Sunday, June 7, 2009

Semana Santa en Villa General Belgrano

Note - this post comes very late. I'm way behind here, thanks largely to a busy work schedule. Please be patient...

One of the hardest things for me to accomplish here has been progress with my book. It's not that I haven't been eager to push forward with it or been struggling with writer's block. I simply don't have much time. My job keeps me very busy, Big Red Ultimate is now meeting three days a week, and then there's my often busy social calendar. On top of that, I'm putting a lot of energy into learning Spanish, even if it doesn't take up a particular chunk of time. The other area where I've been failing to do all I want is travel around Argentina. This was partly by design. I wanted to understand the city first, and wait for the travel until after my Spanish had improved a bit. But thus far, aside from the fabulous frisbee tournament in Monte Hermoso, I have been largely city-confined.

Belu had a great idea that would serve to jumpstart both of these endeavors. We could go off to the country and spend the long Easter weekend in a cabin where I could make some real progress with my writing. So we planned a trip to the province of Córdoba. Easter weekend is the longest holiday of the year, with everyone having Thursday and Friday off from work. This made for a troublesome beginning. All the extranjeros I know here have raved about the buses - that they run on time and are luxurious. Sure, compared to Greyhound, this is true. But the Wednesday night before a big weekend is not the time to be hanging at the BA bus station. This was a clamjamfry of epic proportions. But eventually, we were on our way.
This picture is just a small portion of the mess. I'd estimate that there were easily over 20,000 people at the station that night.
The bus trip passed fine, and when we awoke we were on the edge of the Cordobian Sierras. It's a bit weird to wake up on a bus in a foreign country to the squawking of the elderly ladies seated behind you. But weirder than that is the fact that we were, quite suddenly, not in the city anymore. There was actual landscape. The air wasn't just more crisp in our lungs, it looked cleaner. We still had a couple hours to go which allowed us to wake up gradually.

I really didn't know what I was in for. All I knew was that we were going to the mountains to stay in a cabin. It was probably the first time I'd done such a thing since my time with the Boy Scouts, although, I should say that there are cabins and there are cabins. This one had indoor plumbing, for instance. Our little area was several blocks outside of town and perfectly peaceful. All we could hear was the occasional bird.

This was certainly unlike any other place I'd been. The whole point of this little town is to highlight its German influence. All signs in town are on carved and painted wood. That seemed really weird to me since we're in Argentina. There is a long history of German immigration to Argentina, but it's still kind of weird to actually see it because in the city it's relatively nonexistent.

Things were a bit crowded in town. This is their biggest tourist weekend of the year. But that didn't stop us from taking an easy stroll around town. Here's Belu hanging out in front of a scenic arroyo.

Our plan was to be as self-sufficient as possible. We packed our own food. Belu was on mate detail. But it's kind of hard to bring fresh tomatoes on a long bus ride. That meant we had to hit the grocery store. Belu and I are both big fans of writing it all down and having a shopping list. Unfortunately, we stupidly forgot to bring a pen, and there was none in the cabin. So being the former boy scout in the group, I improvised. A charred matchstick would have to suffice.

Note the final item.

Our shopping resulted in some excellent, simple, and healthy meals. It's funny that nowadays we are hardly ever cooking at home, but we go on vacation and make every lunch and dinner ourselves. But breakfast was another story. It happened to be identical every morning, but delivered right to our door. An excellent loaf of bread, medialunas, and café con leche is a fine way to start any day.

Especially when can eat outside with a view like this one.

Nature was around, though mostly quiet nature. The most fascinating thing that happened was a group of ants who had come across a dead centipede. They spent the better part of a day trying to get it home. After moving it across our patio, they then had to take it up a five foot cement wall. This proved difficult as there either were not enough ants or not enough places for ants to help with the pushing. But it was amazing to watch.

Here's a shaky video of their efforts:

The poor little guys tried for hours to get this thing home. This is when our friend came into the mix. While we ate our breakfast, a neighboring bird was also eating his, darting around and finding bugs in the ground. He hung out very close to us, tweeting and eating. It took him more than a morning to realize that what the ants were up to on the other side of the building. But eventually he figured it out and ambled on by with an open beak.

In a matter of seconds, he swooped down and stole the centipede, probably along with a few ants who went along for the ride. He hopped away, seemingly content. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the little guys. To honor their futile efforts, we went out and got some tea. I mean, you're not going to stop at a casa de te named Hoffmeisterhaus? Of course you are!

Slightly buzzed from the tea served from the cutest tea-cozy ever, on our last night, we decided we'd had enough of the kitchen and deserved a dinner out. The town was overrun with tourists and we were forced to wait a very long time to sit, get menus, get a waiter, and order. But eventually, we took in some hearty German cuisine.

Not as good as my mom's, but a tasty finish to a long day. In the end, we had a wonderful time, both peaceful and fun. And perhaps the most important thing was that I got a lot of writing done for the first time since I arrived in South America. I just need to take more vacations like this, hunker down over the laptop, get a good mate buzz going, and occasionally put my feet up a bit to watch the sunset. With any luck, the book will be done before I have a kid going to college. But I'll have a great time writing it...

1 comment:

The Coleman Family said...

Damn, man, I so have to go to Argentina someday. Even if I can't understand the accent. :)

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