argentina throwback: vacaciones despues de parciales

note: these argentina throwback posts are migrated from an old blog. please ignore all the formatting issues that may have occurred. i don’t want to go through and fix them all. 🙂
We had midterm exams and after my last one, Mia and I went straight to the airport. Straight to a delayed flight. But two hours later, we were on our way to the Northwest of Argentina, Salta. The Northwest is exactly what you would think South America is like. Small villages. Llama sweaters. Rooms you can stay in for one night in people’s homes. SO the trip begins:
Wednesday: Arrive in Salta around 11pm. We get to our hostel, Backpackers Hostel Salta, and check in. We are rushed to the roof where a folk dance show and asado is being held. It was a great hostel filled with all of Europe. People from Denmark, England, Scotland, Whales, Ireland, Germany, Israel, Canada, and of course Mia and I, the two American girls. We celebrated in the activities and then headed to a bar with the whole group. After a late night, we headed home and climbed into our bunk beds, careful not to wake the other woman in our room.
Thursday: We woke up late. I showered, in a shower that was just a showerhead in  the bathroom. Odd. I mean I guess it is common in hostels, but I had never seen that. We explored Salta, although it was a national holiday, so many things were closed. We saw the many churches and toured the artisan’s fair where I bought a great llama sweater. Now I am really living. We made friends with two Israeli boys and an English girl because the boys knew how to drive stick shift and that is all there is here. We took it easy at night and went to bed after a traditional Argentine stew at our hostel for dinner.

Friday: The adventure begins. After visiting many car rental companies, around 11am, we finally departed in our red small car to the South of Salta. There is a main highway or rather dirt road that does a circle through the southern area of Salta. There is another circuit that goes North to Jujuy and around there, but we did not have time to do that one. A website says this about our circuit:
With a 200 kilometres length and covering an extension of a little over 17000 square kilometres, the Valle Calchaquí Valley is in the west area of the Province of Salta. It forms a fringe running from north to south along the homonymous river, at the foot of the sub-Andean sierras, and constitutes the so-called puna (highlands) border.
If travellers choose to undertake this circuit, they should know that the valley has a 70 kilometres average width, and does not keep the same north-south steepness along all of its course. From 3000 meters high (La Poma), it descends down to 1600 at Cafayate, which stands beside the Valle de Santa María Valley, in the Catamarca zone.
The Calchaquí valleys are as a geographical unit characterized by the geological depression, which extends through the Salta, Catamarca and Tucumán Provinces. The circuit includes the La Poma, Cachi, Molinos, San Carlos and Cafayate Departments as well.
We drove and drove and saw all the beauty in the world. We stopped in Cachi and took in the archaeological museum and the church. We ate lunch, a brilliant milanesa de pollo, and continued on our dirt road way. We stayed Friday night in Molinos. A small village with only a few restaurants and one internet cafe where all the children flock to hang out online. We arrived and found a “hospedaje” or a family with rooms available to guests, and ate some food and drank some cheap wine ($2 for a bottle) and went to sleep.

Saturday: We got up and bought 11 pastries from the bakery and some drinks from the general store and started out towards Cafayate. We stopped in another town along the way, San Carlos. Where we saw another church and ate some food. Tamales. Delicious traditional corn wrapped balls of meat. We all ordered too much and all tried a bit of Adam’s goat steak, leading to an interesting conversation about killing animals with the Israeli boys. They had differing opinions on everything. After three days, Mia and I were both ready to stop hearing their opinions. We got to Cafayate, which is a vineyard town where I could spend some part of my life. We checked into a hostel there then explored the town. Mia and I made friends with the hostel worker, and he took us to a secret spot for some delicious choripan (chorizo sausage + pan or bread). I am obsessed with choripan. It is all I want. Always. We bought some bottles of wine for gifts and some alfahores (chocolate covered dulce de leche with a cookie) and retired to the hostel. We spoke some Spanish with some French boys who were high on coca leaves. Oh Argentina.
Sunday: Wake up and eat breakfast at the hostel, then on our way to complete the last part of the circle back up to Salta. We drive through beautiful mountain ranges and are all in awe. Oh and in the previous days, we had seen the mountains or rock formations that are in Star Wars Empire Strikes Back. We return the car by 1pm and grab one more choripan before Mia and I say good bye and catch our bus to Mendoza (western-central Argentina).
Monday: We arrive in Mendoza at 10am after an 18-hour bus ride overnight. I was sick with a headache and cold on the bus, so that was no fun, but we did get to watch two movies which eased my pain. After arriving in Mendoza, we killed a few hours by touring the center of the city and grabbing some lunch. Then we boarded another bus around 2pm that would take us to Santiago, Chile. After a long wait at customs at the border, we arrive in Chile around 10pm. Mia’s host family from when she studied in Chile in high school picked us up from the bus station. I was dropped off at Kelly’s (friend from Michigan)  host family’s house in La Reina. La Reina is almost like living in the suburbs. It is quiet and quaint, but still only a short bus ride to the heart of Santiago. Kelly and I stayed up a bit enjoying the fact that we were with a familiar face and then retired.
Tuesday: Kelly had class and so I slept off my bus ride until 1pm. Then I met up with Mia and grabbed some McDonalds in the ridiculously Americanized Santiago. We walked around for awhile and then met up with Kelly after her classes. With school and all haunting her, I left Kelly to write a paper and joined Mia and her host family for a movie. An American Haunting. Pretty scary. Mia was scared that is for sure. It was a nice relaxing day after all my traveling.
Wednesday: Mia and I set out for Valparaiso, about 1.5 hours from Santiago. Valparaiso is a seedy town on the ocean. It is full of hills and artists and thieves and colors and love. We found an amazing old house to stay in and then had the best meal of our lives in South America. I had skewers of Mahi Mahi with coconut and pineapple with a side of poppy seed creamed rice. The restaurant even had sorbet in between our parmesan clams and our meals. That is right world. I ate all that. Me. I ate flavored colored foods. Even clams. It was delicious. So was dessert.
After lunch, we wandered around town taking the elevators up and down hills. We walked stairs. We were warned to get out of a certain area by some locals after we witnessed a police chase. Sometimes it is hard to tell when you are in a bad area when all the buildings are so colorful and welcoming. We admired all the street art and the hills of colored houses. It is almost like a Latin San Francisco. Later we called our moms and hung out at the hostel for a bit. We ate dinner with an English boy and a Brazilian girl from our hostel at a classy pasta place. A high class place, where because I was not that hungry, I asked for spaghetti with butter. There’s the Sara we know and love. We then retired to our cute little room where Mia and I cuddled for warmth. Chile is chilly.

Thursday: We woke up for breakfast before 10am and headed out for a walk around town. We walked along the ocean and wow, I have never smelled so much marijuana at 11am. With every step, the odor scented the air. We might have been in a bad part of town again, but we were loving the atmosphere. I bought two used Spanish poetry books in a cute little bookstore on our way to the bus station. One collection of Chilean poets and one of Pablo Neruda of course. We then boarded the 1.5 hour bus to Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s house on the ocean. We ate lunch at a restaurant where they phoned the waitress to come from her house to serve us, and then we walked to Neruda’s home on the sea. His view from his bed:
While waiting to take the tour of his house, we spent some time with the 10 year olds who were there on a field trip. It started with staring but then as one brave girl approached us, it turned into unadulterated love and curiosity. Where were we from? What was this word and that word in English? How do you say my name in English? How did you learn English? What does motherfucker mean? Do you know Arnold Schwarzenegger? Can we have a picture with you? Can you ride the school bus back to Santiago with us? Oh children. How Mia and I loved them. But aside from that, Neruda’s house was interesting. It was a clutter of things. It was a museum more than a house. He had collections of everything. But man oh man, his bedroom was perfect. Two huge windows with his bed diagonally looking out both, at the ocean. No wonder his poetry is so beautiful. After our tour, we boarded the 1.5 hour bus back to Santiago. I explored the amazing subway systems of Santiago and made it home just in time to meet Kelly from her African dance class. We spent the night watching Knotting Hill.
Friday: Awake. Mail letters. Take out money. See the city. Kelly and her Australian roomie, Sam, took Mia and I to an art museum and on a walk through the center of the city. We had some coffee and witnessed an elf using a public telephone. I took a picture don’t worry, but it is on film, so you will have to wait. I shot about 4 or 5 rolls of film with my SLR. So good to have it fixed. Oh if you didn’t know, I broke it and had to find some place to repair it. What an adventure in using Spanish. But I did it. And they had it ready before my trip. So yeah, after our city tour, we began preparations for Kelly’s 21st birthday party. The party began with a bang. Lots and lots of people. Drinks and fun. Some drama and a little fighting and the night ended with Kelly smiling. The night ended with me curled up with a hot water bag because once again Chile is very chilly, especially Kelly’s house.
Saturday: Sleep all day. Then bond all the rest of the day with Kelly. It was amazing to see a close friend because homesickness is starting to set in. Only two more months. We watched Forrest Gump, then Kelly slept while I watched American Idol and Ghost. We made some pasta and vegetables for dinner and retired, smiling at the great time we spent together. I miss her already. I do not miss the freezing house and her semi-overbearing host mother. Or the Chilean Spanish. Man I was lost. It is sort of like all just mumbling. They leave off the end of words and speak all weird. I was so glad to get back to my weird Argentine Spanish that makes sense to me.
Sunday: Mia and I said good bye to our great vacation and boarded the plane back to Buenos Aires, but not before we ate an amazing breakfast buffet at the airport. Who would have thought that good breakfast food would be found at the airport?
Now I am home. Already back into classes. One and a half months left until classes end and the fun trek to Machu Picchu begins. Although, today, I was back home. I stared at the tall buildings and smiled. Leaving the city always makes coming back so much easier. However, leaving the city also means now I am poor and reaching the ends of my traveling funds. Looks like my vacations from Buenos Aires are going to be limited from now on. I am tired and ready for the weekend already. I need to get reacquainted with this amazing city. Today I had to get my fingers printed for my criminal background check so I can get my student visa. It is so silly. We get our student visa this week. I don’t even need it to be legal here. But I guess our programs says we have to get it or else they won’t transfer our credits back. There goes another 200 pesos…
Oh well. Now I return to my studies. A lot of homework lies ahead. A bit from my poetry class for you. We read some Jorge Luis Borges in Spanish of course. But there are translations. I don’t like them though, so I translated them myself for you to enjoy. I leave you on that note.

poetic art (best known as “the art of poetry” but i don’t like that translation at all.)

to look at the river made of time and water
and remember that time is another river,
to know that we lose ourselves like the river
and that our bodies pass like the water.

to feel that waking is another dream
that dream not dreamed and that the death
that we fear in our flesh is that death
of each night, that calls itself a dream.

to see in the day or in the year a symbol
of the days of man and of his years,
to convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a murmur and a symbol.

to see in death a dream in the sunset
a golden sadness, such is poetry
that is immortal and poor. poetry
returns like the dawn and the sunset.

at times in the evenings a face
sees us from the depths of a mirror;
art should be like this mirror
that reveals us to our own face.

they say that ulysses, fed up with wonders,
cried of love on seeing ithaca,
green and humble. art is that ithaca
of green eternity, not of wonders.

also it is like the endless river
that passes and stays and is glass of the same
inconstant heraclitus, who is the same
and is another, like the endless river.

i will do the other one. now. i wish you could read things in spanish. so much more beautiful in his native words.


when sorrow makes us nothing,
during a second we are saved
by infantile love affairs
of the mindfulness or of the memory;
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
that face that a dream returns to us,
the first jasmine of november,
the infinite yearning of the compass,
a book that we though was lost,
the pulse of a hexameter,
the slight key that opens a house for us,
the smell of a library or of sandalwood,
the aged name of a street,
the colors of a map,
an unexpected etymology,
the smoothness of the filed fingernail,
the date that we were searching for,
to count the twelve dark bell-strokes,
a sudden physical pain.

eight million are the deities of
that travel through the land, secretly.
those modest gods touch us,
they touch us and leave us.

we had to write our own shinto poem about what small things we think are gods to us. i will send you mine once we get them back.

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