Saturday, January 24, 2015

Patagonia - Episode 1 - A stop over in Buenos Aires

Just a couple days ago, I was struggling to keep my eyes open through the dark night as I monitored my patient's blood pressure and heart rate.  I treated their pain and nausea and comforted them as they re-hashed the details of their own life changing events that had lead to this hospital stay.  When morning came and the shift ended, I quickly gave report as my mind drifted towards the next adventure.  

It was snowing hard on the drive home and it seemed like it was that sort of Wasatch storm that skiers dream about.  Instead of getting my ski gear together or collapsing in bed after a twelve hour shift, I quickly gathered the last of my gear and helped load our four large duffels in my friend's car as we made our way to the airport.  After months of planning, training and buying specific gear, I was finally leaving to travel to another hemisphere to climb in a mountain range that had truly impacted my life almost eight years ago. But this time I was bringing along my husband Jonathon.

The flights to buenos aires were a blurr.  We made our way to our hostel that was the scene of many twenty-somethings congregating and chatting about the next party or the next stop on their travels.  With our bleary eyes and four large duffels, we surely stood out.  Our only task in Buenos Aires, was to exchange our dollars into Argentine Pesos.

Due to an extensive history of financial and economic turmoil, Argentina has two exchange rates; an official rate and an unofficial rate.  My sister, Johanna, had recently spent a lot of time in Argentina and gave us the beta about where and how to exchange our money.  Essentially she told us to go to Avenida Florida and look for the guys saying cambio, cambio, cambio. The woman running the hostel echoed this but told us to go to a specific address.  After navigating the subway, we made our way to this address and in my broken Spanish I explained that we wanted to exchange our dollars to pesos through the microphone on the outside of the building.  Unfortunately, I did not understand the man's reply and when I asked again, I did understand that this man was getting angry.  We quickly left that area and started wondering towards Avenida Florida.

No sooner had we started walking, a man approached us, asking cambio?  We responded yes and he said the rate was $1 to 12.7 Pesos.  We new that was a good rate and so we followed him across the street to a small quiosk type shop.  From the outside, it looked like a magazine stand.  He ushered us in the small door and then quickly closed the door.   Jonathon and I were crammed inside this small building, where we met a petite woman standing behind a glass-protected window with a legitimate looking money counter.  Thinking that this was starting to look more official we exchanged the majority of our money. 

As we walked away, we quietly giggled about the absurdity of that entire situation. We eventually made it to Avenida Florida where we exchanged the rest of our money.  Exactly as my sister had described, there were many men yelling out cambio, cambio, cambio.  There were police patrolling the area and they seemed to ignore the interactions or just looked the other day.  I started to recognize this area from my brief visit to Buenos Aires in 2008.  I don't recall this sort of underground exchange rate and the city looked a little dirtier than I had remembered.  Regardless, the people were friendly and the food was tasty.  

With our one and only task complete, we knew our stop over in Buenos Aires had been successful.  

Jonathon navigating the streets of Avenida Florida

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