Must. Get. A. Hold. Of. Life. Now. Life has been a hustlin’ bustlin’ blur since my “1 month anniversary” when I last reported and I mean that all in the most amazing, unhealthy, glamorous, exhaustive way possible. Is that all even possible? In Buenos Aires, my heart is still ticking somehow, and the smile on my face remains intact 24 hours a day, even during those few hours when I find the time to sleep…
I had an experience in mid-March that was the catalyst for the blurred couple of weeks that have ensued—the very fault for me neglecting my blog.
If only I could remember exactly what it was? Was it that I am starting to get to a point in my stay here when I miss the variety of food we have at home? How the pizza here, despite the millions of Italian immigrants is probably some of the worst and simple pizza I’ve ever had? Or the numerous trips I made to about 6 different locations to get all the ingredients to make Chicken Curry and Indian Spiced carrots for Roberta one night? Red Onion is practically nonexistent here. Ask an Argentine where to find a red onion and the common answer is, “There’s such a thing as red onions?”
No, that’s not it. Maybe I was going to share the fact that I feel like an absolute Diva here, covering the entire spectrum from Marilyn Monroe to Beyoncé, when I walk down my red carpet (aka, any street in Buenos Aires) and from piripos (horny street men) to professional business men, I hear: “Vos sos una Diosaaa” “You’re a Goddess!” , “Sos una reina” “You’re a queen!” , “Que chica más Hermosa…” “You’re the most beautiful girl!” or “Que bellezaaaaaaaaaaa” “Sooo beautiful!!!.” I know I can complain about machismo here, but who wouldn’t want a little bit of, 1 part creepy, 1 part romantic comments to put a little hop in your step while running errands or waiting to catch the bus? Those kinds of moments are the very ones that pick you up when you are down after trying to find shorts or jeans in a woman’s clothing store and you ask for the biggest size possible and then want to cry in the dressing room when the waist makes it just over your knee caps before coming to an abrupt stop…
But that’s clearly not my earth shattering big news. Was it that since I moved from Javier’s place in Belgrano to Plaza Italia, I have cut my commute to work in half and also get to take advantage of the new fabulous bike paths for my entire ride to work? And that despite my incredibly brisk 25 minute bike ride to work in the microcentro, followed by 4 hours riding a cruiser bike, I have not lost a single pound because I have this really loyal, faithful relationship with a scrumptious invention that is the argentine empanada….(and meat, and wine, and cheap beer, and fiber one…).
What was that important news flash I was going to write about? It definitely had nothing to do with the fact that I wish I had a video camera to capture the looks from Argentines as they look at my legs in shorts every day, sometimes with a look of absolute confusion and surprise which always makes me laugh inside and think, “I am suchhhhhhhh a foreigner to them! I see them staring. I wonder what they are thinking.” My question was answered when my Norwegian thighs became a topic of conversation, in a shoe store when I went to buy crocs (so my foot infection could be ventilated but covered when I started the bike job—people wear crocs like crazy down here?! I guess it’s the New England dansko clog?) and then before I even realized, the shoe man was poking my thighs with a few of his fingers, and looked at me in disbelief and said, “Wow, Look at your legs, they are big and strong, and then look at mine (he rolls up his jean shorts and begins to flex his quadriceps and compare our thighs) but—what sports do you do? Are you German?” Ha. Ha. I think that could’ve all been a law suit brewing in the U.S, but I took it in stride and decided as long as it’s all positive energy, I’ll add it to my list of Diva comments. And the shoe man—whose only dream is to see a Bruce Springsteen concert—closed a shoe sale.
Perhaps I wanted to report on the conversations I have with my American friends here that primarily revolve around the phenomenon of the male fanny pack (my friend Sis: “I mean guys have to carry stuff too”), and the absolute passion for rollerblading that exists here—to the point where the parks are filled with rollerblading coaches and colored cones are strategically set up all over the paved roads in the parks for practicing all types of maneuvers. Or the free amazing modern opera I saw at the famous, historical Teatro Colon on Wednesday night, followed by another free concert with the Magnetic Zeros opening for Jane’s Addiction on Thursday night? Or that I randomly run into my Argentine friends here in the subway or street corners, and help people who are lost, or find the right bus, which makes me feel like I couldn’t be more integrated into the city here! Can’t wait to show Alison around in approximately 1.5 weeks!
Hold up. Picos. It had something to do with Picos. Ay Dios Mio. That’s it! March 18th, 2011—a day that I continue to describe as potentially one of the most dangerous days of my life and also one of the highest points in my life. It was a day when I decided to sign up for a double Friday shift of bike tours, thinking that our large afternoon reservation would result in $$$$$.
Enter my life altering experience: 30 Large and in Charge and handsome Brazilian Rugby Players from Sao Paolo.
They arrived at our main plaza like an army but their intimidation factor sizzled as they marched closer (everything a little in slow motion for me), once I was able to read their matching jerseys, “Buenos Aires Rugby Drinking Tour 2011”. Oh boy. Or should I say, boys. What did I just sign myself up for? My heart was pounding thinking, “someone is going to die today, surely” and it was also pounding, “I might be the luckiest single female tour guide in the whole world right now”. Before I could say my name, while one of them held a video camera straight from the 80’s over his shoulder like a boom box and proceeded to film everything, I was interrupted by the synchronization of 30 deep manly voices chanting, “Picccco Picccco Picco Pico, Piccco Picco Pico Pico…” and it only took me about 30 seconds to learn my first Portuguese word: Kiss. Oh boy(s).
It gets better and worse, all depending on how you look at it. These boys weren’t even on the bikes yet. But once they were, the entire city and its neighboring provinces could’ve heard the smashing of tires on the tiled plaza floor as the team jumped up and down on their old, clunky cruisers chanting in Portuguese and never ever stopped ringing their high pitched silver bells. I found myself crossing intersections and looking at innocent bystanders for the next four hours on the street saying, “Disculpa!” “Excuse me!” “Perdón!” “So sorry!”
We had flat tires. We had 10 of them get lost. There were ones who needed Portuguese translations, others who wanted English, others Spanish, there was one in particular who kept riding next to me and while doing the “eye brow move” would say in a little accent, “We meet again”. I would nervously giggle and pedal on. Or I was about to break into some historical fact in front of some sacred monument and I’d hear “What is your telephone number!!!!!!!!???” to which I’d joke, “I haven’t remembered it yet! (which was true!)”. With all jokes aside, it was almost easier maneuvering a group of 30 in matching jerseys on bikes because then all the inconsiderate selfish drivers here actually stopped because they kind of had no choice. I was nervous because our tour is a veryyyy urban, traffic filled, rush hour kind of chaos sometimes, but it proved to be advantageous to go in such a large group.
Four hours later, we arrive to my fancy office, also known as a parking garage and I ran and got my camera to document this day and also to build some credibility, because who would really believe I spent my afternoon with 30 male Brazilians? I asked for a group photo, and in the blink of an eye and an “I dream of Genie” wiggle of the nose, I was tightly surrounded by the entire team and I was sure that within seconds I’d be airlifted and crowd surfing, but instead I blushed, feet semi planted on the sidewalk, as they all chanted nonstop “Pico Pico Pico Pico Pico (X100)” and in that same time I ended up with a wet ear and a bunch of wide-eyed business professionals stopping on their commute home from work to see what on earth was going on.
“Okay, bye everyone! Thank you so much! Good luck in your Rugby Game tomorrow!” as some of them frantically began to explain where they were playing the following day and made it clear that I was invited. One of the macho leaders, stopped me with his broad shoulders and massive arms and said, “Hanna, it is a tradition to learn all of our names before you can go.”
“Huh? What?! 30 of them?” Okay, I was a teacher, I learned 80+ names on the first day of school every September. I can rock this! Actually, it was quite the opposite. The boys jumped into a single file line, which still meant they blocked the entire sidewalk and began to approach me in my greasy-bike-uniform get-up and stare at me, say their name (beautiful names, but very Portuguese and half the time I had a hard time repeating them back) and then present me with two picos on each cheek, and sometimes more. They made it all through the line and I was just about was ready to faint. Weak in the knees, I thought, “Okay they will all head home now”. The leader, “Okay Hanna, do you remember our names?” I was able to produce ONE. Leandro—the easiest for me to understand, but I even called the wrong guy Leandro, and my odds should’ve been good because there were two Leandro’s!
They line up again, and wait patiently as 30 men continue to individually say goodbye to me. They approached the second time looking at me and giving me at least 10 seconds of silence to see if I could produce their name and with a sliver of hidden disappointment in their facial expressions, they’d repeat their name again and get back in the end of the line.
My mind was a blank slate. I think this went on for about 4 whole rotations. Complete embarrassment on my part. We finally said our goodbyes and I thought that was the end of that…
Until the next morning when I found myself calling a few rugby centers in Buenos Aires to track down a Brazilian Rugby Team. I never made it to the game, but I will say I had about 6 girlfriends ready to jump on the train and go with me at any moment. I decided it was only natural to leave my number at the hostal they were staying at to see if we could all meet up over the weekend. That’s when the blur really started. From meeting five of them in the city center and being invited to an asado restaurant,
to Sunday night and Monday night, coming home at 6 am and heading to work practically without sleeping.
Tuesday day, invite the remaining Brazilians to my new pool at Roberta’s place.
Wednesday night, play soccer until midnight and all go get food and drink until 4 a.m, most of us in a funky little bar in our sweaty soccer outfits…going to bed at 5 am on a Wednesday night? Really?!
So I guess the real news update is: I am alive and well. And that I have 30 houses to visit in Brazil, complete with tour guides, and that I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already looked up how much flights are to Sao Paolo. And that I tried to change my ticket to stay here for a few more weeks in May because I really can’t begin to prepare my mind for returning yet, but the changing ticket fee is a whopping minimum of $250 Benjamin’s—so looks like May 4th with a May 5th arrival in Boston it is…followed by 5.5 day drive from Salt Lake City to Portland, Maine in mid June to kick off my Backroads leading season again. Getting paid to kayak and eat lobster? What a nice exchange for my life in South America!
Peace and lots of Picos,
Yours truly—Hanna Montana
*If you’ve made it this far in my entry and you are some of my friends and fam without facebook (Lauren!), here’s the link to my crazy life here thus far: I am not ready to go home just yet…