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11 Jan 2002

Peso Pickle

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — We packed our bags and prepared to leave Iguazu Falls to return to the capital, Buenos Aires. We paid our bill, nearly losing our breakfast after seeing that our five-minute call to Buenos Aires to inquire about our DHL package (and to find out that they somehow had the wrong address so it didn't get delivered as promised) cost almost 12 pesos, which in this town's confused state still amounts to 12 dollars. I managed to get a receipt so I can attempt to get DHL tof pay for it, but will undoubtedly just use in lieu of four-peso-a-square toilet paper. I checked online and found that my bank is still charging me 1-for-1 on ATM withdrawls, which has so far cost me about $60 and a lot of bewilderment as to just how this befuddled system works, anyway.

We took a minibus to the airport, talking to a guy from Washington DC along the way, whom I think I annoyed by telling him why I think Apple ran itself into the ground as a company. Those damned Mac zealots. But he was pretty nice, and he didn't seem to have the same trouble we did on money conversion with his bank, giving me hope it could be rectified. Then again, if he looked up this information on his Powerbook, it could have just been the same kind of denial that leads people like him into thinking the Macintosh operating system is still a contender in the computing world.

The highlight of the morning came when the airplane took off, and made an incredibly steep bank turn for several minutes, looping around the falls so we folks on the left could get a good view. Seeing that huge depression in the ground filling with water was, I believe, the most awe-inspiring sight I've ever seen from a plane. I kept trying to get Erin to get our her camera, but it was buried at the bottom, and by the time she got it, we had passed by it. The sight would be forever lost to film (and thus to you), but forever in my mind. It was simply breathless. Poor Erin was on the other side of the plane, and because she was looking for the camera, she didn't see a thing. Plus, the big turn really made her nauseous, so now I feel totally guilty. Moved, still, but guilty.

As we approached Buenos Aires, the flight attendant made an announcement in Spanish, to which most of the plane started applauding. (Free drinks?) A minute or two later, the other attendant came on and translated, explaining that this was the pilot's last flight with the company. He'd been flying for the airline since 1967, and had only lost two planes. No, seriously, tomorrow was his 60th birthday, so by law, he was required to retire. When we got to Buenos Aires, we did a fly-by of the airport, where I imagined everyone in the flight control tower was cheering him on, although it worried me to think they might be doing it with drinks in their hands. Then, at least, the pilot landed to a smattering of applause, not only by us passengers, but by mechanics, colleagues, and terrorists waving and applauding from alongside the runway. As the captain emerged from the cockpit, the flight attendants threw a few handfuls of shredded paper into the air as a makeshift tickertape parade. The entire experience was rather moving, and as we got off and boarded our bus back to the terminal, we could see him take a small shred of paper and wipe away a tear from his cheek. Apparently he had just figured out that his pension was being paid out in pesos, rather than dollars.

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Last updated: 04 Mar 2002 14:33:55