It has been a while since I last updated anybody on my summer adventure, but that is because I thought that it was nearly complete after touring through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec Canada. After the that portion of my trip had concluded, I decided to trek from the East Coast to Columbus, OH where I spent nearly a week visiting Derek, a friend from college and also beginning the lengthy, but enjoyable process of going through all of my photographs from the summer up to that point. After reading, sorting photos, and doing a good amount of inline skating I decided it was time for me to move on, before I exhausted my welcome in Columbus. From there I went to Appleton, WI to spend a day boating and water skiing with Roger and Jayne. After a few days spent in the dairy capital of our nation I continued my trek northward to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Houghton area. Here, I caught up with many friends and had a tremendous time. Gwen had been with me since Columbus and we spent nearly a week camping throughout the Keewenaw Peninsula after visiting friends. The sunsets over Lake Superior are second to none and it was great to breath the pristine air again. Finally, I spent some of my time in the Houghton / Hancock area searching for a new job. I am still slated to return to American Eagle; however, I was beginning to consider a career change. I have decided to stay with the airlines for now; however, I have much more to say on this issue and will save it for a future email.
I returned to the Chicago area in the last week of August and again began to reorganize myself to return to the working world. Additionally, I helped out my parents with a few projects around the house. It is always fun to practice my dry walling, painting, and plumbing skills. I had been anticipating a return to work immediately at the first of September. I knew that first I would need to go through a recurrent training course, which, for first officers, is required annually and takes 6 days in Dallas, TX. I was due for the course sometime in June, but since I was venturing in a Diamond Star and on a leave of absence of course I could not attend.
I think to myself, no problem, the first part of September will be filled with recurrent ground school and I was looking forward to going back to do some flying out of Boston. The problem with this simple concept was that the company had no such ideas. Actually, they didn't have an idea at all. I noticed that they had not scheduled me for any class or even a return to flying. When I called them, they seemed surprised that I was returning. After all, I had requested and been granted these specific dates in writing on my departure way back in May. Finally, they understood that I was returning on the first of September, but saw no need for recurrent training. After I made a few more phone calls they agreed that training was required, but since they were finding out on such short notice it would be a while before they could find available simulator time for me. At American Eagle, the simulators run 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, stopping only for routine maintenance and Christmas. Actually, they wouldn't be able to get me into the simulator until the 28th of September. Hey, that was all right by me since I was getting paid during this time of sitting at home.
Before the simulator though, they had scheduled me for a week of ground school as required by the program. Actually, initially they scheduled me for a one-day class, which made no sense and yet another phone call quickly sorted that one out. During the week of September 9 through the 13th I was to go to ground school. The training department had scheduled me for a flight from Chicago to Dallas on Monday, the 9th, the day that the class began. I questioned the logistics of making it to Dallas on the same day before the class began and was reassured that it would all work out fine. Needless to say, upon arriving in Dallas, my cellular phone was ringing the moment that I turned it on and the training department was wondering where I was. They wanted to know why I came to Dallas on Monday afternoon. When I told them that it was the way that they scheduled it, they realized the error and decided to send me right back to Chicago. A moment later, another phone call told me to stay in Dallas! I caught a bus over to the training center and found out that I would complete the remainder of the class and makeup the day that I had missed in the future. Of course, "future" was not defined since they really didn't know when or with whom I was going to attend the first day of class. I did finish out the remaining four days of class and really enjoyed it. Oh yes, I learned a few things too, of course. We had a great instructor, Mark Steward.
After my class, I was scheduled for a week of vacation. Initially, I had requested that the vacation be moved and placed during my three month leave of absence, but was informed that it could not be done that way. Here I was, the middle of September, not having flown for American Eagle in nearly four months at this point and I had a week of vacation to do something with. I was tired of spending time at home and wanted more adventure. I made a last minute decision to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I dropped a quick email to a friend, Brad, that has been there on numerous occasions and also his wife is from that area. Fortunately, I received his reply just in time to take it with me to the airport on my way out of Chicago.
On Monday evening, I departed from Chicago and arrived in Buenos Aires on Tuesday morning. This trip is fairly easy on the body since it is only 2 hours different than central time. After checking into my hotel in the downtown area I immediately ventured over to the Recoleta area. The hotel attendant advised that I take the bus since it was a long ways away and I did. However, it was less than a ten minute bus ride and probably not necessary, though I am glad for the experience. Once at the Recoleta I visited the Plaza Francia, and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, or Art Museum. After that I wandered over to the most magnificent Cemetery de la Recoleta which has enormous and beautifully decorated above ground burial chambers which all had very small and ominous looking stairways to a below ground level. It was much more impressive than anything that I have found in New Orleans or elsewhere. Finally, I made a stop at a gorgeous church Parrouia Ntra. Sra. Del Pilar.
After the cemetery, I began to make my way to Florida Street and decided to stop for lunch along the way. I found a small café and though experienced a bit of difficulty ordering with my extremely poor Spanish, enjoyed a great meal for less than $3 US. I made it to the southern extent of Florida Street, a street known for it shopping and street performers. I walked up the entire length of the street and enjoyed the sights along the way. My walking tour ended me at the Obelisco a tall and fairly uninteresting monument. After that, it was time for another café and some water. Once refreshed, I walked down to the docks and saw a beautiful bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava, the same man that designed the Milwaukee Art Museum that I visited earlier this summer and was so impressed by.
After resting at the dock area for a bit and simply enjoying the area, I walked back up to the Teatro Colon. This is a magnificent theater that took nearly 18 years to complete and is said to have nearly perfect acoustics. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to hear any performances, but I would really like to come back and see one. I found a place to sample some dulce de leche, ice cream, which is very rich and extremely good. Since I had been walking a great deal so far, I meandered back to my hotel for a brief rest and then back out for dinner.
Argentina is known for having great steak and red wine. With this in mind, I knew that I had to sample some of the local fare. I found a small restaurant for dinner and had a perfect meal, even with a leak that sprung from the ceiling during my dinner. I feasted on salad, steak, wine, and flan afterwards for an amazingly low price. It is sad to see such a wonderful country in such economic turmoil.
The following day, I took the subway, in the wrong direction at first, to the Jardin Botanico, or Botanical Gardens. Since it is springtime there, the gardens were just recovering from the winter, but they were incredible nonetheless. From there, I walked by the zoo and stopped at the Monument de Los Espanoles. I really enjoy all of the sculpture and monuments throughout this city. There are so many to see and so much history associated with them all. I got back onto the subway and made my way back to Florida Street.
Once on Florida Street, I again tried more dulce de leche and continued to walk towards some noises in the street. I found about thirty people banging on the steel doors to a local bank. Surrounding them was nearly 50 Policia dressed in combat fatigues and thick bulletproof vests. This group had spray painted many buildings in the area and continued to march down the street in protest. The banks in Argentina do not have the money to give to its depositors. Of course, and rightfully so, they are pissed off. I carefully watched this group protest and beat on many bank's doors for a while. I was amazed to see that all of the banks in the area had immediately closed and covered all of their doors and windows with steel plates. It appears that they are used to this sort of protest.
After my touring and eating, it was time for me to return to the US. That evening I caught a late night flight from Buenos Aries to New York and then back to Chicago. I had a great time in BA and would like to go back again. Of course, the flights were very long; however, it gave me a chance to finish "QED" and "Surely You Must Be Joking", both by Richard Feynman. The language barrier was a bit difficult and posed a few fun situations the first day, but by the end of my first night, I thought that already I was getting better and interactions were running more smoothly. Perhaps it was just the wine though. The people were terrific and so helpful and willing to tolerate my miserable Spanish.