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Tuesday, July 23, 2024


Just Me – A Spoiled Traveler in Bariloche-6-28-2006

By Rick Racela

It seems like my entire stay in Argentina has been full of “I-don’t-quite-fit-in-here” experiences.
If you missed last week’s column, I decided to spend a month of my summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, living with a host family and studying Spanish at the University of Belgrano.
I write to you now from El Gaucho Hostel in Bariloche, Argentina, a province south of Buenos Aires. (Although, by the time this is published, I will have made my glorious return back to good old Cape May County).
The last weekend in Buenos Aires was considered a “free weekend” because the program had nothing scheduled for the group. So, a few classmates and I got together and planned a weekend trip to Bariloche.
Consider it the Lake Tahoe of Argentina. And it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere, so going more south means getting colder and colder.
We ventured to Bariloche on a 20-hour bus ride with no plans for when we got here.
At the bus station, we found an info desk, randomly selected El Gaucho Hostel, hopped in a cab, and prayed they’d have room for us.
When the taxi pulled up to the hostel, it was quite clear that I had over-packed.
My rolling suitcase, complete with hair flat-iron, hair dryer, and two pairs of jeans, simply did not mesh with the hostel experience.
But, I had never stayed in a hostel before. How was I supposed to know what to expect?
I’m going to be completely honest. I rejoiced inside when the woman at the desk told us that for only 2 pesos more (less than $1 US) the three of us could rent a private room and bathroom, rather than sharing with several other people.
This private bathroom of ours is a whole ‘nother story. You think college bathrooms are gross? I will save you from the gruesome details.
I had never considered myself the prissy or real girly-girl type. I mean, not only have I never gotten a pedicure, but my ears aren’t even pierced.
But as I am sitting here taking in what surrounds me and realizing what my classmates brought with them (uh, one book-bag only each) I’ve come to a depressing realization.
I have been a spoiled traveler. At least I can realize that, right? But, the bed is clean, the room locks, and the heater works.
And, yet, this is an experience I won’t soon forget.
Speaking of unforgettable experiences….
We thought we were so lucky!
Not only did we snare reservations at one of the most famous cafés in Buenos Aires only hours before we wanted to show up, but we also managed second row for the renowned tango show in the café.
Coffee, dessert, and a tango show at 11 pm: I could not have felt more Argentine.
Or, so I thought.
About half way through the show of dancing, singing, and musical entertainment, the dancers split up and came off the stage into the audience of about 50.
The first woman the man approached in the front row politely shook her head no as he outstretched his hand to invite her on stage.
Can you see where I am going with this?
He quickly scanned the crowd.
I could just read his thoughts. “Ah, young Americano in the second row. Perfecto.”
He approached me and put out his hand. “No way, José,” I responded.
Yet my friends, and unfortunately the crowd, egged me on.
They must love embarrassing the yanquis (sound it out).
I ended up attempting to tango with this Argentine man until he mercifully let me return to my seat when the song ended.
At least my friends got some good pictures, especially of my final pose when I figured I should try and enjoy the experience.
There is plenty to remember and to never forget from this short stay in Argentina, but with one final regard to our little hostel in Bariloche, Argentina, all I can say is, thank God for shower shoes.
Visalli, 19, of Wildwood Crest, will be a sophomore at Georgetown University.

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