Luggage, Mustard, Don't Cry for Me Argentina
(July 12 - August 8, 1998)

I wasn't planning to send out a first travelogue until after our first full weekend in Buenos Aires (hereafter referred to as BA), which would be next weekend.  However, I decided that I would send out a travelogue to describe our adventure in getting here.  There are no photos associated with this travelogue.

Everything was fine as we left our house on Saturday, July 11 at 2pm to head to the airport.  Everything was fine as we checked in and went to the Delta Crown Room to wait for the first leg of our journey, a flight to Orlando to connect with a Transbrazil flight to Sao Paolo, Brazil where we would connect with a Varig flight to BA.  Everything was fine as we boarded and the taxied out to the runway.  Everything was even fine as the plane started down the runway.  From here on, not much went right.  The pilot ABORTED the takeoff about half way down the runway and took the plane back to a gate.  I knew immediately that the possibility of making the 8pm connection with Transbrazil in Orlando was not looking good.  It was already 4:45pm and the mechanics were walking around with that 'I haven't got a clue' look on their faces. 

When I heard some mumbling about 6pm, I knew all bets were off for this plane getting off the ground.  Having done some quick homework with my trusty Delta bible (the schedule book that goes everywhere with me), I saw that there was another flight leaving for Orlando in about 20 minutes.  I told that to the Delta redcoat and he was marvelous and came back and said he got us on the flight.  So, you ask, isn't that goodness?  Yes, BUT.....what about our luggage (you can see what's coming, right?).  I asked about it and everyone sort of shrugged their shoulders.  Knowing that there was a non-stop Delta flight to Sao Paolo leaving at 8pm (the one we couldn't get on because business class was full), I told that to the redcoat as we ran for the Orlando flight, which was leaving on a different concourse (why should we be so lucky as to have it leaving at the next gate?).  The best thing he could do was to have someone pull our luggage and put it on the Delta flight to Sao Paolo.  That flight would actually arrive about a half hour before the Transbrazil flight and our luggage could then be transferred to the Varig flight.

Needless to say, Diane and I will be wearing all of the same clothes we have been in since Saturday morning until sometime tomorrow.  Right.  Delta did NOT manage to pull our luggage and put it on the non-stop to Sao Paolo.  However, Varig did compensate us $50 each for not having our luggage so we could go buy incidentals.  It didn't help much since all the stores are closed on Sunday.  Actually, it isn't all that bad because we NEVER pack our meds in checked luggage and we ALWAYS pack a change of undies.  ;-) 

The entire trip from home to hotel took 23 hours.  BA is only one hour later than EDT so there isn't a real jet lag to deal with.  For you travelers out there, Transbrazil was nothing to write home about.  The service was mediocre, the food was mediocre (Diane's beef) to horrible (my chicken).  The Varig flight from Sao Paolo to BA was great.  Delta needs to rethink its partnership with Transbrazil and go back to Varig (with whom they used to have a partnership).  This turned out to be one of the more 'exciting' trips we've ever taken.  In some ways it was fun and certainly not dull.  I can always say, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" because even with some of the problems we had getting here, it sure beats NOT traveling.  :-)

When we arrived at the hotel, a colleague, Merle, and his wife, Linda, left a note that they had arrived at 11am and gone for a short walk.  We finally made contact and found out they had been 'mustarded'.  This is a trick we had heard about where someone comes up behind you and squirts mustard on your clothes and then offers to help clean it off.  Meanwhile, they are picking your pockets, purse, backpack, etc.  Merle KNEW about this technique and still got conned.  That's how smooth these thieves are.  They took his wallet from his FRONT pants pocket.  He lost several hundred dollars in cash, three credit cards, his Texas license, telephone calling card and IBM badge.  He started calling the US credit card companies within 10 minutes.  Within an hour, the people who took the cards had already run up more than $3,000 in charges.  The person at one credit card company saw charges coming in real time before she was able to stop the card.  I had heard recently from my Swiss friend, Peter, that his in-laws, who were visiting with him and his wife, went to Amsterdam for a weekend and were 'mustarded' there.  So the technique is starting to spread around the world.

On the bright side, we decided to walk to the Hard Rock Cafe to eat an early dinner.  It was packed with people watching the World Cup final between France and Brazil (which I had wanted to see anyway).  We were lucky enough to get a table and see the second half.  It was interesting to me to see that almost everyone in the place was rooting AGAINST Brazil and FOR France.  So much for continent loyalty.  I guess the Argentines don't care much for the Brazilians, at least not on the soccer field.  France won and you would think you were in France celebrating with the victors.

We don't have any real impressions of Buenos Aires or Argentina yet, so that will come in a future note.  We may take a trip to Montevideo, Uruguay this weekend.  It is winter here now, but it was in the low 60s today, sunny, no wind, and gorgeous.  Winters like this I can take.  :-) 

More next time and I hope this is the end of the mustard stories.

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