I had high expectations for San Martin de los Andes as it was the birth place of my birds teacher Horacio, and I figured any environment that produced Horacio would probably be my kind of town.
I walked the entire town in 10 minutes, then found the cheapest hostel. I was the only guest in the entire hostel. Everything appeared too good to be true: the rooms were spacious and clean, the bathrooms were immaculate and the kitchen was fully stocked. Then I walked up stairs and found one of the employees, Deuel, holding a pair of pliers to his mouth as he sucked the final breath out a joint. I courteously waited until the Mamas and the Papas video stopped playing during the VH1 “I love America” marathon, and then asked him for a lighter to ignite the stove.
Deuel looked at me funny, paused for 30 seconds, then handed me the lighter. I realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the hostel other than the fact that it was being run by the most incompetent potheads in San Martin de los Andes. And by incompetent potheads, I mean awesome guys who get paid (albeit small amounts of money) to smoke pot and practice skateboard tricks in the backyard all day. In other words, people whom I am very jealous of.
I also learned that one of the hostel boludos, Nicolas, lives in a tiny cabin in the town and pays 300 pesos (less than 100 USD) for rent each month. And that is now my ultimate plan B in life.
During the day, I went on hiking adventures through the stunning mountains with nothing but an apple, notepad, camera, water bottle and ham-and-cheese sandwich. I sat on a massive rock over-looking the town, and thought about how I could give back to Argentina. I had met several people while traveling who would take a month off and volunteer at an orphanage or something to that effect.
So far, the only time I had given back to the good people of Argentina was when I installed Firefox 3 on a computer in Salta, and when I tossed a ball back over the wall of a school in Mendoza.
Maybe it was a result of too much hanging out with the guys from the hostel, but then I came up with the greatest idea I knew I'd never realize: become a volunteer firefighter in a small town. It seemed like the best idea ever: fight fire, have a free place to sleep, be able to put Argentine firefighter on my resume, but later on somebody told me you can't just be a volunteer firefighter for a week and I was too lazy to ever seriously look into it.
I continued to hike along seeing things that looked like this as I imagined myself fighting fires in Argentina.
The United States presidential election also occurred while I was in SM de los Andes. From what I was told, Americans were fairly excited for the election. I remember checking the early results online, but being more engrossed in a large bowl of pasta that the hostel "workers" and I had cooked up. Then I sent my friends this e-mail (which I have left unedited):
i figured everythig out in life almost. life in this city is nuts. its crazy people just live in cabins and do nothing all day. just get high and skateboard,.
san martin de los andes is where its at.
oh yeah i plan on opening up a hanggliding school soon, let me knwo if you want in.
should add that ive been on a big mix of argentine rock and james brown all night.
also should add that i have no clue at all what day it is. or what country i am going to be in tomorrow. i also didnt realize the elections were goigng on for half the fuckin day. alll i cared about was how ai is gonna fit in detroit.
To which one my friends replied:
Jesus christ i cant tell you how awesome it is. I am watching the elections, its kinda gay.
I am really into this indian girl, Dharini. She is the most ride or die chick ive ever met. on halloween she was rolling on 5 hits of e. sexy.
Then, after a bag of cookies and two loafs of bread, I passed out. I woke up the next morning feeling like one does after consuming large quantities of pasta, cookies, and bread. I walked outside and tried to figure out where I was, then everything came back to me and I turned on the TV to make sure Obama won. He had, which put a smile on my face only because I knew it meant one day this video could be made.