19/03/2011 § Leave a comment

“Home girl, you were gone for a long time.”

“I was, wasn’t I. The crazy thing is, I didn’t even notice.”

I had a plan or a brief outline of what was going to happen. I would start in Montevideo. I would spend a few days with friends and then I would go back to Buenos Aires. And, for some reason, I bought an open ticket for the ferry.

When I was a little girl — slight, barely visible — I wrote out the general direction for my life. I remember writing “become famous actress” when I was six-years old. I even began watching the princess Disney movies, not because I needed a Prince Charming (I was more realistic than that), but because I had to train my singing voice and memorize the character’s lines. I remember when we had school photos, I would beg my mom to make me a new dress to wear. I gave up that dream when I was nine-years old and my home was ever-so unjustly ripped from under my feet — the reality being that we were moving a mere 4-hour car ride away. I was always called the “drama queen”.

After a couple years of tantrums and dramatic displays of fits, I got over the change and decided I wanted to ride horses.

“Mommy, Daddy, I want a pony.”

“Ok, dear. Save up for one.”

After I got a taste of the regal life of horse grandeur — tail-flaps and top hats and discovering the best horse tail shampoo — I planned to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I began riding 6 days a week, working side jobs to afford extra lessons, told my friends I could only get wasted once or twice  a week instead of every night. It wasn’t to prove anything to anyone. It was out of pure love. Some stuff happened and I was no longer able to ride horses. Perhaps it was not meant to be. Perhaps it was time to go to university.

We often find ourselves romanticizing the past, believing that, oh yes, those were the good ol’ days. We were wild and free. No responsibilities and all the possibilities. Sometimes shit happens and we shift.

This past summer, I remember sitting in the coffee shop with a “new” teacher — before he was a carpenter, I think — and telling him to “just trust”.

“But, you don’t understand, I see some of the brightest kids throwing their future away. Not working hard enough and not really applying themselves to the content. It’s terrible to watch.”

“Here, have another piece of my ginger molasses cookie. The reality is, you never know what life is going to dish out. I could get all Forrest Gump on you, but you just got to trust that we will all figure it out, in one way or another. We will all find our spark and work very hard at it. Trust is the greatest motivator. Mistrust will defeat a person. ”

For the remainder of my time at the coffee shop, I did not see that “new” teacher again.


After the unexpected prolonged time with my friends in Montevideo, they told me to check out the rest of Uruguay, to go north along the coast.

“Seriously, it’s a tiny country. You could do the whole thing in 4 days if you wanted to,” said Jameson.


The first bus I took was to a place called Punta del Diablo. I had no reservation and a small weekend bag of dirty clothes. I climbed the sandy dunes of hutted streets to a hostel I had heard about. I inquired about a room and they had one six-bed dorm completely empty. While putting my stuff away in the locker, I opened the window with a view of the sea. The sound was soul full and the smell of salt pinched the hairs in my nose together.

After a siesta, I will lay on the beach.

I woke up late from my nap. I was starving so I decided to head into town for seafood. The beach dogs — like street dogs but far fairer and mostly yellow labs — were wrestling in the dirt. I sat on a patio, ate some fish, drank a jar of wine and pondered about alternative routes. After dinner was done, I was offered a ride by a stranger on a fourXfour back to the hostel. Anywhere else, I would have declined, but I didn’t and I jumped on the one-seater. I got back to the hostel and the man rode away.

Cool night turned into crisp days turned into breezy nights. Over this span, I met a Scot who was forty-something and this trip was his first time leaving his town. Ever.

I met some twenty-somethings who told me about their trips to South East Asia and Europe and Africa and Australia. A self-proclaimed traveler forever.

And really, it takes all sorts.

“So, my plan is to just go North,” said the Scot. “What’s yours?”

“I don’t really know, head back to B.A., I guess.”

Days turned into days and I truly could have stayed there forever if I had not felt like there was something I needed to do at home. Home.

I decided to head back towards Buenos Aires.

I was told to check out Cabo Polonio — a recently established (within the past 20 years) colony that has barely any electricity — on the way. Again without reservation because the hostels do not have computers. I tredged through sand dunes to the coast, my bag of still-dirty laundry with me. The small desert-ous backdrop enclosed the town that smelled of dreadlocks and raw cotton against the sea. I wondered if people lived in this town in the winter.

Being on the peninsula and without electricity, one night of stars was worth a thousand years of light.

Come morning, I was beginning to smell like Cabo Polonio, my olfactory cue that it was time to leave.

One morning is all  it took to climb onto the jeep, the one to take people away from the surreal hippie life, catch a bus, change my seat five times in favour of those with assigned seats, sit in the Montevideo bus terminal, T sipping wine and eating a sausage with sauteed onions and red peppers and watch a futbol match, and board a bus to Colonia to take the ferry back to Buenos Aires to arrive at sunrise to a city that touches my heart.

Gliding towards the sprawling city, lights scattered like tiny twinkles, I felt an ease, like I was finally going home, and I was: to the comfort of a home I had for over two months. I planned to have a hot shower and a day-long nap.

Unlocking the door to the apartment, the air was stuffy because of closed windows and a faucet that was still running. Still, the familiarity was warm, yet cool. Before my shower&siesta, I wanted to put my sandwich in the fridge.

A couple of weeks before my return, the power had gone off and the fridge did not re-start. Weeks worth of rotting food and meat leant itself to a new family: many adorable baby maggots about to hatch from crusty egg shells. I pulled on my rubber gloves and dived in, surfacing for an occasional breath. Hours later, I was ready to cleanse my self and found that I had no idea how to turn on the gas to heat the water. Luckily, Ricardo, the doorman, was around to help me.

“Ricardo, what happened? Why did this happen? It was crazy. I went through so many bottles of bleach…”

“Bretana, the power was shut off over two weeks ago. Why didn’t you clean out the fridge before you left if you were going for so long?”

“Oh, well, I didn’t plan on going for so long. How long was I gone for?”

And I laughed. He was right. I did this to myself. How I live my life is my choice and sometimes it has consequences. The reality is, we can’t pretend that fate or meaning is anything but the amount of credit we lend to it. I could say that some thing other than myself was at hand. I could blame the universe for what happened. Or, I could come back to real life and learn my lesson and trust that the next time I travel, I will clean my fridge.

The reality is: sometimes things take a little fore-thought. It’s ok to have a little tiny plan and then an open mind to the things that get thrown at one’s feet. This road is not straight, but looking back at the finite (not necessarily the finest) moments, I wonder if it would have happened any other way. If I would have chosen it to happen any other way. I trust that I’ll figure it out.

Or, perhaps, I don’t have to and that’s the lesson.


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