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How I Destroyed Myself in Argentina

by Madelaine Triebe May 14, 2015

1. I immediately fell for the charms of a chamuyero.

Eyes rimmed with ridiculously long, dark eyelashes, matched with charming, easy smiles and a tirade of compliments and attention in smooth Castellano, all boiling down to how I am a gorgeous princess — there’s only so much of an Argentine chamuyero’s tactics a girl who is not a robot can resist.

2. I followed that by drinking too much vino tinto.

If one can get four bottles of decent Malbec for a grand total of less than $10US, why would anyone ever drink water in Argentina?

3. Accompanied by too much carne…

Numerous asados, choripanes, salchichas, chorizos, vacíos, and matambres later my body was begging me to become a Hindu, worshiping cows and never touching beef again.

4. I didn’t use the dollar blue.

I went into Ezeiza with my VISA card and without a single American dollar in my pocket thinking I would survive by withdrawing money from the ATMs. I ended getting charged 50 pesos by Link or Banelco and another 50 by my own bank for every withdrawal. Bad business for the budget, to say the least. Every transaction cost me the equivalent of two cones of Volta dulce de leche helado.

5. I didn’t bring enough dollars.

So I can pay up to 50% less for a bife de lomo if I exchange dollars to pesos on the black market? I was on the first Buquebus to Colonia, Uruguay and joined the ATM line of Argentinians fortunate enough to have a Miami bank account. I just didn’t withdraw enough and was back to using the pricey cajero a month later…

6. I crossed the border to Chile thinking it might be better there.

I stepped on the bus to Osorno from the bus terminal in Bariloche and passed through pine-filled mountains, went through stunning Villa La Angostura, and didn’t know better than to not get off at that last station before the border. The bus drove up the serpentine road in the Patagonian no-man’s land between the two borders and I finally reached Osorno, Chile with an unimpressed smile on my face. I went running back to Argentina the same day.

7. I became much too acquainted with Fernet and Coke.

I drank way too much of this intensely herb-like cough syrup-tasting alcohol in 2 litre plastic Coca-Cola bottles with their edges softened by lighters and passed around by smiling Cordobeses. Worst part? After a few, they actually begin to taste good.

8. I tried to out-party the porteños.

I mastered the art of siestas at 3 pm, had long dinners on Av. Rodriguez Peña in Recoleta, and drank Coca-Cola to let the caffeine keep me awake until at least 5am. I was still tired by 4 am and went to my morning Spanish class with bags under my eyes hanging down to my feet.

9. I bussed my way from Buenos Aires to El Calafate to save money.

52 hours, ten Adam Sandler movies dubbed into Spanish, and around 9 alfajores</> later, I arrived. I took the 3-hour flight back.

10. I turned up at the bus station assuming everything would work.

I had my VISA in hand, no pesos, and wanted to get the last bus back from La Cumbre to Retiro, Buenos Aires. The woman behind the glass counter informed me the computer system was down and she couldn’t accept card payment. Three different ATMs, a desperate phone call to my mum, and one stress-induced stomach ache later I was able to board the bus.

Note to self: 24-hour bus strikes, ATMs refusing to spit out money, and system failures are normal things in Argentina. Plan ahead and carry cash.

11. I left thinking my love affair with the country was over.

Yeah, right. This country has a way of destroying people and yet we come running back for more.

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