15 March 2014

Getting to The "Vacation" | South America 2013

28 December 2013

I woke up really far from home, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was warm. We got our luggage, cleared customs and went to get cash. There were maybe 5 ATMs in the terminal. Only one was working. We used our time in line to figure out how much money to withdraw. For me, it was the Argentine peso vs the USD. For Ang, it was the Argentine peso vs the NZD. We also didn't know how things were priced. Was a soda 12 pesos or 120 pesos? (Remember Italy in the days of the lire?)

We did math, took our turns at the ATM and went to a restroom to change. We took a taxi (from a place Angie had already lined up) and headed to our first residence. I guess it was a typical trip from an airport. We saw a lot of highway and hit a little bit of traffic. We saw stadiums, graffiti and other things we couldn't put into any sort of context. As we pulled up to our destination I realized my math had been all wrong, and that I would have to hit the next ATM for more cash. I began arranging my things - checking my passport, putting my cards --

"I don't think I have my debit card." - Me
"Of course you have your debit card." - Ang
"No. I don't think I do." 

I really didn't. I left my debit card in the ATM at the airport. There really is no defense. The machine sucked my card inside. It gave me a receipt and cash and between doing math and being considerate of the line that had formed behind me, I scurried away as quickly as I could. No one chased after us to say "hey you left your card in the machine," but I suppose that's not anyone's responsibility.


We still had time before we could check in, so we wandered to a cafe to get the staples: coffee and Diet Coke. There was WiFi and we used it to check in with our families and with the Internet. We overheard part of a conversation ("... el chico de Breaking Bad.") and got otherwise sorted. We got our bearings in time for check in and to face the real issue at hand.

I was in Argentina and I had no access to instant cash.

"Jesus, Danielle." - Ang

Exactly.

I only brought two cards with me on the trip. I planned to primarily use my credit card but I needed actual pesos. I called Bank of America and asked how I could get cash out of my credit card. No, credit card cash advances are not ideal but what choice did I have? Turns out, none.

I didn't know the PIN to my credit card. I've never taken a cash advance before - they're really not worth it. B of A issues new PINs by mail. That takes 5 - 10 business days. Fact: there was no way for me to get cash from a machine. They told me my only option was Western Union. I could wire money to myself. It sounded annoying, but at least it was an option. I had an option. I felt better and - in a colossal mistake - went back to being on vacation.

I should have wired myself money immediately. I should have immediately found the Western Union locations. I should have tested the process to know where the hiccups would be. I knew what needed to be done and I knew I could do it. I did not factor in anyone or anything else. Rookie mistake.

It was late Saturday morning. Knowing we would have to stop at a Western Union later, we went back to being relaxed. Ang documented our studio apartment, meaning I stayed out of the way with the luggage. We killed time while waiting to hear from a guy we've known through elementary / middle / high school. He was on his way to a wedding in Chile and was spending a few days in Buenos Aires. We agreed to meet for a drink and relaxed until that time came.



I also got a Facebook message from a friend in San Francisco who had a friend from D.C. who had also just landed in Buenos Aires. This is how we came to know John. John was traveling alone on a long itinerary through Argentina. He and I exchanged contact info and agreed to meet for a drink after dinner. (It was crucial to make concrete plans when both parties had WiFi at the same time.) Personally, I don't understand traveling alone. Ang does though. She says it's great but that nighttime gets difficult because (at least in her experience) she wants to talk and / or share her day.

Things were shaping up to be exciting!