Training in Buenos Aires and the Ghosts of Milhouse Hostel

(View of sunny Santa Cruz, Bolivia)
Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Population 12 million residents (it’s pretty big). After the long overnight trip to get down here, I encountered yet another issue that threatened my time down here. I groggily de-boarded the plane and waited in the line at immigration. Making sure I had all my documents in order, I opened my wallet where I had kept my plane ticket. After removing my ticket I noticed a particularly bare area where my debit, credit, and health insurance cards usually go. My heart sank into my stomach. I had left them in Colorado when making photocopies of them at my parents house, I had some cash on me, but I couldn’t stay afloat for long. Being thousands of miles from home with no source of money can make you feel a little naked. So yet again, as soon as I arrived at Hotel Plaza San Martin right in the heart of BA (that’s what the cool kids call it), I was on Skype phoning home. Luckily, the cards were right where I had left them on the scanner and thanks to the glorious delivery system of FedEx International, I had all three cards in my possession a few days later. Phew!
Training with G Adventures in Buenos Aires was absolutely incredible. When the front desk at the hotel gave me the key to room Ph4, I was a little confused as to why they have such odd room names here. Turns out Ph means Penthouse, and I was staying in their best on the top floor. Being first to arrive, I took the master bedroom, naturally, which had its own wrap-around porch and a Jacuzzi that we could fill up. Needless to say, we were all a little blown away with our accommodation. “The Playboy Mansion” became an instant legend. There were nine of us training in the Southern Cone: Four Argentines, one Chilean, a Peruvian, an Aussie/Salvadorian, and two Americans, me and a guy Kris from New York. Our ages range from 35 to 22, and I do receive constant crap for being the youngest and a gringo at that. But overall, it’s an incredible group of people to be doing this with. The training, although fun, was very information intense and tiring. We learned all about the company, situations we’ll encounter, and how to deal with just about everything. After the week of information madness was over, we all had our last group dinner: a big-ass steak, and lots of wine, a classic Argentine staple. Then it was off to Kika Club in Palermo, where I’m convinced the music doesn’t stop. Ever. Bring your sunglasses for the morning cab ride home!
And then we were on our own. We had a week in Buenos Aires before our respective training trips, or “shadow training” starts. Me and Kris were to go with another CEO on a 14 day trip from Bolivia and ending in Rio de Janeiro. Kris had worked in a hostel right in the city called Milhouse a few years ago, so we stayed there for our free week in BA. The week included: sprinting around the city trying to collect all the documents necessary to acquire a Brazilian visa, getting denied initially by the Brazilian consulate for lack of said documents, African-style warehouse drum parties, attempting to jog in the city whilst avoiding homicidal bus drivers, dancing, drinking mate, and the Sunday market in San Telmo, where they sell everything from hand made crafts to 16th century muskets with helmut included. I could go on about how the city is a perfect combination of European sophistication with Latin flavor, but what I would like to write about was my ghostly encounter at Milhouse.
 I present to you: The Ghosts of Milhouse Hostel.
You can’t really spot Milhouse Hostel from the street outside, unless you know exactly where you’re going. Just one block off the 300yd wide 9 de Julio, basically the Broadway of BA, Milhouse is marked by a large wooden door in an unassuming building. A tiny sign will tell you that you have arrived to the right place. Once inside, however, you will find that it is a 5-story building with a large spiral marble staircase that leads up to the dorms. The “lobby” consists of a bar with tables, a grungy pool table in the corner, and a large projector screen that plays the daily football match. The dorm rooms upstairs wrap around a tiny common courtyard, where everyone meets to discuss last nights debauchery and plans for round two (or three, or four). Kris and I settled in and laid around for a little bit. I sat in the courtyard outside my room to get a better signal to Skype my parents and tell them about my week so far. That’s when I began to hear strange noises echoing off the concrete walls. They were very faint, almost unhearable, then they would disappear. I thought nothing of it initially. 
Earlythat night, as we were getting ready to go out, I stood in the courtyard again. “Oooooo…” “aaahhhhhh….” There they were again, this time however a bit louder. I looked around to see if anyone above the courtyard was making these eery noises. They almost sounded like crying. Nothing. This must be an old building. Could it be that we have some paranormal activity going on? Other backpackers grew curious off the noises as well, and we started to compare theories.
I encountered the “ghosts” later that evening. We had gotten back from a friends’ birthday party in Palermo at about five, and I reeeally had to pee. Again in the courtyard, the noises arose. This time they sounded like a woman screaming…and they were coming from the bathrooms. As I walked down the dark corridor leading to the bathrooms the noises became more decipherable…
 “Aaaaaaaa!…… Aaaaaaa-oooooo! Oooooooh!….OOOOOH YAAAAA! THAT’S IT!”
 By now I’m sure you know what the ghosts of Milhouse are. Someone “was up all night to get lucky” as the new Daft Punk song goes. Still, this was different. Once in the bathroom, whoever this girl was is absolutely going crazy, and whoever this guy is makes love like a stallion. And all day long? This couple should both be relationship counselors. They were so loud; I was convinced they were on another bathroom right next to mine. After I got out of my bathroom, however, I found that I was the only one there, yet the noises persisted. I opened a nearby window and poked my head out. “OOOOOHH MY GOD!” The sounds were deafening, and coming from the neighboring building. This wasn’t just any couple, these were the people that get paid to do this sort of thing. And that building is where creepy men (and women?) pay to watch it all unfold on the big screen. Milhouse hostel shared a wall with El Teatro Pornográfico, aka the porn theater. For the next week, at sometimes disturbing times of the day (like 8 in the morning), you could hear the nastiest of funny business echoing from the bathrooms. The Ghosts of Milhouse Hostel became a lovely ice breaker when meeting people throughout the week in BA, although I am glad to be out of there and on the road. I can now poop in peace.
Time of writing: I am currently in the small town of Bonito, Brazil, waiting for the overnight bus to Foz do Iguacu. I am in the middle of my “shadow training” and it is going incredible. Next stop, Rio de Janeiro!

The Job and travel troubles

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for a week now, and I am still in total shock that I’m really here. Maybe it’ll hit me sometime. Maybe not. As the final college semester starts to come to a close, us graduates get the same question over and over again. “So, what are you going to do now?” And we’ll more or less all give you the same answer: We want to travel. The nearly two decades of the same nine months on/three months off routine has come to a close. We want to have fun and see the world. Traveling requires a lot of money even if you are that grungy dread-locked backpacker just “living off the laaaand”. It can take months to years even just to save for a month long trip to anywhere. As the excitement/fear of graduating came near and underemployment was imminent, I decided that maybe landing a job that pays you to travel would be the ideal choice. After a bit of networking and email-forwarding, I landed a job with G Adventures (formerly known as GAP Adventures). I am a CEO, which most would identify with being a tour leader, but my job entails much more. A CEO, or Chief Experience Officer, has the responsibility to ensure optimal life changing experiences. Without getting too cultish about it, I am basically everyone’s best friend. We specialize in small group adventure travel, which we say is for people who don’t like the “all inclusive resort” style of travel, but also don’t want to do the dirty backpacker hostel route either. It’s that nice in between, or, dare I say “GAP” in travel. That’s where we come in.

 G has adventures all over the world. My region is called the Southern Cone. We cover tours in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and Uruguay. When I got the job, my manager Julio informed me that training was to start on June 3rd…in Buenos Aires. My last two months in the US were pretty busy, having to finish college, work, move, and prepare my life for 18 months in South America. I hung out with as many friends and family as I could in a such a short time and then suddenly I was off to DIA with my life packed into a backpack and duffle bag. The drive to the airport gave me extreme deja vú. Almost exactly a year ago I was off to study abroad in Nicaragua for five months. This was going to be a different animal entirely, however. As soon as my dad dropped me off at DIA, however, I almost blew this amazing opportunity. Forty minutes before my connecting flight to Dallas was to take off, American Airlines nearly didn’t let me leave the country. This was because I had no documents to prove to them that I would not be in Argentina longer than 90 days and therefore did not need to buy a different visa. I was about to freak out in a place where they don’t like that so much. Luckily, my new rockstar manager, Julio, was on working on a Saturday and was on Skype. Having emailed me a fake trip itinerary that would put me in Ecuador the following week, I lied to the lovely American Airlines staff and swore on my life I would be in Quito in a few days, showing them my “tour”. Luckily the  receptionist bought it, printed out my boarding passes, and let me go. What now, American Airlines!

After two flights, an hour of sleep, and still buzzing hard on a Lunesta pill, I lifted the blind to see us flying over sprawling Buenos Aires. I remember flying into Managua, Nicaragua and being able to see the entire city end to end. Buenos Aires is the complete opposite. I have to learn my way around this place as if I were a porteño (from Buenos Aires)? This was going to be absolutely insane.