Adios, South America

Iguazu Falls…is it worth it to make the trip? I pondered this question before deciding to get a ticket and go. I justified the purchase by deciding I might never get so close again, and everyone who mentioned visiting said it was one of the most awe-inspiring places they had seen. My flight took me to the Brazilian side of the falls, but I read that it was cool to see them from Argentina, too. Most people take two days, one for each side, or book a tour to navigate the distance. I was feeling confident that I could do both sides via public buses but I am not sure where I got that idea. My hotel was within walking distance of the Brazilian entrance, which was a big help because I was in the gate by 10:00 and out by noon. In Brazil, you can walk along trails that line the falls with distant views. From each viewpoint, you are awed by different angles and there were often rainbows in every direction. The national park probably had more to offer, but I stuck with the trails and various scenic viewpoints. The falls were endless and strong and a sight that is hard to describe. Amazing is a word I use too much, but I am struggling to find a word that is forceful enough to provide the image of standing on the edge taking in the sights and sounds. I left the Brazilian side and began the process described by the hotel clerk to get the Argentinian entrance. I sat on the empty and lonely Sunday afternoon road waiting for my first of three buses. The heat and sun were oppressive on my sunburn souvenir from Rio, but after a thirty minute wait, I boarded the bus with the sign reading “Argentina.” I always find a smile and perplexed look to be the best way to get help, and this time was the same. In Brazil, each bus has a driver and a person on a lofty seat who takes the money and makes change. I sat close to this cashier after telling her the destination I had in mind. She pointed out my stop and after another thirty minute wait, I boarded bus number two. This bus included a short stop for border crossing and passport stamps. I arrived at the Argentinian terminal and boarded my final bus of the trip…taking me directly to the entrance of the falls. Needless to say, it took great effort to see both sides in one day, and my time in Argentina was short. I was a woman on a mission…walk to the bottom of the trails and take the short boat ride under the falls. It took about an hour before I was boarding the boat…tucked into a life jacket and with my belongings in a plastic case. Our group was mostly Argentinian and they had a lot of spirit, singing what I would guess were traditional songs and shouting for more water after every trip under. I loved getting soaked under the falls, even if it meant hanging out in wet clothes for my return trip. They were warmer that I would have guessed and the ride felt like a bit of high drama…getting whirled and swirled in the currents. It was worth the effort to cross the border because one day was just enough for me. My last stop on this part of my trip was a short flight to Sao Paolo where I will catch my flight to Johannasburg. If you are from Chicago, you will understand when I say that Sao Paolo is to Rio what Gary, Indiana is to us…geographically close but so not close to being the same. I hung out around my airport hotel and took a ride into downtown, but I am really just biting my nails now feeling ready to move.

I can’t believe that I am hitting the four month mark today. In some ways, I feel like I have been gone forever. Stressful things that seemed so important at home seem like distant memories. I am really comfortable being immersed in Spanish language and feel like 24 hours bus rides are a piece of cake…well, easy to say while sitting in a cafe, far from a bus.

I am pretty pleased with my progress, but have to say that the first months have not been all roses and rainbows. So far, I have had an ATM card cancelled and the bank was unable to send a replacement without a permanent address (which was luckily delivered on short weekend trip back to Florida). I had a few weeks where my legs were covered in mosquito bites and one day where I woke up with my eye puffed shut from what I believe was a spider bite. I had a rash on my arms that went away after a few short days. On the above mentioned trip to Florida, I got a crazy case of dizziness, which I self-diagnosed as vertigo that lasted on and off in the craziest ways for about two weeks. I was delayed on a bus for over seven hours-just sitting in the middle of the road with hundreds of other cars. I dropped my phone in a toilet and went through a long process to get the new one my aunt shipped to Chile. Josiah’s bag was lost and found-with all of the valuable items including his toothbrush stolen. When I sleepily went to move from one bus seat to another, I forgot I was on a high platform and proceeded to fall off and crash my knee cap on the other side of the platform and have been struggling up stairs for the past week and a half. But, between those nuisances, I have seen amazing things, met inspiring people, and watched as blessings flowed my way.

I am optimistic about the next five weeks. Visiting Africa is a dream, and while I will barely scratch the surface of places I want to explore, I know that adventures… and probably a bucket full of nuisances await. I feel like I am on an exploratory mission…checking places out for future opportunities because I know it will be a special place.

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