BootsnAll Travel Network

A Break from BsAs

19 December 2005 – 23 December 2005 (Monday – Friday) – Villa Elisa, Mar del Plata, Argentina

Well, as I said, much as I love this city, I needed a short break from Buenos Aires.

Raquel, whom I met way way way back in Salvador, Brazil, lives in Villa Elisa. I had pre-arranged with her that I would like to spend a few days at her place and she welcomed me with open arms. At the point of packing for the little trip, I also had the sudden idea to go straight to Mar del Plata after that to spend a couple of days on the beach before returning to Buenos Aires. Great to be travelling alone, as you can just make and change decisions just like that. Left a hurried note in Claudia’s apartment to tell her I would only be back by Christmas Eve.

Fantastic to see Raquel again. She has 2 children – Salvador, turning 11 soon and Carmen, who had just turned 9. She is about 10 years older than I, but she is such a cool lady, with many similar ideas as I, so we just had tonnes to talk about. And she is a great mom too, yes, to me as well, haha. I did not have to do anything at all in my 3 days with her. I just waited to be fed and got fed. OK, I did the dishes, perhaps the one household chore I am good at and which my hosts allow me to do.

As it is summer and the children had completed school for the term, we just spent our days going to the club, where the children ran off to swim or play racquet games, while Raquel and I, together with some of her friends, relaxed on the grass under the sun. We chatted, drank mate and played ‘Scrabble’ in Spanish. I had the dictionary clasped to my bosom the entire time, and at the end of the game, to my utter surprise, I actually won the game, heh…

Grimacing from the bitterness of mate, but still I drink it

With Carmen, Raquel's daughter and Fernanda, Raquel's friend

Raquel even brought along her I-Ching coins and the thick Book of Change and we asked several questions and consulted the book. I really had to laugh at myself. I-Ching has Oriental origins and I learnt how to use it here in Argentina. We also went for a short African dance practice, taught by Fernanda, Raquel’s friend. Fernanda is a Physics and Mathematics teacher in a school, very scientific-minded, yet she is also an artesana, making Mapuche weavings and other crafts and teaching African dances.

Villa Elisa is merely 45 minutes to 1 hour away from Buenos Aires on the bus towards La Plata and gosh, it is a completely different world. Just out of Buenos Aires’ provinces, are lands and lands of pure greenery. Villa Elisa is a residential area with big lovely houses, pretty gardens and lots and lots of shady trees along the streets. Just lovely to spend a couple of days here surrounded by chirping birds and pollution-free fresh air.

Raquel’s children are also incredibly intelligent and creative. They are drawing and drawing all the time and there are pictures pasted all over the house. I was amazed by how artistic they are, again they are the seeds of Argentina’s creativity culture. Raquel also shared with me the same theory, that Argentines must be ingenious, resourceful, creative to get around their social and economic situations. For her age, just 9 years old, I found Carmen really mature. She would sit there and give her opinions about the social class differences in Argentina and the bad education of the people who dirtied the streets in Buenos Aires and the beaches along the coasts. She over and over again expressed her love for nature, greenery and animals. Hahaa, this girl truly belongs to the countryside, like here in Villa Elisa.

I took the bus to Mar del Plata on Thursday morning and when I arrived at 2pm there, I was taken aback by how freezing cold Mar del Plata was. Gosh, this is the top summer resort of Argentina, where in perhaps 10 days’ time, hoards and hoards of porteños would descend upon this beach city like ants to bake under the sun. But with the strange topsy-turvy weather of Argentina, it was like 18C in the day and 12C in the night that ‘summer’ day.

This year was really odd. When I was here in Buenos Aires in autumn, back in May and June, the temperature reached a hot 28C. Now that it is summer, it actually dipped down to 12C. I had only brought along skimpy summery tops and a jacket which was basically just a shell where the wind blew right through me. Brrr….

The next day, I wanted to take advantage of the noon sun to head out to the beach, but at the hostel, somehow or other, I had to be sociable, stopping to chat with this and that person as I made my way from the bed to the breakfast table.

The lady who talked to me for more than 2 hours at the breakfast table was Elisa-Maris. She is an Argentine who had just returned from United States after more than 20 years there. She wanted to move back to Argentina and change her career. As she is still sorting out her things between Argentina and United States, she is currently living at the hostel.

I found it strange. Most people here in South America, including in Argentina, are planning and plotting their ways to work in United States or Europe. Yet, to meet a lady, who actually wants to leave United States to return to her home country, why?… I was curious.

Elisa-Maris explained that here in Argentina, compared to United States, people are very open-minded, there is indeed a huge cauldron of cultures and ideas here. For example, she explained… in United States, an average person listen to a few kinds of music, say, Country Music, Pop. But in Argentina, many people listen to ALL kinds of music, from Celtic to African to Arabic to Indian and people here read a lot about all topics around the world. I thought back… true, my friends here, Pablo and his friends, Raquel, Natalia, etc… indeed have music collections from all over the world. For sure, having scanned the bookshops here, people do read everything, bookshops are opened til 10pm or later, and often, on the bus or subte (metro), I would see people reading. Some artesanos in Plaza Francia, I was told, are doctors, radiologists… and Fernanda is a science teacher, yet, they also swing the other way – art.

Art, dance, music, literature, poetry… Argentina is indeed the place where cultures are cultured. This is what she misses here in Argentina, this is what she loves and wants to return to. She used to be a highly-placed teacher, a specialist in some kind of education, but now she wants to start a film company. Look at that! What a complete change! It was really refreshing to chat with Elisa-Maris, as she encouraged me to open my mind to all the options and changes in my new life when this trip ends.

I finally hit the beach and got myself nicely baked, both sides, for 2 hours or so, before the clouds closed in. The beaches of Mar del Plata are lined with rows and rows and rows of umbrellas and shady canvas cabins that stretched as far as the eyes could see. At this point, most of them are empty, although there were scattering of tourists all over the beach. But, gosh, I can just imagine, how horrifying it would be in January and February when nearly the entire population of Buenos Aires relocates itself here. I also noticed, to my amusement, that true to what Javier and Cristian had told us back at the beaches in Icapui, Brazil that Argentine guys do not wear swimming trunks, they just wear beach shorts.

I walked up and down the shopping streets of Mar del Plata, joining the last-minute shopping crowd. Yes, there is indeed a sense of urgency now. It’s the day before Christmas Eve! I could sense the desperation of some of the people as they browsed and picked. They were obviously buying things that they previously would not have bought, if they had had time to think long and hard at, ha. Whoops… I just realised I am one of them! I need to get presents for my friends back in Buenos Aires right now!


One Response to “A Break from BsAs”

  1. Albert Perales Says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments greatly. I spent two weeks last summer in Bs. As. and was in love with it. I plan to return next summer but this time travel to other areas of the country.

  2. Posted from United States United States

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