Sunday, August 24, 2008
Saturday morning I achieved a level of serenity that can only be reached from bird watching after having all my credit cards stolen and discovering I have a pending arrest warrant in the United States.
How did I arrive at such an ethereal, quasi-fugitive state only one month into my trip, well sit down and I'll tell you the story of Justin Adler's last 96 hours.
It all began with a simple Facebook conversation with my friend Dan, my 31-year-old friend who made his riches during the dot-com boom and has since retired in South America. Dan had just returned from a month trip to Brazil and he invited me to meet him and the Quaffer Society at a bar across town.
This intrigued me since I wanted to catch up with Dan and this would be my introduction to the Quaffer Society, which is a group of beer enthusiasts who meet at the select bars in the city that serve quality beer.
The only rules to the Quaffer Society are that men are not allowed to shave one week prior to a meeting and use of the q-word (Quilmes, the shitty Bud Light of Argentina) is strictly prohibited.
The outting was enjoyable as it was great to mingle with a bunch of ex-pats and Porteños who enjoy great beer. Despite being the youngest person in the group by at least 10 years I had no problem fitting in and having a great time.
Then I decided to leave and take the bus back home with this girl I met at the bar, who happened to live near me.
We stood at the bus stop talking in English, which would prove to be a mistake three minutes later when some young kids decided to put me in a choke hold and rob me.
Fortunately her and I didn't get hurt, but I lost my wallet in the process, which didn't contain any cash but did have my driver's license, debit card, credit card and all my forms of health insurance. Among the more worthless things in my wallet were my University of Arizona student ID, my AAA card which expired two years ago, two of my business cards for a now defunct blog and an Island Ices stamped card which would get me a free medium Island Ice, if Island Ices didn't close five years ago.
Here is a list of the good that came from me being robbed:
1. I no longer have any way to obtain money in Buenos Aires, which is a sure-fire way to save money in the long run.
2. I no longer have any proof of health insurance, which will be good practice for when I'm out of college and I can no longer use my parents health insurance.
3. The actual wallet I lost was one I had found on the ground, so I didn't lose a really nice wallet.
Here is a list of the bad part of being robbed:
1. I no longer have any way to obtain money in Buenos Aires.
2. I no longer have any proof of health insurance.
3. I really liked that wallet.
The silliest part of the entire process was talking to Wells Fargo representatives as I told them where I wanted my new debit and credit card sent. I had to talk to different people for each card and both of them highlighted Americans great knowledge of world geography.
After clearly telling the credit card representative that I wanted my new card shipped to my current address in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she responded, "Is that in Mexico?"
Then after I told the debit card representative that I wanted my new card shipped to my current address in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he responded, "Is that in Spain?"
After talking to such brilliant Americans I decided I should live by the 9/11 mantra and carry on with my life, because if you stay inside the enemies win. I mumbled "Let's roll" to myself and left for school, with no forms of ID, a couple pesos I had stashed in my room and a new sense of paranoia.
I took my normal route to school, which involves taking the subte until it ends at Plaza de Mayo.
Here is what Plaza de Mayo looked like in its prime:
However in real life half the fountains don't work, there are always at least 500 pigeons in the plaza, there is a giant black barricade that runs through the plaza and there are always five police officers on each side of the barricade.
When I walked up to Plaza de Mayo on Thursday, it was eerily quiet. The usual six lanes of busy traffic surrounding the plaza were empty and all I could hear was some shouting off in the distance. I walked into the park and looked right to see a massive group of protesters headed in my direction.
First I just heard rambling chants which were accompanied by drumming. Then a five-second melody of m-80 explosions went off, which echoed throughout the entire plaza sending every pigeon in the park into the air at once.
If you were to Matrix-360-degree film my surroundings, it would have shown an angry mob of protesters filling the air with smoke, a giant metal barricade which cut the entire plaza completely in half, about 30 police officers in full riot gear, several police cars, and two police urban-assault vehicles, which looked like Batman's Tumbler ; all encompassed by a couple hundred pigeons simultaneously fleeing the plaza.
Then I the from the speaker-filled truck which lead the protesters, their conductor yelled, "Vamos a Plaza de Mayo con fuerza! (We'll go to Plaza de Mayo with force!)"
I decided it was in probably in my best interests to get out of Plaza de Mayo as fast as possible.
I got to class and asked my teacher what the hell was going on.
He laughed and told me he had no idea what's going on today, because crazy 'manifestaciones' happen almost every day in Plaza de Mayo.
There's a ton more madness about Plaza de Mayo and manifestaciones that I'll get to another day.
That night I did what any young ex-pat, who had just been robbed and walked through a crazy protest would do. I hung out with my friend Matt and the spirit of Josh Howard, then we ate massive bowls of noodles, drank chocolate milk and watched "House."
The next day I had my first Birds class of the semester... and that's where we'll pick up on the next post...