¡Pura vida!

I apologize for the blurriness of the video, but it was taken on a friend’s Razr phone. I was having an incredibly good night and the weather was gorgeous. I was so in love with life at that moment (and still am!) and maybe had a glass or two of wine. But definitely only high on life though you may think otherwise. 😉 It was shot in the centro of Buenos Aires near Plaza de Mayo a few weeks ago.

(Apparently with the the free, hosted WordPress it strips my site of any embedded videos. Until I can set up a domain, here is the link the video.)

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Mind Over Matter

A little over a year or so ago my best friend, Carleson, was in Atlanta for a few hours. He comes every now and then to visit me and hang out, but this particular time I think he had just returned on a flight from the U.K. and was waiting on someone to drive to Atlanta and take him back to Birmingham. We spent a few hours checking out downtown and as we were coming out of the subway and upon approaching the stairs and escalator there was a dilemma. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m lazy and I almost always take the escalator. Except this time Carleson looked at me out of the corners of his eyes, gave me a ‘What the fuck?’ look and remarked, “Hashem gave you legs, Emily–use them.” Every now and then that comment comes back to me so I don’t forget to be grateful every day for what I have, not the least of which is a functioning, healthy, able body.

A year ago if you had mentioned strapping a 20-pound backpack to your body and climbing up the side of a mountain I would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy. In fact, I still do. Who was the person who decided that would be fun? Or even remotely worthwhile? I’d like to give them a big smack upside the head. However, after having done a day hike in Córdoba with Charlotte and then spending two days hiking around Parque Nacional de los Glacieres in El Chaltén, Argentina, I finally decided to do the real thing and hike and spend a night camping in the mountains.

I mentioned that I was going alone, but the thing is, when I go things alone, I never end up that way. I mostly travel alone because it allows you to meet people and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with a friend, and much less in a group. Upon getting off the bus at the entrance to the trail I met a group of Israelis (there’s so many of them in Patagonia!) and doing the hiking and camping with them. There were three guys and a girl and it worked out perfectly because we all hiked at pretty much the same pace. Particularly Maya and I who probably stopped every 10 minutes gasping for air and a scene kept popping into my head from Diary of a Mad Black Woman, where the grandmother sits down in the middle of the ransacked closet and heaves, “And while you’re down there… bring me some oxygen!” We were doing the first leg of what is called the “W” because of the rough shape it makes on the map. This particular leg towards Campamento Torres, which is supposed to be about 9 and a half kilometers and takes about 3 and a half hours, involved hiking straight up a mountain for the first hour and a half before it finally leveled out a bit and became more of rolling hills on the side of a mountain until you reach the first camp. I finally learned to break it up and set mini-goals for myself to keep from stopping so much and that made it a little bit more bearable.

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From the first camp, Chileno, to Torres, the path was through woods and was more of the uphill battle. I have to admit, whoever said it was mind over matter clearly never stood at the base of a mountain and decided to hike up it with a very heavy backpack while also bearing in mind that the body you would be doing this trek in? It hasn’t done much more working out than running on a treadmill once in 5 months, walking short distances around a very flat, paved city, running to catch buses, swimming a few laps in a pool a few times a week, the occasional dancing, the day hike in Córdoba, the climb up the mountain in Bariloche, and the 2 days of hiking in El Chaltén. Also, that 20-pound  backpack I mentioned above? It actually weighed 32-pounds (or roughly 15 kilos) as I found out when I got back to the hostel and weighed it. Or maybe the person did know what they were talking about because I did it and I lived to tell the story.


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Once we reached the campsite everything was pretty much hunky-dory. As hot as we were while hiking, the temperature plus the wind chill was very cold and as we were pitching our tents Rotem reported that it was raining. As I looked up and then looked at the top of my tent I exclaimed, “It’s not raining, it’s snowing!” I could’ve died with happiness right then and there. My first real experience backpacking and camping AND it’s snowing? What more could a girl ask for? We all quickly set up our tents and the guys got out the stove to head up some water for tea.

After setting up camp one of the guys decided, after having hiked for several hours, that it would be a good idea to go hiking some more! What better way to warm up than that! And so, having dropped everything off at camp and taking with us only what was needed, we set out for the mirador (look-out point) of the famous Torres del Paine. This is where the mind over matter thing really starts to come into play. Here is what the matterhalf of the equation looked like:


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Almost to the top!

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Do not underestimate the difficulty of climbing up something like this.

Now imagine having to climb up it for an hour. I think it took us a little longer than that because we all kept stopping and wondering if it was really worth it since we were basically inside of a cloud due to the snow and knew we wouldn’t be able to see much. Besides, we were going back up at sunrise in the morning because it had been highly recommended. Yaniv, Maya, and I made it to the top while Rotem and Ofer went up about three-fourths of the way before turning around to go back to the camp. The view at the top, even though obstructed by clouds, was still incredible. If not the least of just being able to say that I did it. So many times during that day I couldn’t believe how much my body was able to do! Pushing myself way beyond normal limits and things that I previously thought I would never do has pretty much been the theme of my stay here in Argentina. So many times I kept thinking, “Look what I just did!” and being so grateful for a body that is strong enough to allow me to see views that most only see in photographs.

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Me at the top!

The way back down was just as difficult because after 10 years of gymnastics my knees have had their share of a beating and they still don’t appreciate walking down mountains, much less having to step down off of boulders. Thank G-d the guys were in the same way I was: after 3 years of being in the Israeli army and doing a lot of running they were willing to take it slow as well. Back at camp Rotem cooked rice and lentils for us while the others ate sandwiches. We went through my stash of dried fruits pretty quickly during the hike and the dried coconut and mangos were a crowd-pleaser.


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It was freezing that night and I slept in increments due to some discomfort or another. I had layered up with a pair of waffled long johns, sweatpants, two pairs of socks, a tank top, a sweater, a fleece jacket, and a sweater wrapped around my head, bundled inside my sleeping bag and still froze. It’s a good thing I went up to the mirador the day before because we all overslept and missed witnessing the sunrise (shocker!) and when they decided to head up around 7:30 or so I was congested and my eyes had crusted over. Needless to say I passed on going back up to the mirador but I’m told the view, while better than the previous afternoon, was still clouded over. I went back to sleep for a few hours since the temperature had warmed up a bit and I wasn’t feeling well. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal made with dried milk and a dash of vanilla or chocolate milk flavoring (try it!), breaking down the tents, and packing up it was back to the sendero (trail).

When we reached Campamento Chileno I decided to let them go ahead of me since my bus wasn’t until later that afternoon and they had about 7 and a half hours of hiking to do that day. Let me tell you, hiking alone is a lot more challenging because there’s no one in front of you to motivate you to keep going up that mountain! The day before some day hikers had stopped on the side of the trail to let us go past since we were heading up a mountain with ridiculously heavy backpacks and they cheered us on. That was one of the highlights of the trip.

While I was hiking it didn’t seem to bother me, but upon getting to the base of the mountain and trying to find out when the next bus was coming to take me back to Puerto Natales my eyes were burning something fierce. After much frustration with trying to find out what time the next bus was coming (hello, South America–let’s get with it, eh? A little more organized and coordinated, please?) I ended up getting a ride with a lovely Swedish couple back to the entrance of the park and from there waited about 45 minutes for a bus. When the 4:00 bus finally came I was informed that the bus I had been told about before? It didn’t exist. The next bus would be there at 7:45 and I would have to wait there until then. Let me tell you, knowing Spanish has really come in handy with getting myself out of these situations. I explain what’s going on with eyes and at this point am barely able to keep them open and can’t see so well. The lady comes back over 5 minutes later to where I was sitting and tells me that the bus that she had just told me didn’t exist? There’s one seat left and I can’t take it back to Puerto Natales.

Getting back to civilization I drop everything off at the hostel and after wallowing in pain for a few minutes on the bed I finally get up the strength to go to the pharmacy. After explaining what is going on and how I stupidly changed my right contact lens out the day before after only rinsing my hand off in river water. No one had any soap or antibacterial gel so at the time it had to suffice because my contact had been bothering me all day and I knew it had to come out or I’d risk scratching my cornea. The pharmacist takes one look at my red, swollen eyes and gives me antibacterial drops with cortisone and sends me on my way. I walk two blocks with my hands holding my eyes open to a vegetarian (!) restaurant to eat some dinner so I can just go back to the hostel and sleep. At the restaurant I eat as quickly as possible because my vision was getting worse even though I had put the drops in. I kept thinking about how much I wish my mom or a friend was there to take care of me because I wanted nothing more than for someone to feed me the soup I was eating, take my hand and lead me back to the hostel, and then take care of me for the rest of the night. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case so I strained to keep my eyes opened as I walked one more block back to the hostel where I passed out at 8:30. I woke up periodically through the night with tears streaming down my face and my pillow soaked with them, but when I woke up this morning my eyes were feeling considerably better. My right eye was the one that had been the worst yesterday, but this morning it was my left one, so I put my right contact in (I left my glasses in Buenos Aires, which I now regret). I woke up at 8:45 so, having missed my 8:30 bus back to Argentina I laid in bed for another half an hour and then went down for breakfast.

Again after much frustration with bus companies, I ended up just paying for another ticket with a different company for a bus back to El Calafate since I have also missed a bus from El Calafate to Rio Gallegos on my way to Ushuaia and didn’t have time or money to wait around in Puerto Natales until  tomorrow morning. I just finished eating an apple that I “illegally smuggled”–according to Yaniv–from Argentina to Chile. I declared that I had fruit on my Customs form, but the guy read it, stuck his hand in my bag which, when asked, I told him was full of “ropas sucios.” Dirty clothes. And that’s the truth. A load of laundry that would cost no more than $6-9 pesos in Buenos Aires costs anywhere between $25 and #35 pesos here in Patagonia. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to pay around $10 American dollars for a load of laundry. Anyway, all that aside I have just been through Customs again and am officially back in Argentina. If everything goes well I’ll be in Tierra del Fuego by Wednesday night.

View entire set of pictures from this post here.

Patagonian Adventure, Part I

Since my words could never do justice I’ll just show you the beauty of Hashem’s creation.

Glacier Perito Moreno en El Calafate, Argentina

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View entire set here.

Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, Argentina

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View entire set here.

A detailed recount of my camping adventure in Torres del Paine, Chile, coming soon!

Hacia rutas salvajes

I’m sitting next to a darling little wood burning, wrought iron heater in a hostel in Puerto Natales, Chile. It has a lone burner on top and I am just relishing the fact that it is a mere 9 degrees Celsius outside at the moment, but with the wind chill it supposedly feels like 4 degrees Celsius. I don’t know what that converts to in Farenheit, but it means cold. I may have cursed it a little bit when I was learning how to set up my tent about two hours ago, but I was mostly cursing the wind for making it feel so much colder than it actually is. And maybe the added fact that the wind is coming off of water. Water that is at the base of mountains and glaciers. I can’t get over that fact.

Also, did you notice that I just mentioned I just got finished packing my backpack? Because I can’t get over this fact either: I’m going camping tomorrow. On my own. As in, alone. In Torres del Paine National Park. I’m incredibly excited but also really nervous. I’ve spent the past few days hiking with traveling friends in Glacier National Park near El Chaltén, Argentina, but hiking during the day is definitely different than spending the night in Patagonia. The fact that the wind is significantly stronger here and the chill requires layering sweaters and long johns has me nervous that the little one woman tent I rented isn’t going to keep me so toasty.

Add that to the fact that the only camping experience I have involved setting up a tent the basement of my troup leader’s house when I was a Brownie Girl Scout way back when. We were going to “really” camp in her backyard but torrential rains came in that night and so that plan was a wash. Granted, we did end up learning how to fry an egg on a tin coffee can, but since I’m not carrying a camping stove and don’t have any intention on cooking anything, that experience doesn’t really help. Guess all those badges were just for looks after all. Speaking of food, all I have is several bags of dried fruit and half a thing of fruit-infused cookies and two apples. I’m completely new to this whole thing and since I happened upon a store that only sold dried food across the street from where the bus dropped me off that plan was a go. They had bins and bins full of fruit and none of it seems to have any added sugar (we are in South America after all, and thank G-d for that), but the idea of eating tafffied fruit for two whole days isn’t the most appealing thing in the world either.

However, I’m going camping and that’s all that matters to me right now. Maybe I’m doing this to prove something to myself, but when I decided to come down to Patagonia I wanted to rough it a little bit and really get out into the wild. What can I say? It may have been the movie to inspire a generation. My heater just got turned off so that means I need to go brave the cold and run to the ATM and then get some sleep. I have about 4 hours of necessary hiking tomorrow and I want to have some energy left to do some exploring once I get set up at the campsite!

L’chaim!

Checking In

With the advent and now culmination of finals I finally have time to write for this site again. In fact, all told, I think I wrote just under 50 pages in Spanish this month because instead of final exams, Argentine universities prefer final novelas. I kept feeling like I should write a little post just to let everyone know what was going on and save you all from assuming all sorts of crazy things, but the thought of putting some little hiatus post up bothered me. I really want to refrain from posting “filler” content on here as I would eventually like to make this site into a bigger project and a reflection of my writing for professional use as well.

That being said, and since I still don´t have any of the several posts I´ve been written ready for publishing, I figured I´d make a little announcement. In a little less than 10 hours I have a flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. The only plans or reservations I have are a hostel stay for a night in El Calafate tomorrow night and a hostel stay in Ushuaia for two nights on the 9th and 10th of December because my return flight to Buenos Aires is on the 11th. I´m hoping to make some friends who have a tent so I can do a little camping, but there are also refugios (tiny little cabins backpackers can rent) in several of the national parks I will be visiting.

I´m going here tomorrow!

I´m going here tomorrow!

My mom, who is incredible, purchased and mailed me an early Chanukah gift for this trip and the many others that are sure to follow.

Isn´t it beautiful?

Isn´t it beautiful?

That being said, I still haven´t packed and I need to print out my e-ticket. I´m planning on spending at least a few hours one day at a café to sit down and write some posts and document my adventures since I haven´t had any time over the last few weeks. If you´re interested in reading some travel adventures in the mean time there are several sites under the links section of the sidebar that I recommend checking out, especially The Lost Girls since I have the awesome opportunity to preview some of the chapters that Amanda has written for their upcoming book.

Here´s to adventure!

San Carlos de Bariloche

I’ve been putting off writing about my trip to Bariloche for quite some time now. In fact, it has been almost a month since the trip and I have yet to sit down and collect my thoughts. Partially because even when I’m not writing posts I’m thinking about all the things I want to write about. In fact, I even have a running list of topics to write about in the future when my life isn’t so interesting. Even though I am just now sitting down to tell the tale I have to give myself props for actually getting the pictures on Flickr in a reasonable amount of time because usually that takes me even longer!

I guess we’ll start off with the ‘getting there’ bit since I have to rave about the airline that we took from Buenos Aires to Bariloche. My program arranges two trips outside of the city during the semester during which our travel and room fees are paid and thank G-d for that because a bus to Bariloche takes around 20 hours which I will be doing anyway soon enough. Our flight was roughly two hours and the airline supplied us with the most delectable snacks I have ever been provided on an airline. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the goodies, but I’ll try to paint the picture: it was a simple box and inside was a little packet of crackers by a pretty popular brand here in Argentina (whose name is failing me now), a packet of galletitos from Havanna (these are basically little chocolate covered cookies from a chain café in Buenos Aires renowned for its alfajores or sweets), and an alfajor also from Havanna in the shape of a cone with a little cookie at the bottom, topped with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate–basically, a little piece of heaven. In addition, we were provided with the option of beer (Quilmes, no doubt, but do U.S airlines offer this to economy travelers? I wouldn’t know.), soda, coffee, agua con gas (sparkling water), and agua sin gas (“normal” water for people like myself who can’t deal with fizzy drinks). They also had this rather hilarious comedy show from either Canada or the U.K. on the televisions for us to watch. I didn’t hear anyone else on the plane laughing as hard as I was so maybe I was the only one who enjoyed it, but it was basically silly pranks pulled on unsuspecting people in public places. That right there topped the list for why everyone should take LAN when traveling around Argentina.

Bariloche, like Córdoba, is somewhere that I’m hesitant to even try to describe because words won’t do it justice. Hell, even photos won’t do Bariloche justice (or at least not the ones I took). Bariloche is the door to Patagonia for most travelers and also a pretty famous ski resort area, though, unfortunately, it was going into Spring when we went and I missed the ski season. The town is small and geared towards tourists with one main street lined with store after store of clothing, traveling gear, and artesanias. I really wasn’t impressed with the town because I’m of the belief that once you’ve seen one city in Argentina, you’ve seen them all. I’m told this is true for pretty much all of South America, but I can’t vouch for that just yet. However, it is situated on the edge of a lake that is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and so that alone pretty much qualifies it for somewhere to visit. It is a spectacular sight and a mere glimpse of the awe-inspiring beauty contained in the rest of the region.

On our first two days nothing really incredible happened. We took several hikes through a couple of the many national parks in the area, saw a waterfall, spent many hours on the bus, and–my favorite part–took an acensor to the top of a mountain that provided views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. We probably stayed up there for an hour and it was freezing. The wind blows a lot harder and colder on the top of a mountain! Since I was in a group of about 50 or 60 other people from my study abroad program a lot of people spent the time talking and being loud and obnoxious. I kept trying to find places on the decks and look out points where no one was, but sure enough, as soon as one person found something everyone else migrated. Eventually people dispersed a little bit and I was able to block out the remainder of the chatter and hear my thoughts, or rather, the silence of not having any thoughts because there were no words that are sufficient to describe what I was seeing.

Our last day in Bariloche, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Unlike the previous morning where I had gone to bed around 21.00 and woke up feeling refreshed–but freezing–because the room had been a sweltering sauna box the night before and Charlotte and I felt it would be a good idea to fall asleep the the window wide open. When we both woke up it was almost a game of truth or dare and lots of bribing to see who would get out from under the warm covers to close the window. I don’t remember how, but I won the game and Charlotte climbed out of bed and shut the window, but not before we actually looked out the window to see a string of mountains and a lake planted at the bottom. There was a morning mist over the tops so you could only vaguely make out their altitude, but the sight alone was enough to drag anyone out of bed and down to a free “breakfast.” I put breakfast in quotations because if there is one thing I’m doing when I get home it is going straight to the local Cracker Barrel (you think I’m kidding?) and ordering the largest helping of scrambled eggs with cheese, cheese grits, buttered biscuits, and hashbrowns with lots of ketchup. And maybe some pecan and blueberry pancakes and french toast too. Argentines don’t believe in breakfast. They believe in coffee and maybe some medialunas at around 11 in the morning. Maybe toast if you’re lucky, but even then it’s not the same. I’ve gotten used to it and just grab a banana on my way out the door because it’s not like I ate breakfast every morning back in the States–I mean, I’m in college! Late nights studying or working and 9:30 classes don’t mix well together. But the longer I’ve been here, the more I miss having the option of getting a nice stack of fluffy pancakes topped with fresh fruit. And then there’s the fresh fruit thing. It is impossible to find frambueses or raspberries here. They won’t be in season until December and since there isn’t really such thing as bags of frozen fruit in the freezer section here (come to think of it, I haven’t even seen a freezer section here!) I’ve been moaning and trying to find a substitute for them. Wow, that was quite the the tangent. So, on our last day I woke up (or more like fell out of bed after Charlotte woke me up several times) a little bit hung over and maybe still drunk from the night before, I don’t really know which. All I know is that I couldn’t do anything other than throw everything in my bag, get dressed, and run out the door for breakfast, while also forgetting my copy of Walden and a large shopping bag with a box of chocolates inside as I would come to find out several hours later.

HotelOur hotel.

At breakfast that morning I could barely eat anything other than a bowl of fruit and just insisted on drinking all the water I could find and nursing my throbbing headache. We left the hotel shortly after to spend the morning hiking, except they really should’ve warned us that this hiking? It was more like dragging your poor, clearly out of shape, hungover body straight up the second tallest mountain in Bariloche. In short, it was very unpleasant. I ended up hanging out at the back of the group as we trekked, and trekked, and then trekked some more. Every now and then we would stop so everyone could drink some water, but I would purposefully stop to put more distance between them and myself so I could enjoy the peacefulness of where I was and listen to the birds talk to each other and take in the vistas whenever there was a clearing so that I could see whether or not all this trekking was worth it. And it was.

We finally reached the “halfway” point and were asked if anyone wanted to turn back. Olivia and I considered it, but when Liz pointed out to me this little house with a big red flag that was surrounded and covered in snow far off in the distance on what seemed like another mountain and told me that that was what we were hiking to, I decided to push forward. The hiking went on for at least another hour and a half (but time sure does seem longer when your legs just want to fall off your body) and I was joined at the back of the group by one of our guides. When we finally reached the top of the uphill climb we walked alone many paces behind everyone else and talked. Towards the top of the uphill trek we started seeing snow and piles of ice here and there, and the ground was getting soggier and more slick. We finally started encountering snow on the ground and it got progressively deeper and more difficult to walk through. I, however, was paying no mind to the fact that every other step I was losing ground and sinking at least a foot into the snow if not falling over outright. No, I was scooping up handfuls of this pristine powder and admiring it and occasionally eating it since I had long run out of water to drink. The guide kept laughing at me and asking me if I had ever seen snow in my life. I tried to explain that I’m from Alabama–the number of times I have seen snow can ben counted on one hand, and even that snow doesn’t really qualify because it was never anything like what I was witnessing right then.

When we finally reached our destination–which turned out to not be that little house that we had seen far off in the distance due to the fact that the snow had just fallen the night before and it was becoming far too difficult to hike in, in addition to the fact that the guides were worried we would cause on avalanche trying to pursue the basically straight up climb it would require to get there–everyone else was shivering and freezing, red faces, and lots of complaining about how cold it was. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered with the temperature, and didn’t even notice it until we were hiking back down the mountain and my hands felt like they were going to fall off since I had insisted on taking a gazillion pictures. 

The view from the top was incredible. I’d like to say that was inspired to climb more mountains like that one, and I was, but I think being a little bit more acclimated to climbing and higher altitudes would make the experience more enjoyable than it was prior to reaching the top. Maybe also not being hung over next time. However, the entire time I was climbing up the mountain, and for a little while back down I kept recalling lyrics from a song by Rachael Lampa called “Blessed.”

“I may never climb a mountain
So I can see the world from there
I may never ride the waves
And taste the salty ocean air
Or build a bridge
That will last a hundred years
But no matter where the road leads
One thing is always clear…”

Proof that I made it to the top!

The walk back down the mountain consisted more of slidding and trying not to fall down. My knees and thighs were not appreciating the beating they were getting and by the time we reached the bottom the muscles in my thighs were quivering. We ate lunch, went back to town for a bit, and shortly after boarded a plane back home to Buenos Aires. Oh, and after much panicking and calling the hotel, one of our program advisors had picked up my book and bag of chocolates before we even left the hotel that morning and I–hopefully–learned my lesson about being careless.

Esperanzas Verdaderas

When I went to the U.S. Embassy to turn in my absentee ballot a few weeks ago I ended up striking up a conversation with the guy in line behind me. As we waited we exchanged stories about what had brought us both to Buenos Aires, how long we had been here, where we were from in the States, and so on. After we submitted our ballots we were both going in the same direction and continued talking. Having a little free time we did the only proper thing to do when you’re in Buenos Aires and want to socialize: we went to a cafe. Him for coffee and me for lunch.

Having already established that Ethan was working down here as a writer and moved here for the sole reason that he wanted to experience something different, I had to ask why he chose Argentina. Ethan has picked up Spanish in the two years that he has spent living here, but did not speak a word of it when he first arrived. He shared humorous stories about things being lost in translation, we talked about the frustrations we have both experienced in everyday communications, and I poked fun at him for his rather large map which he pulled out to show me where a really cool bookstore was located in San Telmo. I, for one, refuse to be seen holding a guide book in my hands these days and try to be inconspicuous about whipping out my Guía T when taking unfamiliar bus routes, but Ethan announced that he has no problem whatsoever standing in the middle of the sidewalk, map noticeably held up in front of his face shaking it for exaggeration, and exclaiming, “Estoy perdido! Muy perdido! Ayudame, por favor!” He acted out this scene for my amusement as we’re sitting at the table and I laughed loud enough that I’m sure people on the sidewalk outside turned to see what was so amusing to the Americans. After numerous tangents we finally got back to the question at hand: “Why did you choose Argentina?” And so the story began.

Ethan provided me with a brief overview of the situation in Argentina after the 2001 collapse of the economy and what life was like at the time and is still like for many here in the city. Relating it to the current crisis that the United States is experiencing he raised the question to me of what the reaction is for Americans right now, most of who have never lived through any economic crisis and many who can’t comprehend what life was like during the Great Depression. I responded that majority of Americans were in a panic. I can’t open a news website now without finding at least one headline or article about how Americans are relearning the meaning of frugality, panicking about paying their mortgages, losing their homes, and so forth. The attitude of many has become solemn and fear-stricken. He then calls over our waiter and asks if he would mind answering a question for us. The waiter obliges. After an explaining what he were talking about Ethan proposes the question (in Spanish, so all translations or mis-translations are mine alone): “Do you think another financial crisis is likely to happen in the future?” The waiter nodded his head in response to Ethan continued, “Since you acknowledge that another financial crisis is imminent for Argentina, how do you live?”

The waiter doesn’t understand the question. Not because we didn’t ask it correctly, but because it doesn’t make sense to Argentineans. What do you mean how do we live? We live. Our waiter continued to explain that his son doesn’t currently have a job and he isn’t sure how he can afford to support him, only that he can’t afford it. Times are tough, the economy still hasn’t gotten back to where it was pre-2001 collapse and now it’s starting to get worse again. After the waiter tells us a little bit more about his life he walks off to help someone else. Ethan turns to me and says, “Did you understand that?” and I tell him I did but I’m confused about where he’s going with this. He looks me straight in the eye and says, “I went back to the States for a few weeks about a month ago and I swear my blood pressure is still up from that short time. People are always in despair, in a panic about something and the government doesn’t help. Here, times are tougher and people work longer hours for less pay but you know what? At the end of the day, as long as they have their family and can afford to have a beer, life is good. They have hope.”

And it struck me how true this was. Argentines, and porteños in general, are a pretty laid back bunch. If nothing else, their cafe culture shows this. They have a tea time of sorts here called ‘merienda’ and it’s not at all unusual for every table in rather large cafes to be pull of friends and families drinking coffee, sharing medialunas or other alfajores, and simply enjoying each others company. On the weekends many are sitting outside of parillas with a 770ml of beer sitting in the middle of the table laughing and talking. And on any given weekday at any hour you will always find a fairly large number of people sitting in the parks and plazas with friends sharing maté, enjoying live music on the weekends, playing a guitar and singing, or taking a nap while soaking up the sun, and on the weekends this is even more so. You are pressed to find a spot to sit down on beautiful days because it seems the entire city is outside. I now realize that this probably has to do with a more socialist culture where its all for one and one for all and I think Americans would be the better of for it if they learned to lean on each other a little more and realize that life isn’t about working your life away to buy things you don’t need. It’s about realizing the blessing of having friends and family around you, taking care of each other, and letting everything else fall where it may.