Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I'm home now (in Silicon Valley) from Bs. Aires. Arrived yesterday late morning. Getting to and from Argentina is truly the travel trip from hell. It takes 22 hours door-to-door. Most people don't realize it but Bs. Aires is 2 time zones further east than New York City, in fact South America is not even under North America.

Coming back involved an hour + drive out to the Ezieza Airport, hanging around for 3 hours, a 9 1/2 hour flight to Miami that arrives at 5am Miami time (4am Bs. Aires time). 2+ hours of passport control, customs exams, and security procedures, then finally a 5 1/2 hour flight from Miami to SF. [During daylight savings time Bs. Aires is 4 hours ahead of SF, during standard time they are 5 hours ahead]. For the first time in my life I had a little argument with he random person sitting next to me. He insisted on sticking his feet on my side under the chair in front of me. This of course left me no place to put my own feet unless I wanted to intertwine them with his, which I did not. I asked him to please keep his feet on his side and he started to argue with me. I just told him I was not going to argue and we both shut up and endured each other's silence for 5 hours.

Unfortunately I caught a cold, a sinus infection, pneumonia or SARS (I'm not sure which) in Bs. Aires and I couldn't even visit my ill friend for the last 3 days. As explained below, I idled away my time in internet cafes and made international phone calls. Everything is dirt cheap for Americans in Argentina -- even I, jobless for 20 months, felt quite comfortable spending money. For example, a dinner at a very nice restaurant for 3, no wine but with dessert, cost $33 TOTAL including tip.

The Argentines make beautiful clothes and there are thousands of shops all over Bs. Aires. Given their terrible economy, I'm not sure who the heck is buying the stuff though. When I first started going to Argentina 20 years ago I was obviously "the American visitor" because all of the women wore dresses or skirts, even to do grocery shopping! It was like the 50s were here. I was wearing casual clothes and comfortable shoes and really stood out. Now, I was mistaken many times as an Argentine. For a day I had laryngitis and couldn't speak so I was able to keep up the charade (my Spanish is awful but it gets me by).

Update on my friend -- I went to Argentina urgently to be with my friend of 25 years before she went in for brain surgery, and to visit with her afterwards in the hospital. She is recovering well, but for those of you who have had a friend or family member of colleague with a brain tumor, you know that this is a very, very serious problem. Her diagnosis is the same as that of Dan Case, former CEO of Hambrecht and Quist and the brother of Steve Case, founder of AOL and Chairman of AOL Time Warner. I remember very clearly when Dan announced he had a malignant brain tumor as it seemed so senseless and uncommon. I now know a lot about brain tumors, and the kind that my friend has in particular -- Glioblastoma. Dan and Steve set up a fund called ABC2 and today I spoke with the Executive Director John Reher. He was very kind and helpful. John mentioned that although glioblastomas are not a common disease, there seem to be more of them in middle-aged Silicon Valley male executives but they don't know why. Actually, from my studies, doctors don't know what causes any of the brain tumors. Along with helping my friend plot and execute a treatment path I am also hoping to find another Latin American person with this disease so she has someone to talk to (in Spanish) who is going through the same process.

Here's a wonderful quote from Dan Case "If there's one lesson I got from this,'' he said, "it's much more than we have to fix brain cancer, it's that people are amazing if you just give them a chance to be kind.''