Sunday, September 28, 2008
Seven weeks into the Universidad Catolica de Argentina school year, we had our second Aves de Suramerica class. Despite the fact that I am no longer a student, I decided to go on the weekend bird watching adventure.
The following is my diary from Bird Camp.
Viernes el 26 de Septiembre:
14:00 We all meet in front of the school. I feared it would be unbelievably tacky, but I wore my Staple pigeon tee anyways. It ends up going over well, Horacio gives me bonus points and is devastated when I told him I bought it back in the Estados Unidos.
Since it had been over a month since our last class, I quickly catch up with all my bird-watching cronies before hopping on the bus. Then my extremely paranoid fears come true as I summoned off the bus and into the student-exchange office.
I never got my student visa (because I didn't want to drop 250 pesos on something I wouldn't need) and I never officially told the UCA administration that I dropped out (they were pricks to me in the past so I figured I just would stop going to school and keep them in the dark).
After a couple minutes of waiting at the department head's desk, she finally comes out of the back room and looks quite frustrated.
She begins rapping off a million questions about what I have been doing and why I didn't get my student visa. I more or less tell her what she wants to hear and am allowed to get back on the bus.
I step out of her office, grin, quote Jay-Z to myself "I got a slick mouth, you might wanna roll with me," and get back on the bus. I'm ready to watch some birds.
-- I had no idea where we were going until 30 minutes into the ride when I find out we're going somewhere near the river delta.
-- I didn't bring my cell phone or Zune for the trip as I wanted to focus solely on nature for the weekend.
-- Our first stop is at a market, where we pick up groceries for the weekend. Here's a picture of Martin, our teacher's assistant with one of our two grocery carts. In case you're wondering what a T.A. for a 14-person birds class that meets once a month does, his responsibilities include taking care of the mate and parilla; and yes that cart has 4 boxes of chocolate milk and 8 bottles of wine.
-- We take a long, bumpy dirty road forever. There are no lights or any signs of civilization. I have no idea where we are going or where we are staying, but I have complete faith in Horacio.
-- Early into the bus ride I start singing "Summer breeze makes me feel fine," although I don't know any of the other lyrics and it is Spring. It catches on and everyone sings the song throughout the entire weekend.
Having lived in the city for two months it was actually nice to see a flat horizon again (pictured along with the flying V at the top of the page). We ended up in the town of Paranacito and we stayed in some nice lodge right on the river. The sky was perfectly clear and I don't think I've ever seen so many stars in my life.
20:00 Horacio wants to have class. I make a snarky comment to Matt about how getting out my notebook and pen reminds me of my undergrad.
21:00 A whole hour of Horacio lecturing goes by. I look at my notes, all I wrote was the day's date and a detailed drawing of Ed Cota's UNC jersey. Now that really reminds me of my undergrad.
21:15 Horacio decided everybody in the class should cook their regional food, so the two Mexicans in the class cooked fajitas for everyone. Horacio was cool with them cooking and not taking any notes during his lecture.
Over dinner I learn that Horacio is actually 41, despite looking much younger, and he has two kids, one of which is named Tobias.
23:30 We all get on the bus again to head into town as we ignore the fact that our bus driver had been drinking with us all night. No one is quite sure why we're going into town, but we hope we are going to a bar. It ends up being nothing more than a late-night cigarette run for our bus driver and T.A.
Sabado el 27 de Septiembre:
6:00 Me and the rest of the Yanks get up to start making breakfast for everyone. Horacio is in his boxers and a t-shirt cleaning the dishes from last night in the shower, because our kitchen sink does't work.
9:00 We head out to do some bird watching. Not a whole lot to note, just some pleasant strolling through the country side in some perfect weather with some great people. Good times all around.
12:00 We make it back to base camp and Horacio encourages us to swim and relax while he and Martin prepare an Argentine lunch. They set up an incredible asada, which is perhaps the best thing about Argentina, as it's a ton of meat which is heavily salted and slowly grilled.
Horacio keeps it authentic and serves us every part of the cow - kidneys, intestines, etc. - before serving massive chunks of meat.
16:00 We head back out to watch some more birds and to drop one of our bird campers, Mindy, off at the bus station, because she had to leave camp early to meet her mom at the airport.
We arrived at the bus terminal too late, so we keep trucking to some where. Then the bus pulls over and Horacio tells us all to get off the bus, except Mindy.
We all exit the bus and stand on the bank of the freeway. We're all dead from swimming, the sun, a huge lunch and the bus ride. Horacio recognizes this and comes up with a remedy to wake us up. He instructs us all to play tag.
That's right tag, so a group thirteen 20-somethings from all over the world was now running around the freeway bank playing tag. Then Horacio switched it up to freeze tag, which caused some controversy since international rules differ on the subject of a frozen person's ability to be unfrozen; and I personally couldn't remember since I have not played tag in 15 years.
After a couple rounds of tag, Horacio then made us all do some weird exercise in which four people locked together on the ground and tried to crab walk as one.
An hour later, Mindy returned to camp. She along with the rest of us assumed she was going to another bus station, but she was actually on a Fast & Furious-like chase of other buses headed to Buenos Aires.
She said the bus driver drove 110 kph the whole time as the bus' governor warned that it was exceeding the speed limit by beeping consistently. After failing to get any other buses to stop, they gave up and returned to the group.
19:45 We arrive back at our camp headquarters. Horacio tells us we are going to have class in 15 minutes. My friends and I ask the bus driver to take us into town to buy some 40s. We get a few and the bus driver gets a ton of booze for himself. I respect his brilliant idea to get blasted before he has to drive Mindy back to the bus station at 3 a.m.
20:15 We get back and Horacio doesn't mind that our 40 run delayed his lecture by 15 minutes.
23:00 After a few glasses of wine and a nice Swedish meal, we head to the docks to pass around bottles and enjoy our last night of bird camp. Horacio didn't drink with us, but Martin outlasted us all.
Domingo el 28 de Septiembre:
7:00 I wake up not knowing where I am. I hear a light rain outside, remember I am lakeside at bird camp and I peacefully drift back to sleep.
11:00 After some more bird watching we're back on the bus heading back to Buenos Aires. Horacio asks everyone how many species of birds we recorded on bird watching list. I did not keep a list because I was lazy. I lied and said I saw 42 species of birds on the weekend. The winner saw 68 and was rewarded with a mate gourd.
I had the lowest total in the class, so Horacio gave me a bottle of wine and told me drink the whole bottle before next time I go bird watching, so I can see two of every bird. I felt bad about receiving the bottle, so I gave it to the blue-haired Mexican girl, who saw 68 birds.
After getting off the bus I did my best Bob Costas impersonation and said, "Who knows what will unfold in the next several months; but that may have been the last class Justin Adler will ever take. If that's the last class for Justin Adler how magnificent is it?"
We played with dead animal carcasses a lot.
Here's Matt and Nick in their 2-man, 1-dead cow show.
View from our dock.
Girls on the dock.
Brits on the swingset. I learned that passing around a 40 and smoking cigs on a swingset will never get old.
Me borrowing Matt's monocular.
And finally the moment you have all been waiting for, a photo of Horacio.