I brought only three pairs of boxers with me on my eight month venture. Every night, washing clothes in the sink. One pair is now officially MIA, lost in the hostel washing service. It was 20 pesos for that laundry service, too. My go-to pair of shorts was also temporarily unaccounted for, but I found them still hanging on the line outside, ignored but not forgotten. I didn't account for attrition in my packing.
I'm currently in Mendoza, Argentina, staying in the downtown area. Tonight I set out to replace the lost boxers, but it's a very posh downtown, and the only thing I could find were designer stores selling designer man thongs. So gross. After much asking around, I found out the only place selling non-designer items was in fact an Argentinian version of Victoria's Secret, which, way, way in the back, past all the judging eyes and cold stares, has a very small men's section. My Spanish isn't good enough to simply ask for what I wanted, so there was a lot of purposeful gesturing at my underwear. The whole thing was a lesson in humility.
Back to the good news. Mendoza is famous for its wine. I went on a winery tour today that included three wineries, three tastings, and finished with a huge lunch (The tour started at 9:30. Is it ever too early for wine?) at a restaurant. They served us at one big table, which was set to the rim with cheeses, meats, spreads, fruit, lentils, salad, many delicious things. Also cold blood sausage, which was scary but actually tasted pretty good. They told us this spread was only the appetizer, and one by one they brought out empanadas, rice with chicken, and spaghetti. We also had bottomless wine. Argentinians eat slowly, which means we ended up drinking a lot of wine. Only one spilled glass, though, and I'm proud to say it wasn't me.
I got to Mendoza by way of a two day bus ride from a town called El Calafate. Said bus ride started on Thanksgiving day. On the bus they gave us crackers, a cookie, instant coffee, and a disgusting hard candy. In order to make up for this, my first night in Mendoza I went to an all you can eat buffet, which was also very delicious. The sushi was suspect, however, but I expected that going in. A female chef made desserts to order, and I got a crepe that was sort of a la bananas foster, stuffed with bananas and dulce de leche, drizzled with chocolate, and then she set it on fire. I went with a guy from South Carolina that I met at the hostel, and it turned out that he splices different pop songs together in an attempt at what he termed “unconventional creativity.” Halfway through the meal he started singing them to me, clearly very proud. And it was all splicing, don't forget, so you would have things like rap transitioning into female pop vocals. He was an extremely nice guy, but the buffet was very classy, packed to the brim, and included a wedding reception. I was glad most people around didn't likely speak English, but in reality I think that kind of shame transcends language barriers.
El Calafate was a windswept touristy town in Patagonia. I stayed there three days, and went to the Perito Moreno glacier. You can get very close to the glacier on a system of boardwalks they have set up, which was cool. I had brought some Argentine whiskey and some plastic cups. I found a beach where ice had washed ashore, and had whiskey on the glacier rocks with some people I'd met on the bus. You could hear great big cannon crashes as chunks of ice calved off and crashed into the lake. Right before we left to go back to town, a huge tower of ice cracked off and came crashing into the water. It was extremely impressive, but we couldn't hear it. Earlier, basketball-sized pieces would sound like gunshots, but it was so windy when the tower fell that we couldn't hear anything over the wind. It was like watching it on TV with the sound off, and was slightly surreal.
It's proving more difficult to find reading material here than I thought it would. I've finished the books I brought, and thankfully found a copy of Moby Dick, which I am working on, but by and large the English sections of bookstores here are a testament to natural selection. Most of the books are used, and people only trade in the books they don't want to keep. And then the even remotely good ones get bought, and, over time, you're left with the worst of the worst. Shelves of untouchables. Even when you think you see something good, “Oh! Faulkner!” you realize it's a weird biography written by someone with a name that sounds made up. I tried to remember some of the authors and titles to prove my point, but they're so imminently forgettable that they didn't stay in my mind the two blocks back to the hostel.
Here is a link to some Mendoza pics, but you'll have to copy and paste. You can also click on the “My Photos” link at the top of the page to see some of the other albums. I haven't figured out how to make that obvious yet.
Tomorrow I'm checking out of my hostel, hoping that there are bus tickets available to Chile, and moving on to Santiago.