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Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

11 December 2005 (Sunday) – Córdoba to Alta Gracia to Córdoba, Argentina

I actually had quite a lot of difficulty tearing myself away from Nadia’s house. Although Nadia is much younger than I, I found her very mature, intelligent and a very, very, very nice girl. I am actually glad that Marina did not give me proper instructions (and neither did she contact me anymore). As such, I got the opportunity to meet Nadia and her family. We had so much to talk about, so much to share, so much to laugh about.

After lunch, I finally managed to peel myself away to enjoy the beautiful summer day. I had a vague idea to visit a nearby town like Alta Gracia as today in Córdoba, being a Sunday, everything would be closed anyway. When I arrived at the minibus terminal near Mercado Sud, there was a bus just about to leave for Alta Gracia. Just in time!

When I arrived at Alta Gracia, I was not surprised to find the Tourist Office closed. So I was kinda lost now. What to do and how do I get to the town centre without a map? I relied on my instincts and my nose and wandered away from the bus terminal. I figured if I got really lost, I would just take a taxi back to the terminal later when I ran out of ideas on what to do.

The houses here are really grand and beautiful. I wandered around, admiring them. How gorgeous and spacious some of them are!! Love them love them love them. Oh, how I wish I could live in one of these!

Well, sorry if I sounded a little repetitive about my hopes to obtain an apartment… haha. In Singapore, apartments are small and expensive and those ‘cheaper’ ones built by the government are only sold to married couples and singles above 35 (when the government thinks that you are obviously unmarriable by then… yep, they scornfully C-R-U-S-H all your hopes… MUHAHAHHA). The rich singles who can afford it can buy any apartment they want, private apartments with swimming pool, gymnasium, etc… or second-hand apartments, usually much more expensive. The rest of us peasants just have to live with our parents, or perhaps, rent a place somewhere.

There used to be 8 people living in my parents’ apartment of 3 rooms. Now, they are 4. After 30 years, I finally got my own ROOM… what a laugh! To Nadia, when I told her the situation in Singapore, her eyes turned all wide and surprised. For them, they have all the spaces here in Argentina, they certainly could not imagine sharing a room with a sibling, much less with 3.

I happened upon a sign with an arrow towards Museo Che Guevara. Ah, I read something about Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara living here in Alta Gracia during his childhood. That would give me something to do. The museum was actually the house rented by his parents during his childhood. There is a collection of photos and some items around the house. They showed 2 short movies about Che, one of his childhood and one of this last days in Bolivia before he was killed.

The one of his childhood was particularly interesting to me, as musings from his old childhood friends, his cook, his teachers showed how contemplative, sensitive and generous Ernestito (as he was known then) was as a child. He did not just read books, they said, he devoured them. And whenever he had anything, he always shared with his friends and family. He never hurt anyone, not even birds and animals. Even as a little ‘un, he had the charisma and leadership that he displayed later, as he was the leader of a neighbourhood gang. There were more photos of his usual guerilla self, smoking a cigar, standing amongst soldiers in the middle of the jungle, grinning away and one of him with nearly all his children. In a way, to me, ‘Che’ is no longer just a legend with the famous frozen image of that mid-distance heroic gaze, topped with a beret, etched on the side of a building in Havana, Cuba, on the 3-Cuban peso coin, and on countless T-shirts and badges. This museum showed how human he was.

Every bits of his childhood and travels in his youth left a seed in him, shaping him to become the man that he was. His early trips took him around Argentina and South America where he saw the various cultures and richness this continent had to offer, and yet all the injustice and poverty amongst the people. Whether you agree with his revolutionary ideas is a different story. I guess my point is that many things in his life left seeds in him, groomed him, shaped him. Can the same be said of many other people?

Also, HE left many of his tracks behind… OK, some teenagers may just like his face on their T-shirts for fashion or rebellious purposes, or even without a clue who in the world he was… but when I was in Cuba in 2003, I could truly feel amongst the people there, how admired and beloved he was. While it is impossible for everyone to end up like a legend such as he, at least, one should try and leave his tracks behind, his impact, his guidance, his ideas, his wisdom, his love… amongst the people he loved, the ones closest to him. It would be great to know that when I am gone, I was at least signficant to someone.