Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Buenos Aires

No, I didn't go to Australia, but I did cross the Equator for the first time and went to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It wasn't vacation - strangely that's still ahead of me. I was actually there on a freelance writing gig. Four days - in/out, a lot of writing and revision, not a whole lot of sight seeing. Suited me fine, especially because it was Winter!

Yeah, I didn't get that memo. In between properly celebrating a Holy Day of Obligation - August 15th, the Assumption of Mary, moving furniture into our new offices in Overland Park, making sure my assistant had everything she needed from me before I went to a place that cost $1.99/minute to make/receive a call, putting out a 20 page interview before I left, and assuring that I took care of business adequately so that the 24 hours I would be home (coming back from Argentina and leaving for the Cape) would be an exercise in efficiency, i.e. being picked up at the airport, taking a friend to the airport, briefing with my employees, giving a talk to students and parents, unpacking, packing, checking email, oh, and yeah, eating, sleeping, and a shower would be nice.

My way down to Buenos Aires took me through Atlanta, hub of Delta Air Lines.

It might be helpful to note why I was flying Delta. Well, besides being the cheapest way down there, it was an airline allied to my NWA frequent flier program. See, it's called "Elite Status", but they should really call it "Slave Status". Once you get to a point where you get a 50% or more mileage markup everytime you fly, priority security screening and boarding, priority baggage claim, and numerous free first class upgrades, you get a near entitlement mentality, or rather, you've logged so many miles in coach, that you make sure you re-qualify every year to make sure you fly coach as little as possible. Vain? Possibly. But flying in first class can make us fairly slaves to qualifying with miles. And flying first class enough makes coach seem much worse than it actually is.

Which is the long explanation of why I'm writing this in a Delta 737 northbound over the Carribean.

Atlanta is actually where the first title of the article starts. Homesick. A feeling newly felt by the newly implanted desirer of roots. Alas, I just had an interview published 2 weeks ago in which my interviewee denounced an excess of leisure travel. Then I travel 15,000 miles in two weeks. Chalk it up to bad planning in trying to align my personal and professional lives. :-) But in all seriousness, back to the story.

So I had a 5 hour layover. I should complain, right? Perhaps, had I not had a conversation with a friend that day in which he told me that he waited more for a domestic flight just the weekend before. Decided to keep my big mouth shut. I had brought a mountain of books anyway. Walked into the elite club, cause I wanted to be "cool" but they sent me out, my Panda Express in hand, with the admonition "no outside food!"

I went out to sit and eat and sat amongst a group of passengers headed for Gatwick (London). In a terminal of babel I found solace. Yes, they spell with extra "u"s and don't know that jaol is really spelled jail, but it was a comfort to hear that English being spoken. Twinge #1 of homesickness.

Oh, I would have taken a picture of the ridiculous bag searches going on, but I didn't feel like getting arrested. Safer, yeah right.

I got down to Argentina and felt incredibly stupid for a) not bringing a phrase book to brush up my haven't-spoken-in-one-year Spanish and b) not bothering to spend 5 minutes to re-remember that the Southern Hemisphere enjoys the diametric opposite seasons as we do, so when I arrived in my trademark Birkenstocks I found a cool, crisp 50 degrees. It would get colder. Oh, well, it was nice for a few days of difference :-)

4 days of journalistic endeavors passed like the wind in the quiet countryside I stayed in outside the city.

I'm always struck every single time I leave the US and see the real poverty...that is to say, we think things like a car, computer, internet, telephone are fairly normal barometers of even the poorest lives. Those things here are far from normal. Heck, the children play by the freeways.

Having come from a cosmopolitan household I dove right in with the local customs of eating, which included oil and vinegar as daily table items, and heavily salting the foods. When in Rome...I mean...cuando in Roma...

My companions practiced their English, and I practiced my Spanish. I sometimes fell back into Italian, and when missing a word, would try French - but I desperately wish I could practice all 3 regularly. My appreciation for Spanish is secondary to my love of the musical tones of Italian and French, but, still all 3 are formidable weapons in a linguistic universe, that, due to the Internet, is getting more Anglicized every day.

But why protest my own native tongue's advancement? I don't. I lament my inability to communicate at high levels in lands beyond English's amorphous and ever growing frontier.

Be that as it may, this evening as I went through Argentian customs and heard an American behind me ask, "Where ya headed?" I couldn't help but broadly smile to hear that familiar accent.

"Kansas," I replied, and struck up a conversation.

It's good to be home.

Atlanta, Georgia

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