90. Adiós (Mt Maunganui, New Zealand)
We'd arranged to meet at 11pm in our San Telmo pension (hotel room) and to our amazement, by 11:15pm just about everyone had turned up and we were waiting for Ruth to put her makeup on! From there we headed to Gibraltar, where we met up with others for a couple of beers.
From there we headed to a restaurant a friend of ours owns in San Telmo - Argentango it used to be called but he recently changed the name to Afrodita. The restaurant had already closed for the night so we had the place - and its wicked stereo system - to ourselves. Many thanks to Emir for opening the place to us. The cost price beer flowed all night, I played DJ for much of it, and the dancing didn't stop. Some of the guys got up on stage and did a Brazilian dance show, I busted in with some of my "breakdancing" including a couple of my trademark special-occasion-only backspins, and that led to all the guys being called on stage to do a stripshow for the ladies. It may not have been a pretty sight but man it was funny, in fact we didn't stop laughing the entire night, and it didn't wind up until about 6am. It was the best party I'd been to in Argentina and a fitting end to my over 2 years here.
until I showed them where it's at
You can see all 75 photos here.
The next day we had to pack all our things to take with us for our midnight flight. As I said in another post, although I don't recommend Aerolineas Argentinas they do have the most generous baggage allowance for flying to NZ - 2 items of 32kg per passenger. Ruth and I would each take a suitcaseonwheels and a large cardboard box. So that Sunday was spent stressing out if everything would fit into the boxes, and then if said boxes would breach the 32kg limit. I guesstimated that everything would be just under, but was worried the largest of the boxes weighed over - worried, since I figured they'd easily charge US$100 per kg over and if it weighed say 40kg it would be expensive.
Sebastian and Paula offered to take me to the airport with the baggage, while Ruth rode in the 86 bus with her friends who'd come to see her off out to the airport. We had a hell of a time fitting the largest box into his car, eventually cramming it in through the front passenger door and sliding into the rear from there. One of the suitcases had to go on the roof.
At the airport, and after a teary goodbye with Seba and Paula, I braved the check-in by myself while Ruth was still on her way. The biggest box was indeed over the limit, at 35kg, but since the rest of it was under the limit at around 28kg the check-in lady let it slide. I think it helped that a couple of Kiwi boys had been chatting her up in front of me and left her in a good mood for me when I rolled on up with my two baggage trolleys.
The flight was the usual 14 hour long Aerolineas entertainment-free affair - although they put on 2 movies twice my headphone jack didn't work. Luckily I'd chosen us the last row so we had the only empty seat on the plane next to us, which was great as we could lie flat, so we slept OK.
Arrival at the airport in Auckland, and no trouble with immigration. I'd already organised Ruth a Working Holiday Visa through the immigration nz website (here), and it was amazingly easy. Since I did it online I expected someone would interview us on arrival but nope, straight through, one year working permit granted for her. As far as I know NZ is the only country young Argentines can get a Working Holiday visa for. Also, since NZ has an unskilled worker shortage she could have arrived on a tourist visa and applied for a seasonal worker permit quite easily too. I've already met a lot of Brazilians over here who have done just that.
So, what am I gonna miss about Argentina? The usual, the obvious. Friends, like Juan who regularly hosted Sunday asados and inspired me to come to Argentina when we met travelling around Laos in 2003. He's now in Morocco travelling around and our paths will surely cross again. Through Juan I met Pozzy who is another great friend. Through many long conversations with him he's given me an insight into the Argentine psyche I otherwise wouldn't have gotten. He's now going out with a Kiwi girl so he might well be heading down this way. Since he met me (and her, and other foreigners through Juan) he tells me his eyes have been opened to the opportunities there are in the world, and he's now readying himself to go out and chase them.
Funny story - through this blog I met Hamish & Lisa, who contacted me as they were looking for other Kiwis living in Bariloche. Lisa's friends Carrie and Carla, from NZ, came to visit Lisa, and Pozzy came down from BA to visit me, and we all passed New Years together. Carrie and Pozzy hit it off and carried on seeing each other. Carla returned to her job in London. One day Carla was chatting with a co-worker about her recent holiday around South America, and she mentioned that she liked Argentina and was thinking about going back to live in Argentina for a while. Oh, says the co-worker, you should check out this blog written by a Kiwi guy who lives in Argentina, he was trying to set up a business or something. She gives Carla the address and Carla checks out the blog - hey, that author photo looks a bit like Matt she thinks. And there's a photo of Pozzy! It didn't take her long to realise she was reading my blog (Carla didn't know I had a blog), and that her friend on the other side of the world had recommended it to her!
Other friends I'll miss are Sebastian and Paula, they who saw me off at the airport. I met them back in March 2005 and we've always been in contact - and it was thanks to Seba I hooked up with my girlfriend Ruth. The last month in BA I'd seen a lot of them, as we were all living in the same hotel. I spent many evenings with them, playing old school MAME video games with Seba with a few bottles of Quilmes beer... or watching Seba's pirated DVDs... good times. And Paula is one of the sweetest people I know. The occasional singalongs with a guitar are fond memories... un beso grande chicos.
Then there's the other obvious things I'll miss - the underpriced meat, beer, cigarettes, and petrol. The cheap and frequent colectivos (city buses). The comfy long distance buses. And la musica! As Pozzy explained to me, in most Spanish language music, even rock, the song lyrics are important - more important perhaps than the music. Which is why real fans know the words to all their favourite artists' songs, and why on just about any live CD (or at any concert) you'll hear the audience singing along to all the words - and not just to the chorus. In English language music we may know the words, but we don't necessarily actually listen to what the lyrics they mean. There may be an underlying or deeper meaning, but there just as often may not be. I'm at the stage with my Spanish now where I can usually understand the words they sing, but to follow the meaning of the song I still have to read the lyrics separately. I'm gonna miss hearing music in Spanish on the radio and on TV, including the cheesy but catchy Latin pop music that I also enjoy.
A quick note on how we're settling in here. So far, 2 weeks later, everything's fine. Ruth says her first day she was a bit culture-shocked, especially as to the lack of apartment buildings. But now she likes NZ a lot. She's even found a factory job where her lack of English isn't a problem. She'll catch on to the language, just as I picked up Spanish - although in that respect I'm her worst enemy as she can rely on me to translate rather than figure things out for herself. And we keep speaking Spanish together.
So that's about it. Quick shout outs to other gringos I met in Argentina - Shireen & Sam & Nick, Hamish & Lisa & the boys, Carrie & Carla, Mark J, Dave van D, Paul S, Adam R, Peter B, Thad, Julien, Kalen. Thanks to the comment posters - I've read them all. And thanks to all of you who've followed my journey.
Over and out