pesos, so I went to wait by myself near the bus until the waiters took pity on me and invited me inside. I'd just settled down with my mp3 player and sketchbook when a waiter brought me a papaya-flavored soda and told me that my seatmate had extended an invitation to dine with him. He was alone, I was alone, so I went to sit with him and grill him about Peru while watching him go to town on his chicken dinner. I tell you, that man can put away a chicken. And the soda was delicious. Lopez constantly urged me to have faith in regards to my worries about life in Peru, and assured me that everything would work out.

After dinner, we kept driving west, and I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. And it is beautiful. There was another uncomfortable night of semi-sleep and we were told the next morning that we were going to have to make good time if we wanted to make it to the Peruvian border before it closed that night at 11. I wasn't sure what this would mean to me, because I'd been expecting to arrive in Tacna, the first town over the border, at 5:30 pm the next day. Turns out that even though I'd been very clear that my destination was Tacna, the man who'd printed my ticket had put the info for Lima on it. This meant that I might be arriving in Cusco a day early, which would mean no reservation. . . and of course, I started to panic. (I think I'm beginning to overuse that word.) Should I keep going to Arequipa, and take a bus from there the next morning? Would it be safe to stay in Tacna by myself? I've read a lot about kidnappings and murders in the Peru-Bolivia area. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I was actually scared, to the point that I considered staying on the bus until Lima, and taking a surprise flight home in the next couple of days. But there were a lot of variables, and all I could do was wait.

In the end, we arrived at the Peruvian border on time, and got to Tacna a little while later. I had assumed that I would be left at a bus stop, but we went straight to a restaurant. Lopez was good enough to clear things up with the bus driver, who in turn was good enough to unload my luggage and simply point me in the direction of the nearest hotel (which is to say, he wasn't very good to me at all). It was dark out, and there were clusters of people standing around in doorways. It seemed that the only thing to do was go to the hotel.

I had the option of a single room with a shared bathroom for S/. 15, or one with a private bathroom for S/. 25. Have I mentioned that the exchange rate is three to one? As in, that first room cost $5 and the second cost $8? You'd better believe I splurged on the private bathroom.

You know what? When I got into that room, with its yellow walls and linoleum floors, I almost cried with relief. There were two beds with faded sheets, the bathroom was a little janky, but the room actually had its own television. And it was all mine. I could put my stuff wherever I wanted, and I could wear whatever I wanted to sleep. I could go to bed as late as I wanted and play music and fall asleep with House on in the background.

The next morning, I took a shower and headed for the bus station. That's where I bought my bus ticket to Cusco and learned that I'd woken up two hours earlier than necessary, because of the time change. I also had my first Peruvian meal, a circle of fried cheese on a bed of white rice, with a lettuce and tomato salad on the side, along with a piece of cooked potato. It was served with a spicy salsa which I found really delicious and refreshing.

What with the spicy food, and friendly locals (one guy who worked behind the counter for a bus company spent three hours talking to me about what to expect in Cusco, who also told me that I should have faith), Peru was shaping up to be pretty awesome. I got on my bus and discovered, once again, that even with my awesome Uruguayan tan, I was the whitest person there. Even with what I think are fairly pronounced cheekbones, I still stick out like a sore thumb with my green eyes and hair that I tried to lighten with lemon juice in Uruguay (to fit in with all the blonds there). I'm also insanely jealous of the thick
braids that these Peruvian women wear all the way down their backs.

In case you're not familiar with the culture, the Incans were pretty much the only major civilization around here to outlast the Spanish invaders and preserve their way of life. Even today, the women wear a traditional outfit of full, layered skirt, sweater or cardigan top, and a straw or derby hat on the top of their heads. And they don't use suitcases; instead, they carry their belongings bundled up in blankets on their backs. It's really amazing.

The bus to Cusco wound through dunes and hills, climbing gradually higher. We stopped a few times, and locals selling bread, fruit, and homemade drinks boarded the bus. I opted not to get anything, because the drinks were packaged in used soda bottles, and seemed a little sketchy. They also didn't have any vegetarian empanadas, which would have been really nice.

The biggest stop was at around nine in Puno, which is a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. I saw a few backpackers boarding, and decided to chat them up. It turned out they were headed to the same hostel as me, and we decided to share a taxi, which was great because who really wants to take a taxi alone at five in the morning? Not me.

This was also when they turned the bus heat on. I napped for a few hours, and woke up in time to see Cusco as we drove into it. If I'm being honest, it wasn't too promising. But I was still really excited to have my bus journeys coming to an end.

We checked in and I slept a few hours before getting a nice big breakfast. Then I talked to the bar manager about working in exchange for a room, and that seems promising.

And that brings me to where I am now, on a couch in the bar/lounge around of the Loki Hostel. It's been rainy all day, and I'm supposed to take some time to adjust to the altitude, so I don't feel guilty about staying in. Tonight, I'm meeting with the bar manager to discuss the work schedule. I need to decide how long I want to stay here--if it's going to be a few weeks, a month, or more. If I can find a volunteer program here, I'd be open to staying a month or more, but I should probably give myself time to see Machu Picchu and all those other great things. If anyone reading this has been to Peru, I'm so open to suggestions.

15 January 2011

pre-peru wrapup

A few things to get out of the way before I leave for Peru:

1) Went over to my good friend Jen's house on Thursday night. We made dinner with her roommate Wanner and his friend Andres, and then we werent out to a gay club in Palermo. I slept on their couch so I wouldn't have to pay for a cab home, which led to a few rumors when I rolled into the hostel around 1:30 the next day.

2) Went out today to try and track down a FedEx or a DHL to send a box of stuff home. Cara from Arizona accompanied me, as she was in search of a Western Union. It took ages, as it's a Saturday, but finally I found a DHL. And they told me it would cost $225 to send a small box home. So I guess I'm going to be carrying that with me for just a little bit longer. . .

3) I leave for Peru in, like, an hour and a half. So that means it's about time for me to head to the bus station.

See you in three days!

14 January 2011

the one where lizzie disappears for a little bit

So. I disregarded poll results and made my decision without any external input. As planned, I went down to the bus terminal to scope things out, and there I found three companies with advertised service to either Cusco or Tacna, the first town over the border in Peru. Only one of those companies had any available seats within the next week, so I jumped on that. As I result, I'm going to be in Cruz del Sur's last available seat on a bus to Tacna tomorrow. Once in Tacna, I plan on finding a bus to Cusco as soon as possible. Or sleeping in the bus station.

Did I mention that I will be spending three whole days on this first bus to Tacna?

Oh yes. I'm gonna head to the Coto tomorrow and stock up on snacks and drinks before I leave. And maybe sleeping pills.

It's been a busy couple of days in Buenos Aires. I actually have more positive feelings towards this city now that I'm back in it. Taking the Subte, getting whistled at in the street and having awkward exchanges with shopkeepers are much more enjoyable the second time around. Abasto was beautiful, much more than I remembered. And it's really nice to be able to find familiar brands and flavors. Like my melon-flavored water. And cream cheese and tiny onion-flavored bagel chips. My very favorites.

But tomorrow marks the start of a new adventure, and soon I'll be acclimatising myself to new flavors and new customs. I hear they're big on guinea pig in Peru. . .

12 January 2011

a farewell to uruguay

I am a free and liberated woman, and it feels amazing. I can eat when I want, go where I want, and do all of these things whenever I want. I'm going to hang out with people my own age, make mischief, and stay up late. No more responsibility. There is already a little bit of confusion, though.

I'm going to be here in Buenos Aires for at least two days. After that, I don't really know where I'm going. I've got an offer to go to a hostel in Cusco, Peru, and possibly work there for a month or so. If I don't hear back from anyone else in the next few hours, I'm probably going to head to a bus office and buy tickets to La Paz, and then on to Cusco.

My priority, however, is to sleep. I was driven to the bus station at around eight last night, and then I had four hours to waste until my bus actually left. I spent this time window-shopping, eating, and drinking a grapefruit-flavored German beer. (Don't worry, Mom, it was only 2.5% alcohol, which means I might as well have gotten a soda.)

When 11:40 rolled around, I got my bags out of storage and went to wait in line. I confirmed with one of the drivers that all I need was my credit card and confirmation number, since I hadn't been able to print my ticket. He said yes, but made me wait at the side for a bit. This was a little bit confusing, since he hadn't told me why I was waiting exactly, and a few times he shushed me when I tried to ask him. When the bus closed its doors and rolled away, I started panicking, but there were still plenty of people around me with their bags who didn't seem worried, so I tried to remain calm. At 12:05am, a second bus rolled up, and guess what? Because I'd been waiting so long, I was the first one to board. Definitely appreciated.

From that point, it was a five hour ride to Colonia del Sacramento, a port town on the Rio de la Plata. After going through customs and a brief moment of tension when I couldn't present a document proving how I arrived in Uruguay, I boarded the Eladia Isabel ferry. The internet didn't work, so I looked through pics and watched Sydney White until I started to feel a little queasy. I decided to take a walk around the boat, and ended up on the top deck, enjoying the fresh morning air and the sight of the approaching coastline. I abruptly left the top deck when some creeper with a paparazzi camera came up to me and asked me if I liked any of the pictures he'd taken, all of which were zoomed into my face. I passed the rest of the time by talking to a guitar-playing Argentine.

Now I'm here at my hostel. Arrested Development episodes made the wait to check-in bearable, and since then I've slept and researched travel options for the next leg of my trip. I think I'm going to wake up early, go down to the bus terminal, and see what they can do for me. I'm looking to take a bus directly to Cusco, if at all possible. Since I started this post, I've pretty much changed my mind about going to La Paz, because they charge American tourists to enter the country. Yuck.

08 January 2011

same old story

Stop me if you've heard this before: I don't know where I'm going to be in three days.

Come on, admit it--you missed this! I know I did. Staying in one place for too long makes me restless.

Here's how it happened: Host mom just decided she didn't need an au pair, simple as that. She's got both her parents around to watch the kid, and he's frequently over at his friends' houses, so she doesn't see the point of having me around to watch him for five hours a day. I can see her point, but his English isn't going to improve like she wants it to unless he's conversing frequently with a native speaker.

So there was no big disaster, no falling out or anything like that. To make things clear, I did not immerse myself in a torrid affair with the boyfriend or ride a horse naked through the streets of Jose Ignacio (although that would be fitting). She just decided to cut things short by two months and give me only a few days' warning.

I've been looking up flights, bus routes, and hostel job openings for the past couple of days, and here's what I've come up with: Peru. I want to go to Peru. There's so much to see there, from Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca (it's okay, I laugh when I see the name too) to volcanoes and some of the world's best surfing in Mancora. It doesn't hurt that some of the cheapest flights home I've seen depart from Lima's airport. They're so cheap, in fact, that it would cost more to fly out of Montevideo or Buenos Aires than it would to take a three-day bus trip to Peru, travel there for a bit, and fly from there.

So I think I'm going to head back to Buenos Aires this week, because that's where most of the buses leave from. I might spend a couple of days there, and if I have a confirmation on an opening at a hostel in Cusco, Lima, Mancora, or Arequipa, I'll hop on a bus and head up there.

Why don't I stay in Buenos Aires for a while, you ask? Well, it's hella hot there right now. It's a great city with so much to see, but when you combine the heat with the insane humidity, lack of beaches, and ridiculous smog, it seems a little unappealing. So I'm planning to see a few special people, visit the tourist attractions I missed, and then say adios.

It's true that I will miss Jose Ignacio. In my seven months away I have not found a single place that reminded me so much of home (except for the ever-present Atlantic Ocean in the background). The horses, the house, the kid I watch have all made this fantastic. But what I read in the articles before coming here is true: Jose Ignacio is getting a little too touristy. I mean, they have a Setai Club here, for goodness sakes. As if this were Miami or New York. And now that it's high season, the dirt streets in town are lined with Porsches, Benzes, BMW's, and any other high-class car you can think of. You can barely find a spot to lay out on the beach, unless you go a couple miles down the coast like I did in the pic above (come on, I couldn't be around people with a bum as white as mine).

And you know what? I'm ready to go somewhere a little more real. Somewhere with ruins and people who don't speak English, or even Spanish. Somewhere with a little more adventure.

I'm so excited to see where this next week will take me.

06 January 2011

foods that had better be waiting for me when I come home

1) a vegetarian fajita burrito from Chipotle, with black beans, cheese, some sour cream, mild and corn salsas, lots of guacamole, and lettuce. I challenge any Chipotle burrito-roller to fit all of those things inside a single tortilla without significant content spillage.

2) Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles. A lot of them.

3) Papa John's pizza with all the vegetables on it. . . or maybe just lots of cheese. . . I don't care as long as it comes with garlic dipping sauce and peppers.

4) A blooming onion. To hell with the fat content.

5) Sonic Cheddar Peppers. I would also like one of those pies they have cleverly disguised as a milkshake.

6) A massive plate of nachos.

I will make the last dish myself, so there's no need to trouble yourselves with that one. Everything else, however, must be delivered promptly to whatever gate I fly into.

Of course, all of this is still theoretical. I may never come home. But with foods like those listed above, it's going to be hard for me to avoid America for much longer.

Anything I'm leaving out?

05 January 2011

the polo times

I've not been really looking forward to the performance
But there's my cue and there's a question on your face
Fortunately I have come across an answer
Which is go away
And do not leave a trace
-The White Stripes, 'There's No Home For You Here'

All right, Lizbians (that's right, I just coined a nickname for my readers, one which indicates that you are sexually attracted to traveling the world), it's time to hear about the polo. I say 'the polo' because, in my experience, foreigners generally like to put that definite article in front of their sports. I've even heard rugby referred to as 'the rugby.' By native English speakers. Why?!

Anyway, the women's match was to be held Monday. Because host mom would be too busy getting everything set up, I stayed in Jose Ignacio on the beach all day after waiting with the little man for his summer camp mini-bus.

I knew the havoc eight hours in the sun would wreak upon my pale, pale skin, so I slathered on a thick layer of SPF 45. So what if it was three months past its expiration date? I would only be in the direct sun for a few hours, and then I would wrap up in my towel and sit watching the water with my back to the sun.

This plan worked gloriously, except for a few things. Well, one thing, really. I got really, really burnt. And it was a sneaky burn, too--it didn't reach full strength until the next day. So I didn't look too
bad when I made my way to the spot where I was supposed to meet the little guy.

Long story short, they were late in dropping him off. He was supposed to arrive at six (when the match started), but didn't get in until 45 minutes later. It was during this time that I discovered that my phone did not have a signal.

We then proceeded to Medialunas Calentitas (the best croissant joint you will ever find), where we were supposed to rendezvous with his grandmother. She wasn't there, and we couldn't call her, due to lack of signal. What else was there to do but pull up a couple of chairs and enjoy half a dozen medialunas while we waited for an hour?

When the medialunas were gone, I decided we'd better find another phone to use, so we went into a real estate office, and I had the kid put on his saddest face to incite sympathy. It worked, and the ensuing phone call revealed that the grandmother was waiting for us in Punta, 45 minutes away by car. Fortunately, the mom sent a couple of her people over to pick us up, and we made it to the match just in time. . . to see trophies handed out.

The next day, we set up an elaborate plan, designed to guarantee attendance at the men's match. The grandmother would pick up the kid from summer camp a half hour before the match. That way he would be there in time to participate in all the pre-match festivities. I would be riding with some of the staff from the stables, leaving almost two hours early.

I spent the early afternoon obsessing over what to wear, changing my outfit three or four times. The dress I'd bought seemed too dressy, even when paired with a tank top underneath, sandals, and casual hair. I ended up changing into black leggings (closest thing I have to riding pants, which I knew a lot of the spectators would be wearing), my past-their-prime suede boots, and the only white v-neck I have left. I tried to tunic it up by belting it. When I got self-conscious about the fact that it had been part of a Fruit of the Loom six pack of men's tees, which had cost altogether around $3, I threw a scarf on over it. Hopefully no one at the match would be able to tell that my entire outfit, boots, belt, scarf and all, had been bought for about $30.

Well, we ended up leaving about ten minutes before the match started, and somehow the grandmother got confused and didn't arrive with the kid until around 6:45. But it was sort of okay. I spent the entire match following the kid around, trying to convince him to take a seat and actually watch some of it. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by beautiful people and was even confused for one of them a couple of times by over-eager photographers. "Can we get a photo?" they'd ask, and the girls from the stables and I would shrug and oblige, like it was no big deal, and then give our names when asked. That was pretty exciting. Except I think that if those pics do get used anywhere, they'll have my first name spelled as Alis or something.

I doubt you will be surprised to learn that I did not manage to catch the eye of any of the competitors, and I was not invited to the after party at the Setai Club. After the match, though, I did get to hit up Medialunas Calentitas with the kid and his grandmother, who was hella hungry. Then she drove us home and, adding insult to injury, started getting herself ready for the same after party I was so desperate to attend. The mom and her Hassellhoff-lookalike boyfriend came home and started getting ready as well. How did I spend the night, you ask? I sat up until four in the morning, making sure the cat didn't open the door into the house (a neat trick he's learned) and leave it open for all manner of deadly intruders.

This morning, I was on my way into the guest bathroom, located in the room where the grandmother spent the night. On her nightstand was a mojito which she had apparently been unable to part with, to the point that she not only managed to smuggle it out of the Setai Club, but also brought it home and cuddled up next to it in bed. She's got to be late 60s, easy. How is that lady managing to party harder than me?

01 January 2011

2010 by the numbers

While waiting in the airport before my flight here a few weeks ago, I made a list of all the flights I've taken since I really started traveling in 2008. Since September, 2008, when I departed for Madrid, I've flown on a total of 44 flights. 23 of these flights were international, and 18 crossed a major body of water. Six were transatlantic flights.

This year alone I've been on 13 flights. Two of those crossed the Atlantic. I would really love to try and figure out the number of hours I've spent flying, or the number of hours I've spent in airports, but I feel like that would be just as impossible as trying to count the precise number of times I traveled Italy by train.

So that got me thinking--what are some other notable statistics from my year?

Times I applied sunscreen over the course of the European summer: 1
Times I have applied sunscreen since arriving in Uruguay: as many as possible
Quotes: "My revenge will be terrible!" "Ad astra per aspera" "I declare this the summer of Liz!" "Do something Irish!" "The best revenge is living well."
Countries visited: 8 (that seems low. . .)
Countries lived in: 4
Places I want to see again: Iceland, Nice, Viterbo, Amalfi Coast, Venice, Madrid, Buenos Aires
Places I hope to visit in the next year: Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Antarctica, Italy, Spain, England, and Home
Blog posts: 75
Bikinis purchased: 5
Ferraris in which I was a passenger: 1
Weeks of English camp taught: 10
Flavors of gelato tasted: more than I can count
People I've met in Uruguay who have been to Kansas/know where it is: 1
Bottles of vitamins my mother sent with me: 3
Months is took me to take said vitamins: 6
Indoor pools I had all to myself: 1
Currencies used: 6 (US dollar, Icelandic money, Euro, Croatian kuna, Argentine peso, Uruguayan peso)
Days I've been away from home: 206
A few songs of the summer: Tik Tok (Ke$ha), Waka Waka (Shakira), Monster (Kanye West feat. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj), Paul Revere (Beastie Boys), Young Forever (Jay-Z), Forget You (Cee Lo).

That's all I can think of for now. If you can think of any other interesting statistics or fun facts you want to know, comment.

the resolutions

I'm keeping it pretty simple here with these resolutions. Also, I have a limited amount of time in which to complete them, so I guess I should probably get started.

1) Learn to surf

2) Learn to play guitar

3) Become a better horseback rider