Tuesday, December 1, 2009
(new) Testing my patience and my innards.
My stomach still wasn’t feeling great but it was definitely better – perhaps Adrian’s cure worked. However I still didn’t feel up for going to far and decided to make use of this imposed break to take care of all this business, starting with our airline tickets. Argentina was nice but it was starting to lose its charm the more we thought about Africa.
Today started much like yesterday. I woke up at 7am and hopped on Skype to phone SAA, hoping to resolve our ticket issues. I was pleasantly surprised when my call was answered after only 34 minutes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I liked to think this was directly related to my nasty, erm, firm email to customer service but seeing as I had still not received a single reply I think it was most likely luck. But the shorter waiting time did lift my spirits and I resolved not to take whatever out on the poor person who answered the call. When she answered, I gave my reservation number and asked about our tickets. I was then asked for all the same info I had given yesterday. Apparently, no one had bothered to charge my card in the last 24 hours or issue the tickets. So I had to wait another 10 minutes for what should have been done yesterday to happen today. Once again my knowledge of international phonetic language was tested as I had to spell Adrian and I’s full names out which I’m pretty sure now qualifies me as an air traffic controller. The woman promised me that now that the credit card had been charged, the tickets would be issued in the next 24 hours and that I was done. As much as I wanted to trust her, I decided to reserve judgment until I saw them in my inbox. Until then, I amused myself by sending a third snarky email to SAA customer service filling them in on the new developments. I decided I’d send them one after every phone call until I had the tickets or until they responded.
With that sorta, maybe, hopefully resolved, I felt like I was on a roll and decided to call American Express about their decision on our stolen Ecuadorean travelers cheques. It had been 5 months but we still hadn’t received any notification from them. At least this call would be free. For some reason North American toll-free numbers are accepted by Skype but not South African ones. However, I would have paid for the call to get a better reception. The operator who answered seemed to be at the bottom of a well during a hail storm. She assured me she could hear me fine and that was more important. The good news was that our claim had been accepted. The bad news was that it was only for $220US as opposed to the $320US we were owed – the rude operator from our emergency call had obviously not entered the right amount. However, we could reopen the claim for the missing $100US but only by snail mail – not email and not even fax. Well I hope the Argentinean mail system was better than it’s well, actually everything in Argentina seemed to run fine so I’ll correct that by saying that I hoped the mail system was as good as everything else. As for the $220US in cheques, well they’d issued a refund cheque and since we hadn’t received it, they would have to stop payment on it before they could reissue another one. Oh boy. But the good news was that would only take 5 business days. Then we could call back to arrange pick up the cheques in person at an American Express office. I thanked the woman for all her help. And I meant it. She was as nice as could be and polite, especially compared to the cow I had spoken to when we were robbed. Despite the pleasant phone call it was still a bit exhausting and I had one more call to make.
I took a break to respond to a months old email from a big UK publisher asking permission to publish one of my travel photos. I’d been hemming and hawing about it since the price was a bit lower than one would expect but I finally decided that something was better than nothing. Plus they offered me a free copy of the book and having sold most of our books before we left, our library will need a boost. Oh if you were wondering it was one of the photos from Mexico City – way back in the first week of our trip – when we visited the creepy Doll Island and the book is one of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not ones. Kinda cool and since we’ve only made a few dollars from this site (thank you to whomever bought that computer using the amazon banner ad) we could certainly do with extra cash help.
The final thing on the to do list was to call Rogers Cable about a refund they owed me. But I decided to save that until tomorrow. By now Adrian was up and I was mostly awake and feeling about 75% so decided to do an easy walking around tour. We’d seen most of the city yesterday but now we’d be able to see it in the light. And without divulging too much information, I just hoped that there would be easy access to washrooms around the city.
Our first stop though was the bus station. We had hoped that our night buses were over and done with but a quick check online revealed that the only two-day buses to Buenos Aires were already sold out. Le sigh. But there was a night bus that was cheaper than the day buses and it was only 10 hours. I think we can handle that, if my stomach holds up. The clerk at the station confirmed everything we had found online so we bought our tickets before they too were sold out. Then it was time to explore the city.
We headed to the Museo Sobre Monte – an old colonial house in the old part of the city. It was nice but more importantly it was shady which was all that really mattered. By the time we were out on the street it was high noon and it was hot – not sweaty sticky hot like in Iguazu just plain old frying an egg on our arms hot. We then headed to the main square. The cathedral was under a layer of scaffolding being renovated and restored but we were able to take a peek inside. It was beautifully painted – well, what we could see since much of it was also under protective plastic and scaffolding as well. But all together pretty impressive for 400+ years of use.
Cordoba was one of the oldest cities in Argentina (much older than Buenos Aires). It may even be the oldest but I’m too lazy to look it up. But surprisingly it doesn’t look that old. With the exception of the three square blocks in the centre with old university buildings and old churches, much of that history had been buried under fairly recent buildings. It wasn’t an ugly city it just didn’t look like what you’d expect for such an old town and wasn’t what you’d call pretty. But this lack of old and pretty made it easy to slowly take in the handful of sights (and avoid becoming big sweaty messes). What also slowed us was those handful of sights being closed for a siesta or just plain closed. We weren’t able to pop into the old convent or the Jesuit chapel. A bit disappointing since the descriptions talked about the fantastic interiors. Although I’m sure we’d probably seen many like them already.
After lunch in an air conditioned café, we headed to the art museum (photo above) down near the hostel. Museum was a bit misleading and in fact the name of the place was the Palacio Ferrerrya. The building was built in 1911 for a single family and was called a palacio for good reason. The grand entrance hall easily would have fit two of our old two bedroom apartments in it. And the rest of the rooms were just as grand. The art was a small collection of mostly Cordoban artists from the last 200 years but in such a beautiful setting it all looked fantabulous – like a mini-Louvre. As we were about to leave Adrian realized he’d misplaced his hat somewhere in the Palacio so while he went to retrace his steps I sat and waited and contemplated asking the ticket desk if it had been turned in. But decided to wait until he came back which gave me a chance to compose the request in Spanish. When he returned empty-handed, I asked and indeed it had been turned in which just made Adrian cranky because I hadn’t asked before he went off to search for it. Whoops.
Oh well, it was just a small palace he searched needlessly. But I wasn’t bothered my calls with South African Airways had taught me infinite patience. And my stomach had managed to hold on to its contents and that made today pretty awesome.