We all had night-flights that night. We compared notes, who gets home first? How long is your flight? How about your layover? As if any of it mattered, as if no less than ten hours of flying would be somehow less terrible.
So OAT distracted us, which is a good strategy. They roused us up, let us have our last hotel breakfast and pushed us out the door and onto a boat.
We’d seen the water on our previous stint in Buenos Aires, and on this gray day, we were getting a better view of the murky waters of the Rio de Plata.
The real purpose was to get us to the island communities in Tigre, a sort of northern suburb of Buenos Aires. Everything is on the river in this community. There are no roads.
The kids have a school, and are serviced by a school boat. There are several grocery boats that go up and down the river, if you haven’t had time to go to the store in your own boat. Most of the places are spotless, as this is not the sort of neighborhood one just “ends up in.” This is a way of life chosen.
There are limits to the amount of freshwater they have access to, and they don’t have amenities like dishwashers. These places take hard work, as the river can flood right up to their doors. Many places have been shored up against that eventuality, to prevent erosion.
The place was beautiful. The appeal of this kind of community was clear.
When we got to the dock at the marina, we walked down the block to the Rowing Club which had won an Olympic medal at some point (I can’t remember when). The lunch was simple fare, chicken and rice, for which I think we were all grateful.
I had began to have coughing fits, and with the heavy clouds threatening rain, I used my nebulizer (which I finally remember to take with me on trips) to help me breathe. Three others had stayed home, convalescing back at the hotel while we were out and about.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, saying a final farewell to Nicole. She was still coordinating health options for the three that had stayed behind, and a few more of us were falling ill as well.
Jim took me on a walk to find a good pharmacy that he knew of just a few blocks from the hotel. Once there, he dropped me and continued on his hunt for a particular souvenir. I pulled a number tag and waited for my turn, which I admit, I was practicing how to say my number in my head so I wouldn’t miss it.
When my number came up, I went to the counter and tried to explain my symptoms. But no one spoke English. My head was foggy, my bones were achy, and my cough was getting worse. My voice was croaky. Finally, we settled on a bright yellow drug, which I have no idea what it was, but it had pseudoephedrine in it, so that’s fun.
I paid, and walked the three blocks back to the hotel, surprised to still see Nicole at the front desk, translating some medicine for Mary Joy and Jan. The rest of us loitered in the lobby, with no rooms to go to, until it was time to get to the airport.
By that time, we were all anxious. Half of us didn’t feel good, and the weird, prolonged goodbye was strange. Will I see you later today? Will I not? Is it odd to not feel worried about not seeing or talking to you again, because I’ve seen you every day for three weeks. The idea of never seeing this person again doesn’t even make sense. Our group had become our normal. Living out of a smelly suitcase didn’t seem unusual at all.
We headed to the airport, a good four hours early, and ultimately, I was grateful. I was on a flight with Jan, Erich, Kathy, and Anne, so we traversed the international agents in a little line, which again, felt like what I’d become accustomed to. We get to the gate area, and who do we see? Nicole.
She missed her flight home because she’d been taking care of us. But, tour guide to the bitter end, she pointed out her favorite coffee shop at the end of the terminal. Only there. That is the best place.
We got to the gate, and security got tighter. They cordoned off a portion of the waiting area, and rechecked all of our carry-on luggage, opening each bag and inspecting it. People wearing baggy clothes were patted down. We thought all of the security was absurd.
So we boarded, all in different areas, separate on this massive, international flight. I took one of my little yellow pills and settled in for some really doped up movie watching. It was a long night. A long flight. And when we got home, there was news.