Norton Ink

Argentina 2002

18 de Julio 2002

When one lives in a country and isn’t fully fluent, some confusion definitely arises. So think of the following stories as a warning as to what might happen in such a situation.

When I first arrived in Posadas, we all went to the house of the daughter who lives right in town. Everyone sat down to the dinner table and we ate some salad and some empanadas. I had already eaten on the plane and just ate a little so as not to offend anyone, but by the time they cleared all the plates, I was sufficiently full. Then they brought out the real dinner……..oops! It was a stew, with meat, sauce, potatoes and veggies. One of the daughters dished my plate up first, with tons of meat and veggies. How to explain that you are already full and you thought the last course was the whole meal? Not really possible, so you eat some, try not to offend (especially when they keep telling you to have more, more, more).

For the next week or so, I kept falling into this trap, eating the first course like it was the only course. It isn’t like they sit down and explain it to you, either, because it is natural to them, not an anomaly. I finally learned to pick and choose because there was definitely more food coming. This led to my next series of misunderstandings.

Two weeks ago, winter vacations started for the people who live in Cordoba. So the niece of Teresa and her family (Silvia, husband Alejandro, grandfather Tomas, son Ariel and daughter Emilce – yes, I spelled it incorrectly last time) piled in the car and drove to Posadas, a matter of some 13 or 14 hours. The night they arrived there was a big dinner at the house of Cecilia, including all of us at this house, all of Cecilia’s family, all of the family of their other daughter and all of the nieces family. Some 19 people. On our way over to Cecilia’s house we stopped and bought 8 pizzas and beer and wine. Well the last time we had pizza it was just a starter so I treated it like that. I had 2 pieces and then no more, knowing that some huge course of beef was imminent. Is there any polite way to ask, “Is there more food coming?” So far, I haven’t found it.

My wine glass kept getting filled and then they brought out the beer, the local beer Quilmes and I was curious to try it, as Kevin and I have found that local beer is always a delight. So I had a couple of glasses of that, as well. It was good, by the way. The wine glasses and the beer glasses are all considerably smaller in Argentina than they are in the States, so it wasn’t like I was trashed or anything, but I definitely needed the next course to come out. Well, it wasn’t to be. Pizza was it and by the time I realized, it was all gone. At least I was smart enough to stop drinking beer and wine, but I did have a small headache the next day.

This last Tuesday was the birthday party for Cecilia (40 this year, a big birthday, therefore a big celebration) and also for Tania (13). Cecilia’s husband Sergio made this great cheese fondue, there were little finger sandwiches and my favorite, spinach empanadas. There was also a lot of wine, and later on in the evening, champagne. What there wasn’t, was a real meal, and I was trying to save room for the later that never came. There was a fabulous chocolate cake, and that is when the champagne was opened, for all of the toasts. Since I was the “wine expert” on the premises, I was also the designated “taster” of everything, although I am proud to say I didn’t have one bit of the fruity sparkling wine. Again, the next day, I had a nice little headache, and to boot, a queasy stomach.

This leads us into the next set of misunderstandings. We were supposed to leave for Cordoba the previous Sunday but I remembered the birthday party before we bought tickets and I didn’t want to miss it, therefore we put it off. Teresa said to me that after the birthday party, on Wednesday, we would first go to Salto and then on Friday, or Saturday, we would go to Cordoba. Well in my guide books, Salta is a region and it isn’t that close (note the slight difference in the words). I asked how long we were going to be there and I thought I was pretty clear, but my question was misunderstood because I thought we would be gone for 3 days, instead it was just a day trip to a waterfall I had asked about previously. Salto being the word here for waterfall. So I packed a bag for 3 days worth of traveling, and tossed it in the car.

Before we were to leave on our excursion, I went and took a private class in Español from a lady that Teresa liked as a teacher. At 10 pesos per hour, the cost of instruction was minimal and why not have some classes in conversational Spanish? I certainly could use them. So I went over to Pilar’s (the professor) house and had an hour of instruction. This is a woman who breeds these huge dogs that look like Weimaruners (I don’t know how to spell that word) but they are white with brown spots. She has 6 of these huge animals, and certainly none of them are fixed and her house smells, well like it has 5 male dogs who aren’t fixed, living in it. (the 6th dog the father of the others, is too old to breed now so he is fixed) Slightly hung-over, queasy stomach, it wasn’t a grand time. However, I held it together and after an hour, Teresa came to get me. Celso was there as well, which seemed strange to me, as he works in the evenings 4 nights a week and we were going to be gone for some of that. Well he asked me how long I thought we were going, I told him 3 days and he just started laughing. “Three hours is more like it,” he said. Yup, just a day trip to see the waterfall.

Teresa had forgotten to give Cecilia her present and before we left she wanted to swing by the house and drop it off. When we got there, Silvia and Emilce hopped in the car. “Oh bloody hell”, I thought. I think Silvia is great, but her two kids have absolutely no manners, especially the little girl. When she wants something she just says, “I want that.” So I say, “what do you say?” Her response? “Give it to me.” No please, no thank you, and she is even worse to her mother, who just seems to ignore it and hand over whatever object of desire is lighting the little brat’s eye. Anyway, I didn’t realize they were coming too!

One of the biggest pains of being an adult, is that when you dislike someone, you have to ask yourself if it is because they reflect something you dislike in yourself. The more you dislike the person, the more you see of yourself in that person, is how the saying goes. I was getting a pretty good hate-on for this little girl, yet she seemed to show up for every event. I couldn’t even get away from her. Maybe I am supposed to learn a lesson here. Maybe she reflects something in myself that I don’t like. After some thought, I have decided that sometimes, you just hate a person because they deserve it.

Well we got on our way and the day was absolutely gorgeous. We dropped Celso off at the farm, because he had some work to do there and continued on our way. After awhile, there was a nice scenic view and we stopped and had a picnic. After a little food, and a little water, I started feeling much better. Again, we got back in the car and went on our way. It wasn’t until I saw the sign for Salto Encantado, that I realized just where we were headed. A few weeks before, one of the professors at the Institute told me about this great waterfall in the area, really pretty, very tall and there is a legend connected with it. If you are having trouble finding your one-and-only, if you drink from the water of the fall, you will find your true love. I had asked Celso about this waterfall and he told Teresa and because of ME we were taking this day trip! HA! Once I realized where we were going I told Silvia and Teresa the legend and we all had a good laugh about me bottling some water up for Kevin to drink when we got home, so that he could look at me right after.

So we get to the area and we are just above the fall, nice enough but not good enough for pictures. Teresa and Silvia had talked to one of the guides (you have to pay a small fee to get into the park and then they give you a little map) and she told them about this nice hike. Just 2,000 meters to the fall. Teresa and Silvia explained this would be like going 20 blocks in the city, sure, why not? I had finally remembered to take a camera and extra film somewhere, so why waste all that driving? We start along, me fighting the mosquitoes (had forgotten to put on OFF, however) but the path seemed awfully straight and we were losing the sound of the waterfall. I finally asked Teresa when we were going to start heading downwards. She then told me we were walking to see some other waterfall in the area. WHAT????????????? Hmmmm, well it is a long walk, perhaps the view is even more spectacular at this other waterfall, named Salto Picaflor –little flower. The word ‘little’ should have clued me in, but as usual, I had the greatest hopes.

Well, as a wise man once said, “Be careful what you ask for.” We soon started a descent. This walk took us an hour to reach the waterfall and the last half of it was straight down a muddy path, with tree roots for stairs. Now I can walk straight for hours upon hours, make it a downhill path with steps and my muscles aren’t as clued in. In fact, even when I feel strong and good and not tired, walk down a couple of hundred stairs and my legs start shaking. They don’t even feel weak! It is sooo weird, those muscles must not be developed, meaning I have some work to do in the future. Just after the sign stating that we only had 700 more meters to go, we reached the steepest slipperiest part of the path so far. We all kind of looked down it and asked ourselves if we were prepared to go on. However, we had bloody well walked this far and I was going to see the damn waterfall. I would hate to just walk to the middle of the forest and give up, walk back out and not see anything more than trees and mosquitoes. We get to the waterfall and it is cute and nice and all but it isn’t the Salto Encantado. Picaflor, indeed.

The first half of the walk back out was a real pain. Definitely putting a stair master to shame, and boy was I glad I had worn a new pair of shoes! (When I went back to buy those great Italian shoes I saw, I also found a pair of cute “Merrell” style slip-ons in red suede, but at least they were comfortable and had traction.) However, the last half of the walk is practically all flat, with some areas of decline, it was a cake-walk after what we had just been through and it gave us all a chance to catch our breath. Little Emilce had started bitching about wanting water and being tired about 20 minutes into it, but to her credit, she made the entire walk without assistance. Even though we hiked for 2 hours, to a waterfall I didn’t even want to see in the first place, I am really glad that we went. I felt like I had just done some really good exercise, and also improved my character. We went to the little hutch and got a liter of coke and we all split it.

Then Teresa asked me if I wanted to make the hike down some stairs to see Salto Encantdo. I was really torn. We came to this waterfall because of me. I did want to get some good pictures of it, and I was a little disappointed that we had spent 2 hours hiking to see something much less spectacular. However, I was kinda tired. I decided to can it, let’s just go home, so I said, “well, I don’t know.” Teresa asked me if I was certain. Then that niggling doubt started to come in, I DID want to see the waterfall. Just when would I get another chance in my lifetime? Probably never. Well, why not? Why not.

What was that again about being careful for what you ask for? We got to the beginning of the hike downhill, there was a sign, 450 meters for the hike, 266 steps, a total distance of 150 meters of escalation (what is the opposite of escalation? I forget, anyway the waterfall apparently drops approximately 150 meters). We started down and this wasn’t some nice straight down, modern staircase. Nope, it was a lot of switchbacks, with some cement blocks tossed in for traction. When we finally reached the bottom, you couldn’t even see the falls!!!! You had to jump some rocks in the river, walk a wooden plank and get about in the middle to get a good view. So, I did so, took some pictures and then headed back to where the others were. They asked me if I had drank any of the water, so as to reaffirm my true-love for Kevin. I hadn’t, so Silvia and I decided we were going to do it, I myself would have been happy to go back out to the plank and scoop some of that water, but Silvia wanted to get as close as possible, so we started frogging it. It was great fun, we were laughing and getting pretty close. The rocks were getting pretty slippery and Silvia almost bit it, once. But we got up there and tasted some of the water. We headed back, and then I slipped, but just ended up sitting on a rock, a very muddy wet rock but I didn’t go in. No I decided to wait to fall into the river until just after I said to Silvia, “I fear NOTHING.” Thirty seconds later half of my right leg went right into the river. Still it was quite funny, I didn’t hurt anything and if my shoes got ruined, well they only cost about $10, I can buy a new pair.

I have to say, I was REALLY glad that there was a suitcase in the trunk of the car with 3 days worth of dry clothes in it. Sometimes, a misunderstanding is a good thing. I wore clean dry clothes for the ride home.

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do." - Jerome K. Jerome, English author and humorist (1859-1927).