DAY 1Feb 01 2018
Left the group in Bogota and came solo to Buenos Aires where I have an AirBnB for the month and a few other deviant Kaizens in town.
It hopefully won’t be too lonely, and should be a good taste of what it will be like to travel after this year is over. Fortunately there is another program, Yugen, in town, so I’ll plan to tag along to their events when craving community.
DAY 3Feb 03 2018
Buenos Aires is beautiful. It’s the peak of the summer so it is HOT (mid 90s), and the city is quiet with the majority of locals vacationing.
My apartment is in the northern part of Palermo, and is my favorite accommodation by far (mostly because I picked it and paid for it myself).
I don’t have access to a workspace this month, but have been splitting my time working from home and from one of the many cafes.
We took an all day bike tour (butt still sore) and hit all the sites, but what stood out to me was how European everything looked. The Buenos Aires elite were all francophiles, and built their city to look like Paris. However, yellow fever kept striking and they didn’t know why, so after every epidemic they would pack up and relocate to another part of town. The poor immigrants would move in and add splashes of color and life to the promenades, and thus Buenos Aires as it exists was born; wide streets, regal buildings, flea markets, colorful shops, green spaces, and graffiti all intermingled.
DAY 4Feb 04 2018
We’ve missed a lot of holidays and events this year, and have done our best to create a community so we don’t feel so homesick. So come super bowl Sunday, we, along with 20 Yugens, reserved a tiny corner of a packed expat bar, and watched the game on a delayed stream with a projector, eating all the wings and Mac and cheese, and literally running the bar dry of beer.
It was over 100 degrees, and we were sweating all over each other, but then the star spangled banner came on and all of us were singing in unison. It was goosebumps worthy and I felt my first pang of homesickness since Christmas. Message me for the video if you want to feel all the feels.
DAY 7Feb 07 2018
A minorly uncomfortable thing happened today that is worth writing about, if only to highlight how infrequently this type of thing happens on the road.
I was out shopping and had a reusebale grocery bag on my shoulder with stuff I had bought at another store. The first store I went to didn’t have hot sauce so I popped into another market on my walk back. They did have hot sauce, and a few other things I decided I wanted, and I proceeded to the checkout.
The woman is scanning my items and I open my grocery bag to start loading up. Someone else comes over and pulls a yogurt out from my bag and says “We sell this here. You took it.” She then proceeds to tear through my bag, pulling out milk, and beer, rice. “We sell this, we sell this, we sell this. You took from us.”
At this point she’s screaming and my, normally excellent, Spanish is failing me under pressure. I stutter out a “tranquila” and eventually dig out my receipt from the previous store. Even once I showed them everything was accounted for, they were yelling at me to leave their store.
This, in my gut opinion, was one of my first racist encounters of the year. I have received a ton of attention, especially in South America, about my skin color, but this was the first time I was made to feel unwelcome and like a criminal. Most of the attention has been in a spirit of curiosity (“¿eres de arabe?” “¿eres de aquí?” “Tienes un color linda.”, etc etc), and sometimes has been catcall-y, but never hostile. Perhaps because I’m short, and American, and often in neon Thailand tanks, and overall nonthreatening, or because I default with a smile, or maybe because I’m just lucky, this hasn’t really been an issue in any country I’ve ever visited. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but it was eye opening and disturbing to experience.
DAY 8Feb 08 2018
Sooo apparently Uruguay is just a two hour ferry across the bay from Buenos Aires? Who knew!
The ferry experience felt a bit more like a flight. You pass through the Argentinian immigration counter where they stamp you out, and then immediately turn around and face the Uruguayan counter where they stamp you in. Then we had to put on booties (?) for the entire 2 hour trip to prevent tracking Argentinian dirt or bugs into Uruguay. The ferry itself was a bit like a cruise ship, and we upgraded ($10 more on a $200 ticket) to business class.
Montevideo itself was a ghost town. Our first impressions walking around was the Uruguay was pretty poor, and the decrepit buildings and desolate streets were signs of its wear. Wrong! After some guilty Wikipedia’ing we learned that Uruguay has the second highest GDP, one of the highest incomes per capita, and has won awards for their paving the way in providing clean water to every citizen and for digitalizing their government functions.
Turns out the empty streets were a result of their upstanding citizens being at the beach, not because the hooligans wanted to murder us. Whoops.
That’s cool though, more wine for us! Aimee and I averaged 2 bottles each per day, and took advantage of a rare rainy day to spend a bit too much time a vineyard. Whoops again.
Once the sun came out we were able to get to the beach for a siesta and stumble upon what would be the best Carnaval festival of the season.
Super unexpected, Uruguay. Super unexpected.
DAY 11Feb 11 2018
After a lot of agita trying to secure legal tickets, and despite warnings that we were going to get trampled in a mob without a guide, we made it to the Bombadera for a Boca Juniors game!
Our section was standing room only and the fans stood and sang the ENTIRE game. I tried to google “Boca chants” to sing along but I found 50 different ones, and the audience sang em all. There were some points when the stadium shook from the jumping. My favorite part, though, was watching the “kids section” — parents tied sweatshirts to the barrier forming seats/swings for the little ones. They jumped and shouted and sang hoisted up there the entire game. Tradition is tradition no matter what colors you’re wearing 💙
But sidenote, if you’re going to a game in South America DO NOT wear anything but the Home colors. You are only allowed to root for the home team. Period. Even a plain shirt of the wrong color could mean your life.
DAY 13Feb 13 2018
Carnival / Mardi Gras in this hemisphere was a bit of a dud. Granted, I didn’t shell out the $1,000 to get to Rio, nor did I rejoin Kaizen in Barranquilla. I attended a few parades, a few block party festivals, and a “New Orleans themed Mardi Gras party” which was a 1/100 compared to the real thing.
Despite the low vibes, there were enough crowds that six Yugen phones and two wallets were stolen within 10 minutes at a drum festival on Lundi Gras. Those six, in addition to a bunch more from Kaizen in Bogota and Barranquilla, add to a whopping 18 phones stolen in the month of February, just in the two Remote Year groups I’ve been traveling with. Luckily I’m a strong believer in the running belt and still have all my possessions.
DAY 16Feb 16 2018
Off on a solo trip to Chile!
It’s been a long time since I had a real solo trip, and even though Aimee will be in town for some of it, my plans for the next ten days are accountable to nobody but me.
DAY 19Feb 19 2018
Santiago is not as expected. It is quieter, drier, hotter, and more run down than I was expecting. I had heard that it was this metropolitan mini-NYC offset by the snow-capped Andes in the distance. Visiting in the summer months, though, the terrain is arid, the peaks in the distance are not snow capped and barely visible through haze, and the shops are boarded up.
We did manage to find some life at an international music festival where an Indian DJ was spinning Bollywood and house. Easily the highlight of the weekend.
DAY 20Feb 20 2018
No Aashima solo trip would be complete without a little driving through the countryside. Driving, I’ve found, has not only been therapeutic, but has been one of the best ways to really get to know a country. How are the drivers? How do you pay tolls? What’s around this corner? A castle off in the distance? Let’s check it out.
First stop was the Casablanca valley which is the wine region of Chile. I had an incredible day of wine tastings at the organic Emiliana vineyard where alpacas and chickens roam freely fertilizing the land in place of the store bought stuff. The evening was equally as great, spent poolside reading and stargazing on a cool, moonless night.
DAY 21Feb 21 2018
The next day I started early and made my way to Valparaiso on the coast. The roads were windy and difficult to navigate, but it was beautiful driving through the European style neighborhoods.
Valparaiso is very bohemian and has some fantastic, colorful graffiti throughout the town.
One day was plenty, though. I managed to see all the sights, including entering the museums, and made it back with plenty of time to take a job interview and read an entire book.
DAY 22Feb 22 2018
One of those weird things about Remote Year is that, no matter where you are in the world, chances are someone in your network is there too. I posted a photo from Valparaiso on Instagram and learned that my friend Vicki was here too with a friend from New York. They joined me for two days of my roadtrip and we had a great time beaching and catching up.
DAY 23Feb 23 2018
The last leg was to Mendoza where I rejoined Aimee and a friend of hers from LA. The two of them missed their flight on Friday, so they arrived instead at 9:40am on Saturday, and rolled directly into our 10:30am wine tour.
We had....a lot....of wine. We’re heavy in Malbec region and not a single vineyard produced whites, so we naturally napped a lot too.
DAY 25Feb 25 2018
Mendoza itself was pretty incredible. It has a ton of greenspaces and restaurants, and it’s distinctly high end compared to the rest of South America. There are festivals every other weekend where the locals celebrate Mendoza. They love their city and I do not blame them. The nice wine goes for $2 a glass 🙌🏼
DAY 26Feb 26 2018
Heading back to Buenos Aires and feeling that familiar relief to be “going home” and to sleep “in my own bed.” This month away from Kaizen has been refreshing in a lot of ways, but I miss the routine of traveling with my road family. I can’t wait to get to Mexico. To go to a workspace every day and see 50 familiar faces, to spend a few weeks without boarding a plane or boat or train, to not have 3873 AirBnB and flight tabs open at any given time, to get in a cooking and workout rhythm again, and to just enjoy my final month of this whirlwind year.