Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shuttle in Buenos Aires

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to get this current semester off an running. I am very excited that orientations begin this week for the summer and fall overseas programs. Since I will be teaching at the program in Italy next fall I am very happy to get this underway.

I do want to mention a story from my recent trip to Uruguay and Argentina that unlike any experience ever. We traveled from Montevideo, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina by ferry. It was about a 60 minute ride on one of those huge ferries that is very much like a cruise ship. It was filled with people and the seating was like an airplane (very unlike the big ferry in the Greek Islands that is like a traveling coffee lounge with conversational seating). Our group had tickets to see the ballet in Buenos Aires at the beautiful Theatro Colon. Our ferry arrived at 5:00 pm and the ballet began at 7:30 pm. That allowed TWO hours to go through the Argentine customs and immigration lines, get our suitcases and catch transportation to our hotel, change clothes quickly and get to the theater. Our hotel was only about a mile from the port and the theater only 1/4 to 1/2 mile from there. It should have been plenty of time...but we had no idea that we would have a shuttle bus driver who was the role model for Dumb and Dumber all rolled into one person.

It took the shuttle company about fifteen minutes to decide that we had enough passengers to fill a shuttle bus and then about another 10 minutes to realize that they couldn't shove 30 passengers into a 20 passenger van. So our party was moved to a second van. As I opened the door to enter the van I was blasted with the loud, very loud 80s rock music. All the passengers were complaining about the volume but the 18 year old driver was putting suitcases in the back of the shuttle and he didn't hear us. The dispatcher of the shuttle company opened the side door and almost jumped backwards at the loud sound. He immediately began yelling at the driver who ran to the front to turn down the volume but he did not turn it off. More complains from the very elegantly dressed Argentine women at the front of the shuttle.

Then the dispatcher verified our hotels and handed the list to the driver and they talked for a minute or two. Our Uruguayan party member said the dispatcher asked the driver if he knew where all the hotels were located and the driver assured the dispatcher that he did know the locations. He jumped in and off we traveled into the traffic of downtown Buenos Aires at about 5:45 pm. It was still rush hour in downtown Buenos Aires and there was lots and lots of traffic. We had about five hotels at which to drop passengers off and so we still had an hour and forty five minutes to drop off at five hotels in downtown Buenos Aires and get to the theater on time. With any other driver that should have been more than enough time. But we did not have any other driver...we had Dumb and Dumber.

Downtown Buenos Aires is a very big place with a very wide main street (five lanes of traffic on each side of a very pretty median). The side streets are frequently narrow but have plenty of room for two cars to pass. There are many, many one way streets. It seems that not only did our driver not actually know the location of the hotels but he also did not know which streets were one way and which were not. We drove around the streets of downtown BA for an HOUR and FORTY minutes! He took one family of four to the wrong hotel which they only discovered after they had all their luggage out of the shuttle so they had to put it all back on again. At one point our driver was so lost that he stopped in the MIDDLE land of the five lanes of traffic and got out of the van and ran around the van to ask a taxi driver where the hotel was located! Thirty minutes later he found it and it had only been about seven blocks away! The Americans spent the entire time laughing and the Uruguayan and Argentines spend the whole time yelling at the driver and telling him what an idiot he was all in Spanish.

Needless to say we did not make the opening of the ballet. We did manage to make it to the theater before the second act and through some forceful discussion on the part of our Uruguayan friend they seated us and we got to see the second act.

It was the most unique shuttle trip I have ever experienced!


At 8:51 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

I love to read of all your fun adventures...I didn't know you were going to HUF in the fall. That is the best semester to go...the weather is so great!!

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous katie in NY said...

BECKY!!!! My family will be in Florence when you are there! We arrive in Livorno on 10/10 at 7am and have until 7pm. We want to do a tour of the city with a group but thought we could meet you for lunch or whatver. I HOPE YOU WON'T BE TRAVELING WHEN WE ARE THERE!

At 9:03 AM, Blogger BW said...

Katie! That is so wonderful. I am putting those dates into my PDA this moment. I will tell you my cell phone number as soon as I know it. The tenative HUF schedule should be out tomorrow. I can't wait.


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