July: Curitiba, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago, Valparaiso

Never have I needed Xanax more. As a consequence of spending money like I’m Paris Hilton on the trip I went on in July, I’ve had to scramble to pick up as many tutoring jobs as possible in order to get out of the red. Has anyone every told you how fucking miserable it is to tutor anything? I must be a masochist, because I’ve been doing it for longer than anything, but it raises my blood pressure and dries my mouth out and exhausts me. Explaining what a noun is for hours to a grown adult and have her, in the end, tell you ‘to be’ is a noun, is a small sort of hell on earth.

But I believe it’s worth it. One of the goals I had this year in coming back to live in Brazil was to see other parts of South America, since last year I traveled exclusively through Brazil. The sole morale-boosting event in the doldrums of June was planning this trip. Two friends and I were to meet up in Curitiba, Brazil, the home of one of them in the south of Brazil, then travel together to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile.

We came together and acted like overly sheltered kids during their first week of college. We started by drinking.

They drank too much. I drank too much. I had a hangover for 11 days in a row. Curitiba passed in 12-hour cycles: 12 hours inebriated, 12 hours recovering. We blurred at clubs, ate street hot dogs with two dogs in one bun and overflowing with chicken, we spilled them in cabs and ground chicken into the floor with our shoes. We slept on mattresses on the floor and couches that smelled of dog. A cigarette was always lit and someone was always coughing. We ate sushi and drank champagne for breakfast. We twerked on walls and played beer pong in bedrooms. The neighbors complained. We puked in strange toilets. We flew to Argentina.

I didn’t know much about Buenos Aires before landing there. I had flashbacks of both Sao Paulo in its enormity, height, and grit, and Rio in its colonial architecture. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that though I speak jumbled and slow Portunhol, people almost always understood me. I liked that there were so many bookstores and no lanchonetes. The girls wore thick-soled shoes and the men had nice faces. I drank the water and woke up at 4am, sweating and water poisoned. We stayed in a hostel with lice in the beds and overflowing toilets. A Chinese lady did all of our laundry for $12. We ate the most luxurious Armenian meal and I felt fully happy in that moment, under a haze of champagne and full of lamb and Greek yogurt.

We paused our time in Buenos Aires to take a 2-day trip to Montevideo. We went there by overnight boat, where we gorged ourselves on American make up and whiskey from duty free and where I promptly lost my debit card and only source of cash. I ate 4am McDonalds in the Montevideo bus station, my amount of upset increasing as my buzz faded.

Montevideo is a sleepy capital. Granted, we were there in their winter, but I liked that quality of it. It felt almost as if something apocalyptic had happened there. It also felt safe, which was a nice change after living in and visiting almost exclusively big, gritty cities for the past 6 months. There was something nostalgic about it, the wintery water, space, and flat landscape reminding me of where I grew up near Chicago. Even the outdated, sleepy hostel we stayed in reminded me of vacations to Michigan as a child, sleeping in dark wood bunk beds with heavy, plaid blankets.

Chile was my favorite. I came down with some sort of illness that I have no doubt was directly related to my inundated organs, so the drinking all but stopped and the vibe of the trip changed. The boys and I booked a 3-person room in Valparaiso, pushed the biggest bed against the wall, piled all the blankets on it and watched American movies dubbed into Spanish while we sipped wine. We had an odd, sibling-like fight involving biting and stabbing by bread. The power went out and we slept huddled there, covered in bread crumbs and blankets.

Valparaiso is a hilly, seaside town. We ate lunch one day in a restaurant at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We climbed the cobblestoned streets and got out of breath. Street dogs sometimes scared us. A cat chased a dog out of a thin opening onto the sidewalk, and we followed where they’d come from down a dirt path a woman insisted was a road. We lingered in a brewery and were grateful for good beer. We decided to stay an extra night.

We finished out the trip in Santiago, a place with room to breathe. I was relieved. Pisco sours and ceviche abounded. We cooked dinner a couple of the nights. It was refreshing and relaxing to make something together. We accidentally did a wonderful thing and booked our last night in an apartment. We ate the best ice cream and fell asleep on a big, white, fluffy bed while watching Avatar. We woke in the middle of the night to return to Curitiba.

Returning to Brazil was harder than expected. Our flights were delayed, causing stress and other delays. We ate a depressingly expensive and tasteless dinner in a Brazilian airport and washed it down with piss water beer. Despite two of us speaking better Portuguese than Spanish, people had trouble understanding us. Compared to other South American capitals, Brazil’s didn’t match up. Having this new knowledge made me that much more loath to return to Rio.

A few days after coming back I worked a full day tutoring. I left at the end of the day to pouring rain. I’d forgotten my umbrella. I ran to the crosswalk to catch the bus, already soaked. I had to wait for a few minutes in the rain for the light to change. I hated everything. A woman dashed up to me and covered us with her umbrella. The light changed and we ran across the street.