42 hours on a bus, a total of about 10 hours at las cataratas del iguazú and almost all of that time spent alone, reflecting. here’s what i’ve come up with.
almost four and a half months ago, i arrived in the very foreign capital city of argentina, buenos aires. today, i am in that capital city again. and although language, culture and food are a little less foreign after having lived in mendoza, this city still takes my breath away. and life, as it always seems to do, has come full circle. i am staying with a family friend who lives and works in buenos aires. right across from the street from her apartment is one of the most famous [and most delicious] pizza restaurants in town, el cuartito, the same place i mentioned in one of my first posts after having arrived in the country. thursday afternoon erin took me on a walking tour of the city; showing me the most famous buildings, sculptures, and vendor filled streets. i don’t remember exactly all of the landmarks we saw when we were here doing our whirlwind tour of buenos aires in july, but i did recognize quite a few places and names. my life has changed and has been impacted in so many ways during the past four and a half months but yet the city has remained unchanged – save for the countless new construction projects around the center and the sparce but existent christmas decorations. after our last breakfast and cafe con leche together [a hysterical one to say the least] the girls i had been travelling with during the past week decided to do a little walking tour of our own on our way back to the apartment where i’m staying. the area looked oddly familiar. turns out, it was. we walked around, finding the kiosk where we bought our first bottle of agua con gas, the restaurant where we ate our first meal and opened out first bottle of quilmes, the wine store we had passed by hoping to try our first bottle of malbec, unsuccessful at least four times during our first stay in buenos aires, and the other little shops and cafes that we had seen but hadn’t actually noticed during our first crisp july days in south america. we even passed by the hotel where we had stayed: the spot of the infamous first lunch during which everyone was telling their ‘best’, ‘most interesting’ and longest story from home. the spot of the first of what would be many places of argentine cuisine – meat, bread and potatoes. the spot of our first argentine cultural encounters; bidets and leche con a little bit of café. the spot of early morning breakfasts preparing for long days of bus tours around the different nieghborhoods of buenos aires. the spot of what seemed like endless hours of orientation (practicing besos and animal party come to mind specifically), and the spot where my four and a half month whirlwind relationship with the peope, language and culture of argentina began. i wouldn’t have had it any other way, this experience, that is. the fact that i was never 100% settled kept me on my toes. with each sunrise [whether i was just waking up or just going to bed] came with the opportunity for a new lesson, a new challenge, and new rewards. sitting there on my 20 hour bus ride i think i came to better understand what this last 5 months has meant for me. now i wont take the time to share with you all of the mushy gushy stuff.. how i’ve grown as a person, how my priotities have changed etc. but a couple things i will share. i absolutely love this country. i love its people, its places and its culture. argentina will FOREVER hold a special place in my heart.
as i was writing this for the first time, i was also watching the beautiful sunset out the bus window on a sunday evening on my way back to buenos aires after a great trip to iguazú falls, a marvel that has been recently voted one of the new natural seven wonders of the world. on top of the falls being absolutely breathtaking, this weekend which included about 42 hours total travelling by bus, great conversations with new faces at my hostel, and lots of thinking time, i realized a few things. driving from the capital of argentina up into the far northeast corner has been incredible. not only did i witness a wonderful bright orange and purple sunset, i also realized how vast this country really is. in little nooks and crannies of the country are sprawling towns – each with their own unique character. families sitting outside on woven lawn chairs just like the ones my grandma has in iowa, sipping mate and watching the busses pass by, observing the quaint yet interesting movement of their town. susy always said that’s what it used to be like in mendoza…i always wanted to see this evening people watching tradition in action. mission accomplished. in other towns, although small, there are bustling businesses – car dealerships, hardware stores, family run kiosks and aromatic roadside parillas. in a small town called el dorado there was an overwhelming amount of christmas decorations – something i didn’t see much of in mendoza. we arrived at one bus station and four or five men and women greeted us selling sandwiches, sodas and fruit salad. at another bus station at which we arrived in the wee hours of the morning, a man greeted us selling warm pastries. its the little things like this that make me fall in love over and over again with argentina. it is amazing to think that every country in every corner of this seeming neverending world has its own idiosigncracy just waiting to be discovered. if anything, the bus ride was a humbling one. i realized what a small microorganism each one of us is in this booming place we call earth. sunday morning i went on a 7km walk within iguazú national park; away from the countless tour groups and fannypack wearing tourists to a small waterfall with a natural pool at the bottom. the forty-five minute walk to and from the falls was exactly what i needed. self reflection in nature, something i don’t do often enough. i saw ants larger than silver dollars, thousands of beautiful butterflies, four or five of which were meticulously pollenating a beautiful native flower. i saw all sorts of lizards and on my way back i saw six or seven monkeys. the complexity of this world never ceases to amaze me. i overheard that afternoon a conversation between two visitors of the falls; one speaking portuguese and the other speaking spanish (another thing that really got me thinking this weekend – humans’ ability to communicate without speaking the same language). what i essentially got from the conversation was their awe at the magnificance of the falls, the same awe that i felt. the argentine woman said something that realy stuck with me. ‘365 days a year’, she said, ‘the falls are this powerful, this beautiful, this stunning each and every day of the year’. what a thought. nature doesn’t rest, ever. the sun rises and sets for every population of people around the world, EVERY SINGLE DAY. the moon does the same. and what is most magnificent is the way it all works together. on saturday night i did the full moon walk of the falls. what an amazing sight. and although the moonlit walk to garganta del diablo was probably the most romantic thing i’ve ever done alone, it was absolutely beautiful. the falls under the full moon, the bright sky and the brilliant stars were even more magnificent than during the day.
this weekend i came to quite a humbling realization. i am one small grain of sand in this constantly growing, changing and expanding world. my new challenge is to truly learn how to live like that. a little ego killer and cup of humility each morning would be good for all of us, i think. and because of my recent revelations and the fact that i’m no longer mariah in mendoza, i’m going to change the title of my blog. because i hope to keep travelling, to keep learning, and to keep writing. so here’s to more delicious meals, here’s to new encounters with new faces of all races, here’s to plenty of new words in new and unfamiliar languages. here’s to never-ending adventures as one small grain of sand.