Portland to Montevideo
4 April 2013
It has been said — perhaps it has been said too often, as it has now become a cliché — that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the same spirit it might be said that a journey of a thousand miles continues with the iteration of that initial step: repeat as necessary. The destination is one’s extremal clause that terminates the travel algorithm. Any part of a journey of a thousand miles, then, consists of some subset of steps taken — and here we can even accommodate the empty set (since pauses between steps are also part of the journey) as well as the set of all steps (which is the journey entire). In some contexts nothingness and the whole are improper parts and need to be avoided, but they cause no problem for a formalization of this poetic characterization of travel.
I might decompose my journey from Portland to Uruguay into any number of parts, or stages of the journey — in fact, I could say rather that my journey was from Oregon to Uruguay, or Oregon to Montevideo, or Portland to Montevideo, and so on — so there are even different ways of construing the parts, and which parts go to make up the whole. My flights alone were divided into three legs, from Portland to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, and Miami to Montevideo. Then of course there was the necessary leg from my house in Portland to the Portland airport, a trip made possible by one of my sisters, who drove me to the airport.
On the other end of my flights, having arrived in Uruguay, I also had connections to make with another sister. She had earlier flown into Buenos Aires and had taken a ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia de Sacramento on the Uruguayan coast. Once I arrived at the Montevideo airport, I picked up a rental car and headed out on unfamiliar roads, trying to make out unfamiliar signs and using a less-than-optimal map, but I made it to the ferry landing at Colonia with little difficulty.
When I picked up the rental car the car rental representative told me that the best way to proceed was the drive from the airport to the oceanfront road that wraps around the whole of Montevideo, and then leads on to Ruta 1. This I did, and it gives the traveler a good initial impression of Montevideo to take this long oceanfront drive, with the city on the one side and the Atlantic on the other. My initial impression of Montevideo is that it is comfortable, laid-back, and tropical — it has none of the obvious poverty that one seems so frequently in Andean South America, and the city and the roads have nothing of the “frantic” feeling that one encounters in many third world metropolises.
I noticed, by the way, a lot of HBSC advertisements in the Montevideo airport, and there was an HBSC bank branch right in the airport terminal itself. Not long ago in Rationing Financial Services I wrote:
“If you have a hundred grand sitting around, you can park it at HBSC and get yourself a bank account that you can access at any branch in the world, taking withdrawals or making deposits in the local currency (or any other currency, for that matter). But I don’t have a hundred large to spare.”
And how right I was. If I could afford to have an HBSC account, I could have walked right into the HBSC branch and taken out my own money then and there, without having recourse to currency exchange for the greenbacks I brought along with me. But Uruguay is not an especially large or rich country, so I had to wonder about the HBSC branch at the airport.
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