Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Buenos Aires, Argentina--Day 12

Last night was the best night’s sleep that I have gotten my whole trip! I woke up this morning ready to hit the world, or at least go back to the Temaiken Animal Park. I got up and dressed and made it to the lobby by 9 o’clock. Perfect, this would give me an hour to get to the zoo, which was plenty on time since it opens at 10 o’clock. I would be the first in line! Surely the hippos would be out of the water! I got a taxi from the suave concierge and later than sooner it came to pick me up. This time it was a young guy who was really excited to see me get into his car. Hmmm….We sped off towards the zoo. And when I mean speed, I don’t’ think I can explain the amount of FEAR that I was feeling in this taxi. Never before have I been so scared for my life than in this taxi. Now I know that you are supposed to get out if you feel scared, but by the time I realized what situation I was in we had already whizzed by everything and was buzzing along on the freeway at an incredible speed. I’ve never seen anybody cut people off so close, and pass people at such a close distance, and follow them at such a close distance for that matter. To make matters worse, he got lost. He was convinced that we were going to “Ruta 52” which is a LOT different to “Ruta 25”. Its like 30 more miles or something! Anyways, we sped through several toll booths asking where the zoo was and just when he thought we were on the right track, we were wrong. He was good enough to stop the ticket clock and so I just had to pay the “pre-lost” price. Finally, about an hour and a half later, we made it to the zoo. (Yesterday it took a half and hour btw). Anyways, I was fine with getting out but unfortunately because the zoo is so very far away from everything, I had to have this same taxi take me back to the hotel. I dreaded asking him to do so but he was more than happy and I think ended up waiting for me in the parking lot while I was in the zoo.

I went straight to Bibi and Chiku and was the only person to arrive. I talked with a zookeeper and discussed the two hippos who were, of course, sleeping on the bottom of the pond. They were again really funny, with Chiku blowing bubbles out of her nose at an incredible rate. My hopes that they would be on land were crushed as I spent several more hours watching the two sleep. Groups of people would come and go and it was interesting watching people trying to find the hippos, since you couldn’t see them unless you bent down and looked through the glass to see them. Many people would glance for a few seconds and then walk on to the next animal, but the ones that stayed and actually found the hippos were really impressed with their size (que enorme!) and would stay and watch the hippos sleep for a bit before moving on. It was kind of nice watching these people get really excited about the hippos, as if they had been the first to discover the hippos in general. Since people would stay for roughly 4 or 5 minutes, I would witness this new excitement in those intervals as well. Lots of pointing, shouting and clapping, laughing and jumping up and down (honestly, especially for the little ones who couldn’t see the hippos).

Anyways, when it was time to go (and meet my fate?) I went back to the entrance and met my taxi man who was excitedly talking on the phone in a phone booth near the entrance. I almost didn’t recognize him and was about to walk right past. He saw me and began to shout excitedly at me, hung up, and then showed me where the taxi was. We sped off. This time I knew that the ride would be shorter because he actually knew how to get back. Thankfully it was, however it was funny because the driver was REALLY concerned about how I was feeling (estas aburrido?--translation: bored. Estas enojado?--translation: mad). Was he worried that I was mad at him for getting us lost? So I had to explain to the driver that no, I wasn’t mad at him, I was just hot and tired and hungry, etc. etc. and so that made him feel better. I was struck by the driver (not literally thank God) and how here was this person that I would only know for like four hours of my life and how concerned he became.

We made it back to the hotel safely and I said goodbye to the driver (if you go to Buenos Aires, be careful!) and back to the hotel to process and organize the pictures. Afterwards I decided to take more advice and head over to the Recoleta Cemetery, which is where not only Eva Peron is buried, but also a lot of Buenos Aires’ rich dead people. By the time I made it there (it took about an hour on the subway and to walk) it was about 5 o’clock which was perfect lighting because there were neat shadows being cast on all of the angels, crosses and statues. You walk in and there are tombs among tombs but they are absolutely HUGE and ordinate and stunning. Each one is made from marble or stone with elaborate doors and statues guarding the tombs. Most of the tombs were actual rooms in which it appeared that one could go in a sit down or pray with their dead family members. Several of the tombs had windows and doors that were broken so that you could actually look right at the coffins with virtually nothing in the way between it and you. Very eerie.

I was walking around taking it all in when I realized that I hadn’t seen anyone else in a long time. Turns out there was a reason, and this reason was that the cemetery had closed at 6 o’clock, and it was 6:30. Whoops. A guard found me and escorted me out. There was a small street market next to the cemetery which I walked through and then I began to walk back to (what I thought was) the direction of my hotel, stopping in a few shops on my way to find something to eat. I found something to eat after a very long walk, but I wasn’t very close to my hotel. It was ok though cause I was really hungry. I ordered the special beef, which turned out to be a really huge steak and tried to talk with the waiter about how I would get back to my hotel. After going around in circles in our conversation, we finally agreed that I had to take a taxi back to my hotel because the subway was now closed. I finished my dinner and was assured that I would find a nice taxi outside the restaurant. Sure enough, I did. In fact, it was the nicest taxi that I’ve been in so far (air conditioning…oh la la!) and the nice driver took my back to my hotel.

The only other minor mishap that I encountered today was that my hotel safe wouldn’t open so I had to call security to come open it. Two very interesting men came up and used a funny digital device that they plugged into the safe to open it. I was really happy because that wouldn’t have been a good thing to find it not working properly the day I am supposed to leave!

One more day in Buenos Aires and then its off to Madrid!!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.