Mendoza - Simon Bell

It’s 2:30 on a Tuesday at University of Belgrano and our homie, Agu, is staring at his computer screen, making phone calls, and sporadically punching his keyboard on his computer. He looks up. “You need to pay me $11,500 in pesos by 5:30,” he says in his broken Argentine English. Sara and I hand our cards to him which he shakes his head at. We need cash. $11,500 pesos in cash. And we need it in the next 2 hours to reserve 5 seats on a bus to Mendoza, Argentina. The buses require reservations 48 hours in advance. It’s coming down to the wire. We call our other friends asking them to bring as much cash that they can. In the end, Agu ends up spotting us about $4000 pesos to go on our trip which we eventually paid him back for. It’s amazing the people you meet in life. Agu is one of many people in my time in Argentina who have been amazingly hospitable. Proof that in fact most people in this small world of ours are good.

48 hours later, I’m sitting on a subway car with my backpack. It’s almost 5 and it’s rush hour. Our bus leaves at 6:00. I get off at the last stop of the blue line in Retiro and step into a sea of movement. I need to act quickly. In my coat pocket I have a voucher for 5 tickets to Mendoza. I need to find out where to obtain the tickets, get them, find my friends, and then find out where to catch our bus. I’ll also add that at this point I have no access to a phone – there is no wifi in the massive bus station which seems odd to me but what are you gunna do? I see a sign: “Boleterias”. That’s me. I head up a flight of stairs and stop at Box 1. I wait in line for 5 minutes, get to the front of the line where a woman tells me that I’m at the wrong box. I head to Box 4 as directed. I’m scrambling at this point. Box 4 tells me to head down to box 34 and box 34 tells me that I can get my tickets printed at Box 77. Thank God for Spanglish. It’s 5:30 now, I have the tickets and no friends. My mind thinks to all the places they could be. We hadn’t set any type of meeting place, in fact, we had all come separately. I back track. Maybe if one person had seen another they would stop and stay put. I scan every face as I walk briskly back down the stairs, down the terminal – there! Three of them are standing outside a magazine kiosk. I start laughing when I see them. What are the odds!? But Sara is still missing. I have just about 20 minutes to try to find her. We still don’t know which bus platform to wait at. I’m running now back toward the subway. Retiro is a zoo. I try to attempt the impossible and look for her. I make it to the subway. Now I have ten minutes to get back to the bus station to leave at 6:00. I run back and to my relief Sara miraculously found the other three. Our tickets give a range of platforms that our bus could come into which we eventually. An hour later, we are sitting on our late arriving bus. Exhausted, I fall asleep in my semi-bed on the top level of the double decker bus.

I wake up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Groggily, I find out that the bus has broken. I can’t help but laugh. What else could go wrong….

_________________________________________________________________________________

Well, things can always get worse. Eventually, we boarded another bus. Our new bus dumped us off at a bus station in San Miguel where we waited a few hours for another bus to drop us in Mendoza. My friend Bre had lost her jacket and $1000 pesos. My phone had slipped out of my pocket in the broke-down bus which I realized 20 minutes into our trip on our new bus. My phone is gone. Finally, we make it to Mendoza. We were tired and had arrived 12 hours after we had expected. A 12-hour trip turned into 24. From there it got better - it had to. We rode horses, dipped into some hot springs, climbed some mountains, and visited the Andes. We met a new friend named Nancy. We rode in the back of stranger’s pickups. We were the most touristy as tourists can get. I hereby vow to never again be as touristy as I was this weekend. _________________________________________________________________________

And here I am again on the bus returning to Buenos Aires. All seems well with this bus. I’ve been thinking a lot about being present lately. There is a lot wrapped up in this and frankly I am not sure where to start. I guess what I mean is that I want to live a life where I don’t spend much of it thinking about where I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about the future is smart. And thinking about the past is necessary. And dreaming is only natural. But there comes a point when it becomes overwhelming to think about what could happen or what you want to happen or what you want to do or where you want to go or where you’d rather be. I don’t keep a bucket list, but there sure are things I want to do in life. Too many. I will never do them all. I’m in Argentina right now on a trip that I’ll never forget. I’m here for two months. I’m traveling. Learning a new language. My mind is so young here. Everything is new and fresh. And yet I sit at the base of a mountain in the Andes and wish that I had the time to climb it. I stare out the window of a guided bus tour at a winding river and I wish I could fish. I want more. Is this just human nature – or is it controllable? Life might be a little more enjoyable if I could enjoy the moment I’m in. And yet despite my knowledge of this, the thoughts still come around. Maybe I’ll never keep them away. Life is all about balance. I want to be a dreamer. I want to be a historian – a story teller. And I want to fascinated by what’s around me and by my moments. Here are a few moments…

SB