Norton Ink

Argentina 2002

25 Junio 2002

Here we go, things started off, well a little slow. The first leg of my flight was 40 minutes late which had me a little concerned about connecting in Chicago. However, things turned out well and I walked right on my next flight. Then in Miami a longish wait (almost 2 hours) but then on my way! How great! Except that sitting in those tiny chairs with the person ahead of you taking up all your air space it is a bit difficult to be comfortable. However I did get to watch a portion of a REALLY awful Brittany Spears movie. Whatever the title of it was (I have forgotten already) I don’t recommend it. Unless stuck on an 8+ hour flight and bored with your book.

Arrive in Buenos Aires at 8 something am, then go through customs, wait for my bag (I think it was the last last last last LAST one on the plane) and then get my bags scanned one more time for contraband and then on my way out of the airport. I had spoken with Celso (the husband of the two people who are hosting me) the day before and I wasn’t sure if he said that Teresa (the wife half of the duo) would meet me in Buenos Aires or not. She was there because Alma, the girl who came down a term before me, had her passport stolen and her flight back was delayed. So I am walking out of customs, trying to decide where to change some money to catch a bus to the other airport - HA, I just realized I left one part out, the other airport.

Well, Buenos Aires has 2 airports, the large one for international travel and the smaller one for national travel. They aren’t near each other and neither of my Argentina travel books gives good advice on switching. Oh did I mention that my flight to Posadas isn’t until 7pm? Yup, 8 or so hours to kill before being at the other airport. Oh goodie! It turns out it didn’t matter because Alma and Teresa met me at the first airport.

We took a taxi to the little hotel where they were staying while Alma sorted out her passport problem. I took a shower and changed clothes (nothing better than cleaning off from a long flight) and then we went out on the town! Lunch and sights and everything! Then we went to the embassy and Alma was able to get her new passport (she had to go after 3p) while we were there, I decided to register with the embassy, just in case anything went wrong, like losing a passport. Ooops!! But they only accepted registrations in the morning, too bad. At least I have a few copies of my passport in various places in my luggage. After seeing the town I barely had time to get on my plane to Posadas, where I was met by Celso and his daughter (Cecilia who is married to Sergio, they have 3 daughters Antonella 16, Selene 15 and Tania 13) and Selene. We ended up going to Cecilia’s house and I got to meet all the girls and Sergio. This is where the trip becomes PURE Karri.

Had a great time talking (as much as was possible) to all the people and we stayed up pretty late. I got a chance to show them my laptop (showoff, I couldn’t even wait one day, I had even told myself that I wouldn’t bring it out about 20 minutes before) and pictures and it was a very pleasant evening. They showed me the room I would sleep in and the little bathroom just off of it. I was made to understand that the little bathroom was only for when the other was occupied and it was emergency status. One note about Argentina, and most likely any other South American country, no one EVER sleeps. Everyone in the house was up past midnight and I finally said I had to hit the hay.

One thing about flying, there are always people waiting in line for the bathrooms so it is kind of embarrassing to stink one up, plus I haveperformance anxiety, so it just isn’t even possible for me to, to, ummm, well, YOU KNOW. Then I was whisked right away onto the sightseeing journey and then another plane and THEN a house full of strangers, none of whom would go to bed. There was not a chance to go, as my friend Gareth said, “Oh lord, just say it..poo!” So I woke on Saturday at 6am having not gone, ummmm, you know, poo, for a good 2 days. Well, a small private bathroom that no one ever uses, early enough in the morning for it to clear up of smell, sounds like just the right kind of emergency to me.

Afterwards I felt sooooooooooooooooooo much better. Until I went to flush. Hmmmmm, where the hell was the handle? For that matter where the hell was the tank? It was just a toilet connceted to the wall. I found several faucet handles, but upon further inspection none of them were for flushing. There was a hole in the wall above the toilet and I looked into it, hmmm the tank! It was behind the wall and seemed to be missing its lid. It looked like it had been made in 1899 but at least I was on my way to a solution. However I haven’t ever flushed a toilet without the handlebefore and didn’t have a single clue as how to operate one. I kinda pushed and pulled at some wires. No go.

I saw the floater thing that goes down when you flush the toilet (you know the thing that measures the water level in the tank and shuts the water off when the tank is full?) well I was exausted of other ideas so I pushed it down. Hard enough to make it stay down, not too hard though, remember this is an antique. Well it stayed down and the water in the tank turned on and no big surprise, the toilet didn’t flush. What brilliance! I mean, if I had been thinking about, I would have known that would happen. Who wasthinking though?

So the toilet doesn’t flush and the back tank is filling up, oh SHIT, literally. What to do now? I try to pull the floater thing up, to shut off the water, nope. Mess with a few of the wires and this has the exact same response as before, nothing. And now the water is starting to overflow!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh SHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT. What a great morning. So I give in and go out into the living room. It is my one lucky break that Sergio just happened to be awake (didn’t I tell you these people never sleep?). So I asked him for help (actually, upon reflection I realized that I said, “I need to help” but he got the idea). The first thing Sergio does is pull some little wire sticking out in the front that any sane person would have realized was the way to flush the toilet. Then he spends about 2 more cycles of flushing and filling to get the plunger thing to come back up. Apparently there used to be a full wall and a little button to push to flush the toilet, but it broke and they had to break into the wall, probably the reason few people used that bathroom. Anyway, I couldn’t have been MORE embarrassed, but Sergio was really really cool about it. I have the suspicion that he doesn’t realize that I shoved that plunger thing down, or maybe he does.

This is already quite the letter and I am only on the second day so perhaps I should just sum up from here: I was very surprised by Argentina, it is less clean and maybe more run down than I expected, but also they have a lot more culture and are soooooo friendly. So it was opposite from my expectations on both sides. My first night with Teresa and Celso we went to a classical concert and then to a folklore thing (these two 60 year-olds kept me out until 2:30 am, I was ready to drop at midnight AND then they both woke up before me the next day as well), the next day we went to a festival of San Juan which reminded me SO much of the Spokane Fair. Things to eat and buy and dancing and music and crazy games. One was a greased pole with names of gifts at the top, little boys took turns trying to get up the pole, it was really cool and fun to watch them try. Another game was kicking a ball lit on fire around and I didn’t quite understand the purpose of it. I had some Yankee money on me (everyone is an American in South America too, so you can’t use the term American for people from the USA) and I ended up finding something absolutely perfect for my sister (please note how I am not saying what it is) and was able to talk to the lady a little and she said she would take dollars instead of pesos. Apparently it is hard to deal with U.S. dollars and many merchants won’t take them. I just love Teresa and Celso and Cecilia and Sergio and their family. They are SO nice and so accomodating (I am not allowed to wash dishes, or clean, I am made to sit in the front of the car, my every wish is catered to, I am not sure I want to go home!) The youngest granddaughter is a big fan of English and is taking a course in the evenings at the local Institute and I might volunteer there.

Another odd thing, these people do NOT drink coffee, except after dinner and in demitasse cups and it is instant AND there is soooooo much suger and milk in it. Really, it isn’t coffee. However, Teresa does have an electric pot and makes me a huge cup of drip coffee every morning. I do miss good coffee though.

Monday found me changing money and contacting some of the English schools to see if they want a volunteer. Today, Teresa, Celso and I went for a walk followed by lunch in a café. Ever since Celso found out I work for a winery we have a glass of wine with lunch and with dinner (SUCH a hard life, let me tell you). We started talking about the language and how English doesn’t have masculine and feminine forms and I launched into my, “what makes morning masculine and nighttime feminine, shouldn’t they be the opposite? And bottle, what is it about a bottle that is feminine? Nothing!” At that point, Celso pointed out that bottles are completely the opposite of feminine and we had a very amusing conversation about how monuments and such are clearly designed by men, and planes and rockets and tall buildings while we are at it. I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.

At the end of lunch Celso said one other thing that really got me, “There are good moments, good moments that you need to remember, and this is one of those.”

I will leave you with one other quote from the book Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, “We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.”(Respiramos en nuestra primera lengua, y nadamos en nuestra segunda.)

Oh, one last thing, the food here is very influenced by the Italians. I had gnocchi for dinner tonight. Not a single bean or piece of rice, yet.