Letter from Bueno Aires

It has just past midnight in Buenos Aires. Earlier, I had dinner with my travel-mates, the last before we would board the 109,000 tons Star Princess for Antarctica tomorrow. I signed up for this trip nearly a year ago when I had no idea what the trip entailed, how much it would cost, who were going and so on.

This couple with whom I did the trip to La Loire in 2005 made me pay a deposit a year ago. Since then, I paid whatever amounts I was asked to pay and was ridiculed when I asked the tour leader about six weeks ago when the tour would actually begin. I became rather busy actually around the time and I had to make a trip to the United States two weeks before the tour began.

To complete the story, this couple opted out shortly after I signed up. They said they had told me. Well, does it matter? I acknowledge that I had the chance to follow them to opt out, but I was too lazy to do so. Then I found that I had to pay singles supplements all the way and it became rather embarrassing when people asked me how much I was paying for the trip.

I left Hong Kong last week, last Thursday to be exact. Looking back, it was a rather long day. The night before, a very good friend’s daughter got married. Many of you were probably at the celebration banquet, either on Wednesday or Thursday. I could have gone on both evenings had I not signed up for this tour. The wedding banquet had many key features of Steve Martin’s “Father of the Bride” and I was actually looking forward to being a key protagonist, but that would be another story. I mentioned the banquet to underline the fact that I had no time to pack the evening before I left.

I would spare you the details of what I did that morning, except to say that I could not find the time to eat a proper meal before I set out for my first meeting with the full group at Chek Lap Kok at 9pm. It was then when I discovered that I had forgotten to pack a few key items, including the boarding pass for the Star Princess, the antenna for the communication piece on board, the membership list, and the contact phone numbers. I got the flight number correct, but I forgot – actually I did not know – that I was expected to pay a travel tax on site. I did not have sufficient cash in Hong Kong Dollars. I later found out that my electric tooth brush ran out of battery and I had not packed a hat or cap and any sun block lotions.

The problem is this: I am going on a trip to places with wide ranging temperature difference, from -10 to over 42 Celsius. I had probably focused too much on the cold side and had over packed and over-equipped myself for the foul weather, but had neglected that I would be basking under the sun or drenching myself under the Iguasu waterfalls.

In the past week, I found that I was at airports every two days and had been spending too much time at airports going through security and immigration protocol. It was not exactly fun.

So I have been to airports in Paris, Rio de Janerio, Iguasu, Bueno Aires and at border crossings between Brazil and Argentina more frequently than I really knew. It had been hot and very hot in Brazil and Argentina, but it was 4 Degree in Paris.

As I looked out of the hotel widow from a high floor of Hotel Emperador, a thunder storm was raging. I have no idea whether this is typical Argentina summer, but when we arrived yesterday, it was very, very hot.

It seems that I have been bringing rain to places I am visiting these days. I was in Phoenix mid December. This is a city which boasts 345 days of sunshine and blue sky a year. It actually rained when I was leaving the city.

I was in Phoenix and Tucson and had actually stayed in the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort which features some 100 acres of wild life in the Sonoran Desert and the Catalina Mountains.

It was my first time in Phoenix. I first heard of the name through Glen Campell’s “By the time I get to Phoenix”. The song became very famous and topped the charts for a while, winning the 1967 Grammys for best contemporary male solo vocal performance for Glen Campell and making him very popular. I later learnt that the song was actually written by a Johnny Rivers in 1965.

For the benefit of the younger readers, let me recall the lyrics –

“By the time I get to Phoenix she’ll be rising. She’ll find the note I left hangin’ on her door. She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leavin’ ‘Cause I’ve left that girl so many times before.

By the time I make Albuquerque she’ll be working. She’ll prob’ly stop at lunch and give me a call. But she’ll just hear that phone keep on ringin’ Off the wall that’s all. By the time I make Oklahoma she’ll be sleepin’ She’ll turn softly and call my name out loud

And she’ll cry just to think I’d really leave her. Tho’ time and time I try to tell her so. She just didn’t know I would really go.”

I learnt also that Glen Campell had tried to change the lyrics from Oklahoma to Arkansas because that was where he came from, but it did not work out.

I was an undergrad those days; and I recall being asked by some fellow (female) classmates what the lyrics meant. There were also other fellow undergrads who would use the song to describe their relationship with their girl friends, and so on.

It is amazing how time flies. It’s also amazing when I found out that I had only done three letters in 2007 and four in 2006. Some of you have asked why I have not been writing. I do not have a ready answer. I’ll see how this one goes down.

Tomorrow I go on the boat, meaning that Internet access would be dependant on satellites and hence more expensive. I hope that I would be able to find time to talk to you and get in touch with you then.

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