Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Adios Buenos Aires, Hola Ushuaia!

It's terrible to visit a new city in a new country and leave before you are ready. Of course I am ecstatic to have been here in Buenos Aires for even a day, but this is nowhere near long enough to be here---- I shouldn't be allowed to come and leave so soon. I wanted to have the girls take a Tango lesson but time was just too short, and tomorrow morning we rise staggeringly early to catch our plane to Ushuaia, from which our ship departs for Cape Horn.

Today began with breakfast on the roof of our hotel, the Hotel Moreno. It is a wonderful place. A boutique hotel with wonderful old wrought metal elevators, gorgeous wood floors and a huge cowskin rug in each room. ("You would not want to be a cow in Argentina," said our Chilean student guide Francisca to me today.) After breakfast, I attempted to make contact with the Girl Guides of Argentina, but was told that the group is currently on break, and will not become active again until next month. So we took another tack, venturing out into the rainy city (Ava, Sofie, Jay Sheehan and myself) to explore some parks and just take a look around.

I happened upon a woman who instantly became my new fashion icon of Buenos Aires: she was wearing beautiful oxblood colored Doc Martens (what other color here?), black leggings, an undone plaid shirt with a Guns and Roses pullover, a fantastic straw hat, and she had a messenger bag slung all the way down to her knees, walking along the Ponte de la Madre. Fantastic.

We wandered all over the city, admiring palm trees and monuments and beautiful architecture and the Pink Palace. Then back to the hotel for a rest and some food. Finally, it was off again to Ricoleta Cemetery with our student guide, Francisca from Chile. The cemetery is just astoundingly beautiful, and I honestly could take a room nearby and just wander around inside with my cameras and a notebook for a week or more. The mausoleums and statuary is just completely overwhelming, and the juxtaposition of all of that beauty in various states of repair and decay with the presence of dozens and dozens of cats is a beautiful thing that I am happy to say I wil never, ever forget. Yet it's already colored with sadness because I could only stay such a painfully short time.

We then wandered around in a mall in search of some piece of camera equipment, ending up treating the girls to watermelon juice (jugo de sandia sounds so much better) and fries at a McDonalds which has a balcony overlooking the Ricoleta Cemetery. I don't like to go to McDonald's, but I am grateful to have had that view of the cemetery from above.

We wandered back to the hotel, regrouped yet again, and headed out for a late dinner. Now sleep is paramount, as we have another long day of travel tomorrow. Could it be that we have nearly 1,000 miles farther south to fly tomorrow? After a ten hour flight the day before yesterday? Impossible!

Buenas noches!
I remain,


Monday, March 19, 2012

Buenas Dias, Buenos Aires!!

We made it to Buenos Aires, but just barely. We had to run through JFK Airport in New York as fast as we could to barely make our connecting flight... but I am skipping ahead, and some good things happened before then.

First, we left Cape Cod, actually driving right OVER the bridge onto the mainland and convening at the home of the lovely Kris Hughes, who along with the lovely Karin Tremblay and the Hughes kids JoJo and Rocco presented us with custom assembled travel goodie bags. How wonderful to have such thoughtful friends! Then Ava, Sofie, Andrew and I piled into the van of Jay Sheehan along with Jay's lovely wife Beth and their adorable son Garrett for the drive to Logan Airport in Boston for our 7:15 p.m. flight. The connection was going to be rather tight in New York, where the final member of our crew, Clay Harper, would join us, but all seemed well until... the plane was delayed due to fog.

It was delayed just long enough to make us quite nervous, and to make a bit of airport sprinting necessary once we reached New York, but Ava and Sofie were up to the challenge, tugging on their backpacks and running for the gate. We were the last ones on board, and I actually met Clay for the first time as I made my way down the aisle to my seat.

The ten hour flight was as expected-- long, exhausting. We got as much sleep as we could and looked forward to waking up in Argentina.

We landed at 9:15 a.m. and made our way through customs. We filmed a bit of our arrival and the passport process, then piled into two cabs to our hotel, which is beautiful. Hotel Moreno! I love it! After some wonderful hot showers, we searched out some food and took a look around. Buenos Aires is steamy and hot today, and the heat finally broke into a very dramatic thunder and lightning storm complete with ice cube sized hailstones in the late afternoon-- at precisely the time we welcomed my friend Nina's cousin Claudio, his wife Olimpia and their 17 year old daughter Lara to our rooms for interviews with the girls.

Even after 14 hours of plane travel, little sleep and lots of running around the girls again rose to the challenge, coming up with a list of their own questions to ask Lara about her life in Buenos Aires. It was a productive first day.

Then we put on our rain gear and ventured into the wet nighttime streets to seek out a market for food. We ate a humble meal in our hotel and now we settle down for a much-craved sleep. The girls are sound asleep, Ava cuddling Teddy and Sofie with Moo. Tomorrow remains open to several different possibilities: a possible connection with the Girl Guides of Argentina? A visit to Buenos Aires' most famous cemetery? Something else? We'll find out tomorrow, after breakfast on the roof of our hotel. I can't wait to see how the time lapse of the night turning to dawn and day outside our window turns out!

Exhausted... can't quite believe I was able to write all of that. Buenos noches, and hasta manana!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Adventure Begins... Tomorrow!!

Well, the Great Adventure begins tomorrow!

I wish I could say that I am as cool as the penguins we will be seeing, but instead I am all hopped up and jangling, crazily running from room to room, making lists, piling up clothing and gear and going a bit crazy. My friends and family are calling and emailing me and messaging me on Facebook, all reminding me to breathe and calm down. Ahhh.

We received two beautiful Magic Beanies from the marvelous Janice Callahan today-- one with a penguin emblem and one with two pirate symbols. How perfect! Ava and I can't wait to show them to Sofie, Andrew and Jay and Clay, the intrepid Team Penguin, when we begin our journey tomorrow to the end of the world. But first-- a good night's sleep and some last minute battening down of various hatches in the morning. Whew! Didn't we just do this? Imagine traveling first to the other side of the globe to China, and then from here to the bottom of the globe, to Cape Horn, within the space of 11 months! Now imagine doing that at age eight!

We couldn't have done it without you. Thank you!

I remain,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Did It!!!

We Did It! We reached our fundraising goal!

Thank you!! Today is Wednesday, and we leave for Cape Horn on Sunday!

I just got off the phone with my excellent good friend Betsy Bray, who traveled to Cape Horn and took the same excursion last year. She is kindly loaning me her waterproof trekking gear, which is wonderful because we are not only doing this project on a shoestring- we are doing it on the little tiny hard thing on the end of the shoestring. What do you call that thing again? Say it with me: AGLET! We are doing this trip on an aglet, and every little bit of cost avoided is a good thing. So today I will pick up my loaned gear and then start a hunt for the same things in mini-size for Miss Ava. Waterproof trekking boots, waterproof gloves, waterproof pants and some decent fleecy stuff, sunglasses, and a cap.

I also need to address the subjects of various camera memory cards and batteries, travel documents, how to pack what into what bags, where the gear goes, and how to REMAIN CALM.

Less than four days until we leave! I am so excited! And nervous!

I remain,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Most Auspicious Beginning

(Can you believe this photo exists?)

Welcome to my brand new blog! This is rather a chaotic point in time in which to begin a blog, with lots of crazy stuff going on, but as I tried to wait for The Right Time to Start Blogging I recalled an exchange in a short play I wrote called “American Super Wok”. The female character is meeting with a guy she hardly knows in an out-of-the-way Chinese restaurant to discuss the fact that she is expecting his child.

He: If you wait for the right time, the right place—

She: The right person—

He: —the right circumstances for it to ‘make sense’—

She: —for it to not be completely stupid and insane—

He: —until you have enough money, steady work, a good place to live—

She: —a sense of personal identity, a path in life, security, stability—

He: —a plan—

She: A plan?

He: If you wait for all that, well, you may as well give it up. You’ll never do it. Sometimes the baby to have is—

She: —the one you’re already pregnant with.

He: Right.

So. In that vein, sometimes the blog to start is the one you’re already pregnant with. So! Welcome to this birth of this blog. Not the perfect start, but it’s a start. Ahem. A Most Auspicious Start, in fact. Cough. And here we are.

To get you up to speed: right now there are six days left in my Kickstarter campaign to raise $9,750 for airfare to get myself, my partner Andrew Giles Buckley, our two children and our crew members Jay Sheehan and Clayton Harper to South America to shoot the second adventure in my web series Through My Eyes. We’ve got $7, 799, with $1,951 left to raise before the deadline on March 12. If we don’t meet our goal, we get nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Goose egg.

Take a look, please, at the Kickstarter promotional video at http://www.avaandsofie.com/, and watch all 13 episodes of the first Through My Eyes adventure, China: Through My Eyes, at WGBH.org/kids. It’s a child’s eye travel documentary following Ava and Sofie, ages seven and eight, as they explore three cities in China’s Pearl River Delta and share their adventure with everybody back home, from elementary school students to teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and adventurers of all ages and walks of life.

We leave for South America on March 18. That’s about a week and a half away. A week from Sunday! We'll fly from Boston to Buenos Aires and travel south to Ushuaia, Argentina, where we will depart on a Cruceros Australis cruise ship to round Cape Horn, rubbing shoulders with penguins, elephant seals and glaciers along the way and following in the historic watery footsteps of explorer Ferdinand Magellan and naturalist Charles Darwin. Then we will land in Punta Arenas and travel to Santiago, Chile before heading back home to Boston. What an adventure!

To make it more exciting — because it needs to be even more exciting, right? — I had a thyroid biopsy today, and will be waiting nearly a month for the results as we travel 6,752 miles away, around Cape Horn and back. It’s good to keep busy, right? I hope to blog along the way, sharing impressions and photos as we go. I think it’s going to be pretty wonderful.

Welcome aboard the — uh — newborn ship “Jennifer Sexton’s Blog”. You may lose some sleep, and you may get a bit seasick, but that’s what newborn ships and mixed metaphors are all about. So put that in your pipe and see who salutes!

I remain,