International Travel 2022: Still Masked; But Better


International Travel 2022: Still Masked; But Better


Leonard Zwelling

It was hard to conceive of retirement without foreign travel, but, alas, after Covid, here we found ourselves—grounded for three years.

On December 5, we ventured on our first real foreign voyage since November 2019 when we attended a medical meeting in Tokyo. We were headed for the long-delayed Argentina trip that was to take place in January of 2020, but was interrupted by the BW’s pneumonia. It was then postponed to March of 2020. Then Covid hit and we were afraid we would never get back in the country so postponed the trip to South America. Now, we were on our way and trying to get our traveling muscle memory back after an almost three-year hiatus.

I found my passport deep in the back of our safe. It had not seen the light of day for quite a while.

I also broke out the “big suitcase,” a silver monstrosity I had purchased many years before in Denmark when the old behemoth broke. I needed it. I was doubtful we would see a laundry in 17 days and packed accordingly.

Now, as I sit in the Hobby equivalent in Buenos Aires (you fly into the big airport, EZE, coming from Houston, but the smaller one, AEP, is used for domestic flights) awaiting our departure to the resort area of Bariloche, I am struck by all of the old foreign customs coming back. No Pre-TSA or Clear here. Computers out, but no shoes off interestingly. I was charged extra for the bags, of course, something that never happens to us in the United States. They do that differently here. You check in at the counter. The attendant weighs your bags and if they are overweight as ours were, you are handed a piece of paper to take to a cashier for payment and she will give you your boarding pass. It saves time in the check-in line. It’s a good idea.

The flight was on a standard issue 737, three and three across and was a bumpy, but safe one.

Llao Llao is a resort on a lake an hour from the Bariloche airport. It’s not pronounced like you think. It is said like Shao Shao because it is not in Spanish but in a native, indigenous tongue. It’s the name of a fungus used by the native people as bread or is made into a drink for rituals.

It seems we have gone from the high 80’s in Buenos Aires where we first landed to the mid-50’s. We seem to have flown from Houston summer to Denver fall.

The next day we confirmed that we had indeed gone to spring in Colorado. The temperature was in the 50’s and the wind was gusting so hard on the top of the ski lift we took (this is the biggest ski area in South America) that we could barely stand up. It was beautiful, but certainly was a surprise. It was not my picture of Argentina in the spring, but a harbinger of what awaits us as we move further south.

Bariloche is a nice little town, but the Argentinians seem to eat an awful lot. There was a big breakfast at the hotel and our guide took us to a meat grill for lunch. We passed on the grill and opted for world-class coffee and amazing chocolate vegan non-ice cream.

They sure know how to cook meat here though, very lean and luscious, but the cardiologists may be busy given the cholesterol intake among the people, who appear very well fed.

It’s an interesting start to trying to get back to learning about the ways others live. So far, the takeaways are:

  1. There are many safe and beautiful areas of this country.
  2. The government is in turmoil as the vice president was just sentenced to six years in prison for bribery.
  3. The inflation rate is enormous. Our dollars are going very far as the exchange rate is very favorable and the people want our dollars as it is a far more stable currency than their pesos.
  4. There are two exchange rates—the government one of about 170 pesos to the dollar and the “Blue Market” one closer to 300 pesos to the dollar. Seek out the Blue Market opportunities (using American dollars in stores).

As foreign travel always does, it makes you thrilled that you are an American no matter how crazy our politics get. Then there’s the soccer or futbol.  More later.

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