I think it’s Tuesday.
I’ve been back in Toronto, Canada for a week after spending 26 days in Argentina. My first time in South America and it was planned a bit more last-minute than usual. But avid travelers I figured Rob and I were, I knew we’d survive. I knew Tim was tough and didn’t know Alejandro but figured he could keep up. From a wet dark New Year’s Eve take off to landing mid-winter back home, the points of realization and wonderment in said 26 days would make a most illustrious web if laid out in ‘connect the dot’ formation. 26 days of sunshine and survival in a new way, my favourite high.
It’s a drug. It’s totally MY drug. Traveling, learning new about cultures, throwing yourself in as a ‘local’ even though you totally stand out like a sore thumb. It’s that high of the unknown and how dulled senses get lit up when our primitive survival instincts kick in. When the comforts of home are really (really) far and every moment is ‘do or die’ (possibly more dramatically than necessary). The literal global jungle isn’t half as precarious as the mental jungle we all choose to wager a bet with the moment we step into a piece of metal that hovers for half a day, many kilometres in the air. With your first breath of compressed air, the adventure begins. The antiseptic smell of the lavatories and the plastic taste of the food. This is your birth into the unknown.
Our first experience on Argentinian land was a bit of a road chase between our cabbie Daniel and a truck driver with a knife. We sped through neighborhoods, engine revving on the low-end, vanilla branded vehicle. This is moments after flying for 13 hours. Sun flash, green trees, speeding truck with guy yelling, sun flash, green trees, nice graffiti, guy in truck pulling put knife, heart pounding, nice temperature…. Made it to the apartment alive. Seamless entrance with our hosts being there to meet us and greet us and at first glance, the place was perfect. In hindsight, it was great.
Immediately into overdrive, we start preparing for Bahrein the next night. Yes, empanadas and Quilmes are important but so is this performance we flew 8000km to do! I’m neurotic with my meticulous preparation mode. It puts me into a headspace making me unapproachable and prone to ignore the outside world. I don’t remember the first couple days of Buenos Aires other than gasping at the green trees, eating feverishly everything that was new and waiting for the time to relax.
January 2 brought our first gig at Bahrein alongside Graziano Raffa. I hadn’t had much exposure to anything yet in Argentina except Ableton and Asado. Walking into Bahrein was like going into a warp hole of every photo you’ve ever looked at dreamily as an artist. I mentally went through the list of all those who played there before me, said my thanks to the Universe and opened up to being hugged and kissed. People do not just greet you, they want to really love you up. Touch you and shake your hand and take a photo and everyone is smiling and laughing and it’s second nature to feel at ease in one’s skin. The women aren’t into a showy display of their parts, they are just effortlessly sexy because of their existence. The men kiss each other to say hello and even though they could obviously be the most macho of men, the outpouring of unbridled emotion is refreshing. Who knows how things are behind closed doors but my experience continued to show me this is cultural, not a one off bar experience.
Here is a video of the opening:
You can understand why I felt overwhelmed! It was like that the whole time and only got more intense!
This gig was the first real experience in culture shock. I’ve never been around people who care so much about the music I’m playing, nor have I had the reaction I did at that time. I left wondering what was wrong with the world and why more people couldn’t just lose themselves in the moment like the party-goers from Bahrein did that night. They gave Robert and so the most amazing Argentinian welcome, it took my breath away and I felt for the first time the ‘real effect’ of having people go mad over the music I played. Madness as in unbridled passion and excitement, a real appreciation for the work I did and the work I was doing. If ever I questioned the ‘why’ of things, my first night in Bahrein made it clear. I get really quiet when I have a task at hand and so don’t think I Had fully absorbed the night until the morning after. All I could do was walk around humming and repeating, ‘That was awesome!’
Finally after the first gig was done, we rested. And took in our first week of being ‘locals’. The friendliness was everywhere and we weren’t chased anymore in cabs. The pilot light in our place went out and there was no hot water. So we called the landlady. She sent someone to fix it and Alejandro and Tim watched to see how to do it. After, it went out within a minute it felt like and we quickly gave up trying. The boys lit and relit things a couple times, someone came over to help light it, it was pointless, we weren’t getting a hot shower. Every home has its idiosyncrasies and we quickly learned ours. No hot water and the air conditioner would freeze into a huge ice glacier so it had to be turned off so it could melt. Eventually it started smoking and we gave
up on that too for the time being. Alejandro couldn’t sleep in either of the two beds in his room comfortably and Tim had race cars on his sheets that refused to stay put over the mattress. Rob and I were lucky, we had a window and comfy bed. I could ignore the morning noises and people hollering in Spanish at any hour but Rob woke up like clockwork when the person upstairs opened their squeaky blinds each morning. Personally, I knew our place had some quirks but I wasn’t too affected by it. A hot shower I was missing but it wasn’t the end of the world. After all, I was in Argentina! Miles and kilometers away from anything I knew. It was all par for the course.
Changing money was a real challenge. The first time I went to the bank there were 74 people ahead of me. They lock the doors after 3pm so if you are in, you’re in to stay for the duration. I bailed on Day 1 promising to be back early the next morning. Rob and I went back at 8am. The bank was closed. We returned at 10:45, 45 minutes after it opened. This time there were 49 people ahead. The bank machines gave a limit of 1000 pesos a day. About $100 Canadian dollars. At home, my bank charged me about 20 dollars for the one withdrawal and the Argentinian machine charged 8. So for every 100 I took out, it cost $128-130. The boys kept going back on Day 2 until we finally had a bit of Argentinian cash. Initially we were told to bring US dollars, which we did, and payed conversion rates
for that, and then had to spend 2 days reconverting it at the bank. Money at this point was the bane of my existence and it wasn’t over yet. I spent more on conversion fees and cash advance fees than I probably withdrew! Joking. Maybe not totally but this all was one expense I wasn’t prepared for, not to mention the time it took to get it done. If you travel to Argentina, don’t bring US cash, get the proper Arg Pesos before you go and you’ll save yourself a world of financial hurt. There were times throughout our whole trip where we had to play musical bank cards, looked for places who took Visa, graciously rejoice when paid in pesos and relied on Western Union when all else failed. Money was a massive stress at the beginning of this trip. Only mid-month did money I was expecting come in. Kinda throws you for a loop when your finances near the North Pole are in disarray and you’re near the South Pole. It’s a helpless feeling. We did what we had to and went out of our way to find, transfer, change and then stockpile pesos. Again, we were all lucky we were traveling as a quartet. When one fell behind, there were others to help lift them up. No soldier left behind!
We were bathing in 30+degree weather and eating clean food, sleeping in every day and were fully immersed in music. We could have had snakes in the house and still had a great time. (Maybe) Meandering about Buenos Aires was my reprieve. One day I spent all morning walking in circles in true botanical gardens. Around and around for about 3 hours, breathing in the green, inhaling the jasmine scented humid air… I wrote lyrics in the garden that I actually just recorded the other day. Nature makes you feel different emotions than being in the concrete jungle. I felt it easier to be honest with myself in this quiet solitude and made some personal pacts during my time there. I miss trees. I grew up climbing trees and that’s one thing I miss about Toronto, trees. In Buenos Aires, they are everywhere!! And they are old, full, beautiful trees. Evergreens growing beside palm trees, I’d never experienced witnessing that union. My hours in the garden changed me. I was alone and it was my time only. Now that I’m home, it’s about keeping the promises I made to myself while there, the promises I whispered only to the trees.
The second gig at Bahrein was equally exhilarating! Tim and I practiced and had back up plans for ‘in case’. Putting together a live rig is a bit stressful because it may sound amazing in the kitchen or on headphones but live in a club is another story. I choose not to sing in public often for that reason, you have so little control over the delivery – the sound can sometimes do its own thing. But it went off well for a live vocal experience. As of late I’m a little ‘balls out’ in my approach in life. Tim and I have worked super hard since the release of Forgive Me. It only seemed right to sing it live at Bahrein with him. Rob had played a bit of violin the week before for his set and now we were bringing live vocals back the next week. We couldn’t speak the language but we wanted to give them a show! That’s what we did! So many thanks go out to Marcelo from Freak Me Out who set up things for all of us for these special nights at Bahrein. Memories were made forever in that booth.
Here is a video of some of Forgive Me live:
The following week was more of the same meandering around town. The lack of hot water was starting to get to us but we kept spirits high and worked at being productive. Rob and I were brought by Carla to an old cathedral in the north end and then went to sit at the river. This was our day out of Palermo, checking out beautiful homes, lush green marshlands and astounding architecture. We sat out on a patio by the river drinking café con leche and eating munchies. An afternoon of normalcy it felt. The gigs were half done and we let our guards down and allowed ourselves to be human for a bit. With Carla we didn’t need to worry or work. She kept presenting beautiful sights, being our translator and ordering/ telling us what we were ordering for food. It was a peaceful time. We (I especially) made a real friend. And these types of connections are the driving force to my travel addiction. It’s like expending the energy of a gladiator to meet good people. And when you do, all the bells and whistles go off to say you win.
Mar Del Plata was an experience unto itself. It was a life-changing weekend for me for sure. From finding a ride with people on Facebook who only spoke Spanish to being stopped by the police and having to pay them off to let us leave. From having no running water in our less than lack lustre ‘hotel’ to witnessing the union of over 13,000 people in their love of music, tradition and respect. Oh, and the undeniable party.Guy J and Digweed at Mute was an event I’ll never forget. Ridiculous amounts of people showed up to dance the night away on the beach. Thanks to Mr Guy J himself and Tim, we got VIP bracelets and to witness the event unfold from a nice comfy perch. I was to play an after party at 9am so we left around 3:30-3:45 so I could do final preps and not look as sketch as I felt after the nearly 9 hour drive sometimes reading speeds of 170km an hour and grinding to a complete halt for protests at other points along the way.
Mmmkay, let’s get one thing straight.
When you’re in a foreign country, you cannot always rely on your technology. Due to my GPS being confused and lack of able to communicate, we found ourselves in a taxi for over an hour trying to find the after party. My GPS kept sending us in the opposite direction until finally the driver stopped in the middle of a residential area that looked like every other suburban place I’ve ever been to and asked for a real address. The meter was already at 420 pesos ($42) and going. The GPS was saying go north, go north, the promoter was saying come south, come south. And we sat in the middle of two flashing GPS points on
my Dorothy of a phone, knowing we weren’t in Kansas anymore. It was that part in the western movie where tumbleweed floats across the set and a lonesome whistle goes off to break the silence. Note to traveling performers: ASK FOR A RIDE TO AND FROM THE EVENT. Or you will end up like us, being all independent travellers and all but totally being stranded swallowing pride, stress, helplessness and fighting the hopelessness that maybe we just won’t find where we need to be. Don’t be a fool, or a tool, take a ride. Ask for a ride. Go with someone who knows what’s what. I made it eventually and played and no one was none worse for wear. I played techno which was a great release for whatever I just felt in my soul. Somehow it translated from “You dumbass!” (take the ride) to untz untz untz untz in the early morning light.
Leaving Mar Del Plata, it was Robert’s birthday. We were ready early to escape from our indoor camping ground of a ‘hotel’ and head back to Buenos Aires. The cold shower seemed so welcoming all of a sudden. Palermo seemed so ‘normal’. The day was seamless and chill. We ate well and relaxed well. Most of our work was done in Argentina and Rob and I looked forward to a little escape of our own. We were headed home to pack again and head to some isolate cabins on an island with no wifi. Just us and our groceries. But you know, stuff happens.
Upon waking up the next morning, ready for Round 2 in Adventureland, we literally did debate whether we wanted to go. We were tired and ready to sleep late and accept the week at home instead of making the effort to try another something new that would require venturing long distances without knowing Spanish, not trusting our devices and incurring another debt and working out the financial plan. We finally agreed that it would be a shame to have this chance and pass it up. We wanted a romantic getaway so we went for it. First stop was the grocery store where our North American excessiveness shone through. There was everything in our cart. And super gluttonous fattening, like food envy is made of kinda stuff in there. Our little stash for our getaway. We hop in a taxi and head to the train station, remarking on how relatively simple its been. We walk in to buy a ticket only to find out the electricity isn’t working and all trains are halted. Of course they are! We waited as our groceries cooked themselves in the 30 degree heat and tried to remain composed.
This was a breaking point for me.
Like, my Uptown Girl rebelled out completely and all I could think of was hot water and eating all day and walking around naked, napping and resting in comfort. I wanted pieces of my spoiled life at home and reminders of them too. I wanted trains to work and money to grow on trees, I wanted cows to roam free in North America and I thought I better accept maybe we aren’t supposed to go to the cabin. I looked at my chipper Robert who stood smiling and shrugging his shoulders and I made my choice right then and there. My technology didn’t fail in finding me a sweet high-end boutique hotel nearby with a terrace and pool and hot water and a bar fridge for our groceries. It was less than our trip to the cabin and nearby. It had the name Hollywood in the title, how could we go wrong?! I had to escape things going wrong. I needed a hot shower. I wanted to sit and put on 10lbs watching Spanish TV and process everything we were living.
I’m a strong girl, I travel well but at this point, I needed a time out. I needed time to remind myself I was in South America and really examine their day to day struggles versus my temporary uncomfortableness. I had to absorb the many people’s statements who said, ‘Well, you’re in South America. What do you expect?” I did it in the most consumerist North American way I know how and went all out to reflect in comfort about the atrocities in the world. I felt like a dick but also a queen. The hot showers tipped the scales in making it alright. The sleep also helped me think straight. We stayed at the hotel for two days. We went out for delicious dinners and snuck the continental breakfast to our room each day despite being told not to. By the time we were ready to head home, we felt rejuvenated and refreshed. Happy and healthy. Totally enjoyed the nudist time and the terrace. Whatever negative could have come out of the trains not working turned ever better in a positive way and gave us more than what we needed as far as a little romantic getaway.
By the time we got home, we felt ready to take on our last week in Argentina with vim and vigour. We had come to grips with how informal everything is and started to function like that too. We worried less and ate more. We planned less and lived on our own schedule. I became addicted to staring at the graffiti art all one the walls and mourned the lack of art on the walls in Toronto. I wondered if more people had permission to paint what they imagined, how different our city would look. I wonder what people would paint?
Our final gig coincided with another gig we wanted to play so we made the deal we would play the one our promoter had lined up and head to spend time with our friends for the final half of the night/morning/day. Honestly, we used our informal new way to pick out our favourite tracks to play without any rhyme nor reason. We knew our b2b vibe and Robert and I have a very complimentary library of music. We took the ride this time and our drivers were awesome. They told us and showed us the palace grounds that have a huge expanse of over 3 kilometres. As we drove by on the way to the party in the north end at a mansion that once again, we had no idea what to expect.
We arrive at the party with a large metal gate, a bouncer answers and we have no issue getting in. We are given a tour of the house and hence commences our adventure in meeting cool people. The first person I met thought Amber Long was a man so was very surprised my girliness and I showed up. The music was great, the crowd was engaging, we felt so at home and went without want our entire time there. I’ve never seen house party participants be so emotionally attached to the music and their surroundings. Everyone had the feels. To the nines. Like ten. My body would shudder every so often from the energy coming our way as we played, as each track spoke more and more the words we couldn’t say and partygoers understood exactly the message. Ridiculously good party. Probably the best one to date. Just ridiculous. I’m not even exaggerating. I’m just left wishing more people could experience life that freely and completely.
With some juggling and help from new friends, we found ourselves in a taxi at 7am towards the other side of town. But we had to meet at a bridge, or something. Again, phone tag and translations and a bit of ‘are we gonna make it?’ mixed in for good measure. But the travel gods were on our side and we met with our friends without issue. We hopped in their hatchback and headed on our way, getting a recap of their evening and party. Alejandro played a deadly techno set and Tim was on a roll, playing his heart out. I expected nothing less from our Palermo cavalry. When we arrived to the beautiful green backyard, we were led into a darkened party room where Tim was indeed killin’ it. It felt like 4am in the darkness and noon in the sunshine, it was 9am. A perfect yin and yang backdrop for our last weekend in Argentina.
We ate facturas for breakfast and had mate with the grandmother of the host and other family members and friends. Happy Birthday wishes were sang and cake was cut. Ecstasy was compared to herbal tea and this was quickly corrected. The background music was psytrance and the sun was perfectly aligned with our table. It was a most perfect random moment. The photo of the birdbath was taken just a moment where I was in reflection and staring at it. All the previous 3 weeks and their adventures came rushing into my sleep deprived mind and finally I could process them properly. My body is on a natural high of sheer adrenaline and new perspective in this moment. This is the drug I speak of in my opening. The moment of truth that you indeed can survive (and survive well) despite being plucked from all avenues of comfort. An obliteration of one’s comfort zone in exchange for life experience. Learning to work as a group in group oriented situations and as an independent individual when that time comes too. The mind games and saying yes to the universe instead of no. Going with the current instead of fighting the flow. Pushing limits and boundaries, establishing other ones. Personal growth.
Spitting that out made me feel like a robot but before this trip, if I was a robot, I’d be saying “Does not compute… Does not compute.” Now it does compute. I’ve learned so much, I think we all learned so much. So much more to compute in our technological world we are back in, trying to adapt to. The culture shock is real.
Our last afternoon/night in Buenos Aires, we sadly said goodbye to Tim as our group started to disband. First it was the Canadians, then the withstanding warrior Mexican. This didn’t stop us from being informal and making zero concrete plans and doing some more – you guessed it – meandering. We went on a wild goose hunt for a violin that suddenly had a dramatic price hike when Rob went back to get it, we looked high and low for a restaurant that was open on a Sunday afternoon and forgot everything is chill so we had to be too… We decided our last meal be asado and casually put the word out on Facebook if anyone wanted to join. Gaby and her friend came out and we enjoyed a beautiful dinner outside at a great steak place. My plate was huge. Granted, I did order the biggest thing on the menu. We walked home in the shadows of the graffiti creatures with a hesitant cadence because we knew every step brought us one step closer to our departure. We came across a beautiful wall with tiling that said ‘It’s time to shine’ in Spanish. We took turns with another few people taking each other’s group photos around the wall. It was time for us all to shine, obviously. Because that wall and the moment spoke to a dozen of us, out on a random Sunday night. It’s probably spoken to myriads of passers by who need a reminder at that exact moment, it’s their time to shine.
Packing was a sombre affair and was done in fear of going over the baggage allowance. We had collected so many things over the month that our bags were full of groceries. Literally. I had found everything from fresh organic lavender to raw caramelized cane sugar, incredible dry pastas, teas, honey, bread dips and candies for the kids. I could go on but it would incriminate me. Let’s say I brought quite a bit home as souvenirs. To eat. I was leaving any clothing I could let go of. In the end, I was under at the airport and we both could have brought everything home that we wanted.
Our last view of South America at sunset in Santiago, Chile. We felt the last of the heat we had come to love. Getting on the plane again at this brief stopover made it feel more certain we were going home. I was excited, but honestly, I totally cried from Buenos Aires to Santiago, a good halfway at least. This trip made me learn more about myself than any other has because it was the one that had so many twists and turns in the unknown that I had to come alive to survive! I had to go with the flow and let go. I had to battle everything inside me that likes to control things and realize there is no controlling the uncontrollable. I thought about everyone I had met, how they were so different but carried the same warm genes all Argentinians seem to possess. I melted again into a river of tears – of happiness though! There are cool people out there. Newsflash!!! THERE>ARE>COOL>PEOPLE>OUT>THERE!!! And we met them. And touched the ocean. And got lost and found in a rich part of town. And we walked by the river. And through the gardens. We froze in the shower but survived anyhow. By showing this strength, the water was completely taken out of the picture for 3 days. We survived that as well. Everything. We lived it.
Now I’m home questioning the date, rather bored out of my mind even though I’m overrun with impending work. It is hard to focus on ‘real life’ and easy to miss the graffiti art and sunshine. I miss seeing a random beautiful girl bring fresh squeezed orange juice to the table with breakfast, I miss the orange juice itself. The aftershocks of such a massive adventure are sure to pop up for awhile and memories like flashbacks will take me back. When I was there, it felt a bit long to be away from home, now that I’m home, it wasn’t long enough. Ha! Humans are never satisfied. Well maybe sometimes.
This WAS a most satisfying voyage. What I got from it was not what I anticipated and it taught me that something/someone greater than me is at the wheel. Rob and I came home stronger as a couple because of being put in terrifying, stupid, stressful, angry, joyous, thrilling, hyper, exciting, every-possible-descriptive-word-in-the-book situations. You tend to bond when you have to get instinctual, like in the Walking Dead, and if you have fun doing it, even just a bit, then it’s amazing to have a partner in crime to undertake these ridiculous adventures with you. He likes the travel drug too, Rob does. It’s under his skin and I think the addiction kicked in immediately, like with me. I made mate to have with my daughter last night, it didn’t taste the same. I’m chewing Beldent instead of Trident still. My Mentos are in Spanish and I still pull out pesos in coin form and mistake it for more than it is. But better believe I’m enjoying my hot showers! And appreciating every second of them.
I’m coming down from my high and looking for my next hit. Where will I travel next?! Which part of the world are we brave enough to explore this time? We have a list of places we plan to go stay in that have just enough unknown to scare us to death but more than we could ever imagine looking through google images. I’d love to say we will plan better but I can only say we will try. Because you only can plan for what you know and the high is getting beyond that. My tan is fading fast this time but it will eventually be permanent as we continue to chase the endless summer.