Tornados, Christmas, and Prostitutes

Let’s see here…where did I leave off last? Ahh yes, flying to Cordoba. Well, after Oliver, Chris, Laura and I packed all our stuff into a taxi (which is no easy task for four backpackers), we headed off to the airport, caught our flight and were in Cordoba before we knew it. Since I was the only one to remain in Cordoba (everyone else was continuing to Mendoza), we bid our farewells and I caught my taxi into the center of town. I had randomly selected a hotel from the list beforehand and after the taxi driver had taken me there and left, I found out that they were going to be closing from 10PM to 2AM on account of it being Christmas Eve (some lame excuse about spending time with family or something) and if I were to check in, I would have to leave during that time. So scratch that.

After wandering the streets looking for a non-existent hotel for another 20 minutes (hauling a 70 pound backpack – mostly Chinese books for when I get to China), a guy informed me that the hotel for which I was looking had changed names and was right in front of me. So I entered, checked in, and was shown my dusty, worn-out, and kind of creepy hotel room (but after all, what can you expect for $4 a night). I then went down to an internet cafe and called my friend Erika and made plans to meet later that night, so I got a shower and watched some TV before she came.

At 10:00, on the dot (this girl is always on time), she showed up and took me to her house where we were to have Christmas dinner (which, since her parents are Jewish, was a barbeque). We spent the night eating, talking, drinking champagne and watching fireworks. One thing you need to know about South America is that everyone – and I mean everyone – launches fireworks of all sorts from their yards and the street on Christmas and New Years. I had been hearing loud booms in the day and thought it might have been thunder, but when it got dark it was clear – the skies were a’blazin’! At midnight, they let loose and let off everything they have – and believe me, it’s quite a sight. After the festivities, Erika and I met some friends of hers in the park near her house and we all hung out and chatted. I got back to my hotel at 5AM and had a blast.

The next day, Erika picked me up again and we hung out at her house with her family (after she gave me a tour of downtown and her university). They introduced me to Mate, a tea made from a type of holly bush which the whole family drinks in a social setting (everyone takes turns drinking from one cup and passes it when they are done). Her parents gave me a tour of a more residential area of Cordoba and when we got back, Erika and I played a very Argentinean card game for a while, although I now forget the name. It is very interesting and I think I’ll make millions by bringing it back to the US when I get back. I really like her family and am very thankful for their hospitality. I don’t know how it’s happened, but I’ve been really lucky with all the people I know in South America. They have all gone out of their way to make my stay in their respective countries incredible.

The next day, I woke up with my sheets drenched in sweat, and I spent hours wandering around Cordoba in the smothering humidity looking for a new hotel with air conditioning. I finally found one and moved all my stuff. I was drenched and it sucked. I changed clothes and took another shower and then Erika came and got me and after we picked up a few friends, were off to a little town called Carlos Paz where there is a lake and a river to hang out at. The weather was very weird -hot and humid and cloudy in some areas and not in others – and on the way there it started raining very, very hard. It rained so hard that we had to pull over and wait a few times but we continued on since it didn’t look like it was raining in Carlos Paz. It wasn’t and we relaxed for the next few hours swimming in the river, chatting and sipping mate. When we left, I saw a really strange cloud, which looked almost like a big pillar of smoke going high into the sky. I didn’t yet realize what it was.

When we got back, however, we found out some incredible news – a tornado had hit Córdoba. Several blocks had been destroyed, over a hundred people had been hurt, and a few had died. Apparently, this kind of thing never happens, but it did and the streets were flooded with water. The river which runs through the city (and which is normally just a small trickle of water) was halfway up the canal and even a few bridges had been taken out. From a phone booth place, everyone called their families to make sure they were alright (and they were) and then we got some dinner before all heading home.

Today, I spent the day wandering around Córdoba admiring the city and visiting museums. I went to the bus station to check on prices to Buenos Aires and Mendoza for New Years and then checked out the Mall. Pretty cool stuff. I walked quite a bit today and the weather was nice (although a bit overcast at times). The cable is out in my room, the internet is out in some parts of town and this is the third time I am attempting to write this travelogue entry on account of the power sporadically cutting out and destroying everything I have typed. I think everything will be back to normal soon though.

Oh yeah, and I got propositioned by two fat prostitutes today. Apparently, if I need love, a fun time or a friend, I can always count on them. Very good to know!

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