Category Archives: career break

My backup plan consisted of a bag of ham-flavored potato chips. Don’t judge.

Rafael and Gustavo assured me that I would be well-fed (sandwich, hot meal, chips and a drink) on the bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago.

However, this would be a long day of travel (I just didn’t realize how long) and I wanted to make sure I had my own snack back up plan. I was warned by several travelers and the woman who sold me my bus ticket, not to pack any fruit or anything with seeds for this ride because it would be confiscated at the border checkpoint and hold up the whole bus through customs.

My backup plan for, what I was told would be, a 6 to 8 hour bus ride depending on the border situation, consisted of a bag of ham-flavored potato chips, both pizza AND cheese-flavored crackers, a Sprite and two juice boxes. Please don’t judge.

jamon serrano lays

I had never crossed a border by bus before. Plane? Check. Ferry? Check. Car? Check. By foot? Check (later in my trip).

The idea of crossing a border by bus excited me, probably way more than it should have. I didn’t know what to expect other than…

  • The actual time at the border could be long,
  • The bathroom situation on the bus wouldn’t be ideal and, what got me on the bus in the first place,
  • This was a ride to be done during the day because the scenery was not to be missed.

Turns out, all true.

When Rafael took me to purchase bus tickets, he had reserved me a single seat upstairs, and not in the front row, because he said the cross wind from the Andes paired with the windy roads could make someone very ill. My seat was terrific except for the young family in the two-seater across the aisle that, what seemed like every 10 minutes, used the tray tables as changing tables for their baby, who had frequent bowel movements.

Knowing what I know now about bus travel, it wasn’t a bad situation at all.

The pharmacist doesn’t have the exact prescription in stock…

In the morning, Marisa and I promised to meet again in the States and parted ways. I headed to the pharmacy and she headed to work. My bus departed at 10.30 and I had a major errand to run.

I had briefly considered waiting until Chile to fill the medication but I figured as a precaution both in terms of my health and the legalities of filling prescriptions across country borders, to take care of it in Argentina.

I had trouble understanding what the two women at the pharmacy were trying to tell me. I figured it had to be important because one of them told me to stay and she returned a few minutes later with an English-speaking woman who owned a nearby shop.

My new translator explained that, “the pharmacist doesn’t have the exact prescription in stock so she’s giving you something close.”

What?! In the States I can’t change from pill to liquid at the pharmacy even when it’s the same medication and here I’m getting “something close?”

This sentence was so out of the ballpark of anything I could have expected them to say, it was no wonder I was having trouble translating.

I left with one prescription and one OTC medicine that the pharmacist recommended. The prescription was a powder; just add water and no refrigeration necessary. Score.

But, how the hell am I going to finagle taking this on a bus?

I seemed to time it so that I would be departing major cities, by bus, on Friday afternoons, in the summertime

I was still pretty panicked, probably because of the injury, the blood and the mate (and all of its caffeine, I had enjoyed earlier with Rafael) so I couldn’t even enjoy our lovely meal on the house. I’m pretty confident that Marisa was equally as nauseous by all the blood we had seen, and so we agreed to call it a night and head back to her place.

Back at Marisa’s, once comfortably in pajamas (which was all we really wanted to do anyway), after presenting her with her new wok (which she loved), I checked email and saw a note from my friend from New York, Cara. I knew we would be meeting up at some point in the Santiago / Valparaiso area and now was my chance to make plans, with a solid internet connection.

Cara shared with me the name of the hostel she had booked in Vina del Mar, a beach town just shy of two hours from Santiago. I emailed to make my own reservation not knowing how long it would take or what time I would be arriving. If anything, Cara was going to alert them that I was coming so I’d be guaranteed a bed. At least now I knew I would have a place to stay the following night (even if I didn’t realize how much energy it would take to get there).

I was sensing a pattern.

I seemed to time it so that I would be departing major cities, by bus, on Friday afternoons, in the summertime.


If you are keeping count, that’s two countries and two doctors. And I was only on day 16 in South America.

Let’s just recap the situation to let it all sink in.

  • I’m in a fancy hotel in Mendoza.
  • I have injured myself in the most ridiculous way possible.
  • I have a doctor who carries a Caboodle.

Because of this situation,

Could I make this any more difficult?

I left with a prescription for an antibiotic, shared my thanks and headed back to Marisa at our table.

If you are keeping count, that’s two countries and two doctors.

And I was only on day 16 in South America.

If a tackle box and a Caboodle had a baby

The doctor and nurse enter the ladies room almost immediately after the manager and I arrive.

The doctor is dressed in blue scrubs looking like he’s about to go into surgery. The nurse is wearing a white nurse outfit. Like one you’d buy in a shop at Halloween. Not because it is short and slutty but because she is even wearing the white paper hat you would imagine comes in the set. Almost out of an old movie.

I am introduced to the doctor and nurse. The doctor proceeds to set down on the bathroom counter what looked like if a tackle box and a Caboodle had a baby. The nurse opens it, sets up the levels and takes out a flashlight that she hands over to the doctor. He used it to inspect my arm. But, that might not have worked so well because the next object she pulls out of the tackle box/Caboodle is a microscope.

My translator, the hotel manager, confirms that there is no glass in my arm.

Next thing I know I’m getting painted with something that is stinging the crap out of my skin. The bleeding, if any, was minimal at this point but there were bloody tissues all over the counter from the doctor trying to clean me up.

I didn’t need a translator to tell me that I was getting a prescription for something. No faster did the doctor take out his prescription pad that I was asked if I had any allergies and what medicine I was already taking.

I have trouble swallowing large pills so I asked how big the pills would be.

Again, no translator needed. The reply, that I translated, was “very big.”


Now I had to let them know that not only would I need a liquid medication but I would be traveling on a bus the next day for 10+ hours. So I couldn’t take anything that needed refrigeration. Oh, and I would be crossing the Argentine border into Chile so I would need medicine that wouldn’t be confiscated at the border.

If I thought I was a hot mess upon arriving at the hotel, I didn’t know what hot mess was

I make my way to the bathroom and the next thing I know a cleaning lady joins me. The bleeding won’t stop and she asks ‘doctor?’ I reply ‘si.’

The extent of my first aid knowledge in Spanish is quite limited. Dolor de mi cabeza (I have a headache) isn’t my primary concern and I can’t describe what the problem is. Though it’s pretty clear what it is so maybe I don’t need to translate.

The next person to come through the ladies room door is a manager. He introduces himself in English and while I am not confident of his medical training, I’m happy I have a translator. He informs me that a doctor has been called and will arrive shortly. He told me to take a seat in the restaurant and he would alert me when the doctor arrives.

I head back to sit with Marisa to figure out what’s going to happen. The bleeding had subsided a bit, but my arm was wrapped in gauze and now my primary concern was glass in my arm. I would be heading to Chile on a 10 hours plus bus ride in the morning and healthy was the only way I wanted to enter a new country.

Marisa and I wait and wait and I apologize profusely for being such an idiot. Our waiter returns and lets us know that if we accept, he would like to give us tapas and wine on him. What are we to do but accept his offer?  Seems like that’s the dinner we were both looking for anyway, minus the injury.

If I thought I was a hot mess upon arriving at the hotel, I didn’t know what hot mess was.  I was still bleeding, some older blood was drying and it was just disgusting. Marisa was such a good sport and she was really a calming presence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the manager came over to our table to notify me that the doctor had arrived. He then escorted me to the ladies room. And, thankfully, he stayed.

Um…one napkin?!

Marisa arrived soon after I sat down and we ordered wine, and caught up on our days.  We were both pretty exhausted and agreed the bread, wine and cheese would be great in our pajamas.

Mid-conversation, I realize one of my arms is gushing blood and I try to stop it. Upon further inspection I realize my elbow is where it’s coming from. And then I realize the whole table where I am seated is covered in broken glass.

Marisa calls the waiter over and shows him my arm. He brings a napkin and simply asks what he can do.

Um…one napkin?! We’ve already gone through all of them on our own table. At this point, I am starting to feel woozy and I’m starting to shake. Maybe the mate I shared with Rafael earlier that day? Maybe the panic that was starting to set in?

I’m not sure what Marisa told the waiter but soon after he comes back with gauze and brown stuff but we don’t know what it is, we’re not sure what to do with it and I’m certainly not about to do first aid at the table.

What I didn’t watch was the table

I found the private party on the patio. All of the tables were high tops (which would have been preferred had I looked nice and had I not been carrying so many bags). Instead I chose a low top table just along the inside / outside area where I could hide my stuff under the table. I threw everything under the table and figured that sitting down, and from the waist up, in a simple cotton black tank top, I could pass for somewhat presentable in what some may consider, the nicest hotel in Mendoza.

I said somewhat.

And so I people watched while waiting for Marisa.

What I didn’t watch was the table.

Sitting inside would turn out to be, by far, the least of my problems that night

Rafael and Gustavo had extended the invitation to join them at the dinner party they were hosting that night. Look at me with multiple plans! Unfortunately, I had to decline because I had confirmed with Marisa that I would join her for a wine dinner at the Park Hyatt Mendoza. You may recall that Marisa had very kindly offered to host me in her apartment in Mendoza, after we had randomly met in a tasting room earlier that week.

Rafael and I stopped at a roadside market and a supermarket so he could pick up some last-minute items for their dinner party that evening.

Since it was my last night with Marisa, I wanted to give her a hostess gift. Throughout our conversations, Marisa had shared how much she missed cooking. She couldn’t bear to use the pots and pans in her rental because they were so crappy. At the supermarket, Rafael and I picked out a nice pan. We headed back to the house to pick up Gustavo so they could both drop me off at the Park Hyatt where Marisa and I had made plans to meet.

Reflecting on the ride back into the city, I decided that I absolutely loved being outside of Mendoza. The countryside is dotted with vineyards which is what I had originally imagined Mendoza to be. Mendoza proper is actually a city and the wineries are a good drive outside of the city limits.

Rafael, Gustavo and I said goodbye outside of the Park Hyatt promising to stay in touch (spoiler alert: we have). I crossed the busy street and headed up the elegant staircase into the hotel. As the doormen welcomed me into the grand lobby, I realized I was under dressed and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I was wearing a long skirt, a cotton tank top and flip-flops. I hadn’t had a chance to put a brush through my hair since the morning. Not only did my attire help me stand out but the daypack and plastic supermarket bag with a gift wrapped cooking pot was far from discreet.

Finding a table on the outdoor patio was my first mission. This way, I could hide my bags and footwear under the table. Problem was, all of the outdoor tables were high tops.

Sitting inside would turn out to be, by far, the least of my problems that night.

Visiting the World’s Oldest (Former) Winery

Another stop…Antigua Bodega Giol. It had once been one of the largest wineries in the world. Now, it was more a tourist attraction with a pretty informative tour and big barrels with a chance to explore from above (the barrels) and inside (the barrels).

My new friend Rafael said it was a must see on our vineyard tour. It was the most unusual winery I had seen, and you can’t argue that the barrels are among the biggest on a public tour.

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Check out the size of these barrels. Note the “bridge” connecting the two lanes in the picture on the left below? Well, there was a ladder to go up on top of the barrels. See the “bridge” behind me in the picture on the right below? Challenge accepted!

This was a pretty rare opportunity to really take in (from above) how much wine this winery produced in its heyday.

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Want to squeeze inside the “doorway” in the metal barrels and explore inside? I am not afraid of heights but I was concerned about getting stuck in the “doorway.” It was a little higher off the ground and much narrower than it looks. I did stick my head inside for a quick peek. This is Rafael looking out from inside the barrel.


And what winery tour leaves you hanging? Not this one.


Upon leaving, you won’t miss the bull. Legend has it that by rubbing the bull’s balls, you’ll find good luck.