So – I feel like I must take a step back first, reflect, and chart my course.
What do I want to get out of my stay in
There are a lot of things I would like to experience in
- I want to honor my father in some way. With his illness, I don’t know if he will last until my Argentine trip. While he’s not been a big part of my life thus far, he is still my father. As I was reading up on
Argentinaand various places I would like to visit during my stay there, it occurred to me that perhaps I can ascend Aconcagua(6962 m/22841 ft). This is a big goal. I’ll need to get fit and get organized. I’ve got a great deal of work ahead of me.
- I want to learn Spanish. Coming away with Porteño is fine. But I would like to be fluent in Castellano by the time I leave
. I know that is a tall order in eight months. But I think it’s not out of my reach to leave Argentina South Americawith at least conversant Castellano.
In planning for an eight month trip, logistics are important. I have several areas I still need to sort through. Some will just fall into place while others will require more effort.
- Immigration: Although I know I can enter
and stay 90-days at a time as a tourist, being a gringo is expensive there. A gringo without a proper resident or student visa cannot get a DNI number (Argentine social security). Without a DNI number, one cannot open bank accounts, turn on utilities, etc. I believe I can bypass expensive ($500-700 per month) furnished apartments by renting my own apartment in Argentina . But without a DNI number to turn on the power, gas, and Internet, that apartment is not very useful to me. So I am keen on finding out if I qualify for a student or 1-year residence visa in Buenos Aires . Argentina
- Apartment: I know I will not be in BA the whole eight months. But if it is affordable enough, I would like to keep an apartment there the whole time. Aside from having a secured home base to store my belongings, I hope and expect friends to visit me in BA. Having my own apartment would make visitors more comfortable. As the whole immigration bullet point above mentioned, I can pay the gringo furnished apartment or I can rent apartments like the Argentines (reportedly $200-300 per month in one of the nicer BA neighborhoods). Guess which one I prefer.
- Mobile phone: Easy enough. I take out my T-Mobile SIM card when I get down to BA and insert a pre-paid Movistar or Vodafone SIM card. My contract with T-Mobile is up January 2009 anyway.
- Spanish language lessons: I can go about this a number of ways. The cheapest so far seem to be the courses at Universidad de Buenos Aires. It’s a fantastic public university and it’s very affordable. But I’m not sure I want to be tied down in BA eight weeks at a time. I can attend private Castellano language schools but the going rates for that seem to be $100-150 a week. That price is quite steep. Finally, I can sort out a private tutor when I land in BA. The hourly rates seem to be around AR$20-25 (USD$7-8) and would provide more flexibility. I think the language lesson issue is something I’ll have to figure out once I get to BA.
- Trekking gears: If I’m going to attempt
Aconcagua, I’ll need good gears. It’ll be a 20-days trek from and I’m not going to be cold and wet on that long of a trip. Mendoza
- Fitness: I’ll need to be fit to scale the world’s second tallest peak. I’m not fit right now. I can put myself on a cardio/weight program for the next eight months, but altitude will still be an issue once I get to
. Altitude is something I have to train for. But I can’t very well deal with it while I’m living at sea level in Mendoza . Washington, DC
- Plane ticket to BA: Already got it. Leaving DC on January 5, 2009.
- Plane tickets in
South America: I’m considering a Mercosur air pass. But if I sort out the immigration issue and can get a DNI, I can buy flights in pesos. That means I get the local rate rather than the North American rate!
- Health Care: I can go to emergency rooms for free in Argentina. Or I can buy travelers insurance to get some proper care. I suppose an extra USD$50 per month isn't a lot. But that still comes to a few hundred dollars for my entire trip.
- Bus: Busing is easy in
Argentinaand . Show up at the bus stations and buy tickets 1hr to 3 days before departure. These buses are Brazilian models designed for long hauls and they’re comfortable (relatively speaking). Some even serve meals! I was on quite a few of these buses during my 2001 Chilean trip. I imaging I’ll be on a couple 24-hour long bus rides when I’m in Chile Argentina
I can keep going with a laundry list. But I think I’ll stop here and process the information a bit. I know nobody reads this blog and updating it is more for my personal pleasure, but if anyone come across this entry and can further suggest other questions I should be asking in preparation for my travels, please open up.