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I-i-i'll be home for (just before) Christmas

I am right now living out my last few hours of single life; Starting this afternoon and continuing until Saturday, I have 3 friends coming in from Canada who I will be doing some traveling with. It is going to be really great to see them after 5+ months on the road, away from home - now, as long as they bring some maple syrup and an entire professional hockey team with them, I will feel right at home.

I am presently in Buenos Aires after spending 3 rainy days and one gorgeous one in Mar Del Plata, 6 hours south of here. I had gone down to the beach on the sunny day but hadn't stayed due to intense winds blowing the sand everywhere. Whereas this tempest stopped a weak, non-dust-hungry young Canadian, it halted virtually nobody else. There were locals sprawled along the beach everywhere and the air was filled with the sound of people sputtering sand out of their mouths. But they would not move, suffering for their art of suntanning. You have to respect that kind of heroic, resolute and dumb will to colour your body.

I got on a bus Friday morning and made my way to Buenos Aires to see the city my mother grew up in and to meet up with her friends and family. I had been in contact with a few of them already over e-mail and one family had asked what bus company I was traveling into town with as they *may* meet me at the bus depot. I had told them I had bought my ticket on Condor Bus, but that if I didn't hear back from them again before I left Mar Del Plata, I would expect to NOT see them at the terminal. I did not hear back before I caught the bus in the morning, at which point I was confronted by-

PROBLEM 1: Despite the fact that I had bought a ticket from Condor Bus, a different company, Micro Mar, would be the one taking me. This was interesting due to-

PROBLEM 2: I still 80% expected the family to try and pick me up. Compound this with-

PROBLEM 3: I had never seen these people to recognize them at the bus depot, if they were even there, of which I had no clue. Chuck in-

PROBLEM 4: There are 125 bus platforms at the Buenos Aires terminal.

So I was going to be at an enormous terminal, searching for people who I wouldn't recognize and who may or may not be there, and if they are, they are looking for me on a bus that doesn't exist, thereby making it the first time on this voyage that I have been lost BEFORE I got to a city. I was quite proud of my new acheivement. It is hard to make new experiences after this long on the road, especially ones that can STILL somehow make you feel so useless. Oh, I'm good, all right.

Amazingly, there was no problem when I got into town as the family, indeed, was there and happened to know that Condor Bus tickets often take Micro Mar buses (of course). They were standing there, waiting, with a sign saying "Noah" in hand as I got off the bus.

I have spent the last 5 days in town meeting up and having meals with these 2 groups of friends of my mother's, and their families: Gloria, Miguel, Sebastián & Laura; and Susana & Enrique. Together, they are the most dangerously benevolent group of people I have ever met. I have loved the people throughout South America for their selflessness but these wonderful people simply won't let me do anything myself. They would take me out to dinner every night if I wanted AND pay for the free cutlery, I am sure. I have had to pretend I was busy with the other group of friends, simply to avoid constantly being pandered to. After a few months in rented beds, it does feel pretty good, mind you.

I have just sort of been wandering around the neighborhoods here, getting used to what is a very funky city. The barrios here are so different from one another that just walking around town becomes a sightseeing tour on its own. On Sunday, Susana and Enrique took me with them to an incredibly nice suburb called "El Tigre" (The Tiger), about an hour out of downtown, where there are an amusement park, great green spaces, and hundreds of houses all along a riverfront that are all interconnected only by ferry.

Their family had rented one of these houses, so we hopped aboard a ferry and made our way there. At the house there were about 14 more family members all of whose names I could not remember, nor could I fully ascertain their relationships to one another, so I just sat quietly and ate a delicious barbecue. It was funny, though - as the family just sat around and drank wine and champagne, they did absolutely no work for the barbecue, leaving all the effort up to an 81-year old man (whose birthday it was, incidentally), and just ate the rewards. Ahh, "Respect your elders" - words of ignored wisdom all around the world!

Other areas of town have been equally interesting, including Palermo (and entire neighborhood smack in the middle of downtown filled with massive parks); La Boca (an Italian immigrant area with bright, multi-coloured houses set side-by-side); and La Recoleta (a very European fashion district with really beautiful women parading around everywhere. Not that I am into that, of course). I have also booked my return ticket home, finally, sending me back to the Great White North on Dec. 11th. Leaving Rio at the start of summer and hitting eastern Canada at the start of winter... I am not sure I am going to exactly burn up re-entering the North Hemispherical atmosphere...

Spending time with family friends has also given me good opportunity to practise my Spanglish, which I love. Gringo spanish always makes me laugh, anyway, as it seems like a universal language. Well, universal to everyone except the native spanish speakers. I remember numerous times being with other gringos, talking to a local, and one of the gringos will make a joke, in Spanish. Then all the other gringos will laugh heartily while the local will sit there and smile pleasantly and bewilderedly, obviously being the only person who has not understood the joke whatseover. Maybe it is just the humour that doesn't translate so well. All right, so maybe I am just not funny, who needs these stupid South Americans to speak spanish to, anyway.

And now, waiting for my fellow Canadian peace-disturbing troops to start pouring in...