There is only one option for air travel between San Rafael and BsAs, and that's a flight with Aerolineas Argentinas. As a non-resident required to leave the country every three months in order to extend your visa, you become very familiar with this escape route to international destinations. In time, you become accustomed to the quirks of Aerolineas travel - the frequent delays, last-minute schedule changes, the unexplained re-routing of your luggage via ground transport, even the junk food snack that's served in a ziplock bag on board. There are no movies available, but the in-flight magazine offers plenty of entertainment. Once you reach cruising altitude over the Pampas, it's a treat to read the Spanish to English translations offered in "Cielos".
The January 2011 issue included an article about cybertherapy, the recent practice of offering psychological counselling via the internet. The subject was serious, but the stilted, strange English text became a comedy of errors when I read the bold blue sidebar sentence shown here.
I had just stopped laughing when I came across this gem. Puzzled by the author's reference to fear of marijuana, I went back to the Spanish version and extracted the verb "optar." Not really a difficult verb to translate, given its English cognate.
Translators used to work with a pencil, an eraser, a sheet of paper, a dictionary and a brain. Today they use computer software programs that promise to instantly change text from one language to another while retaining meaning. What has been sacrificed in the race for innovative computer programs is the sensitivity of a human being who knows not only the rules, but the nuances of two languages, and can transpose those subtleties with grace, as well as accuracy. Like fine penmanship, it seems to be a lost art. Readers are left with copy so bizarre, that it becomes either a source of irritation or a joke.
Perhaps Aerolineas Argentinas is in the vanguard, introducing its passengers to a totally new language that I just haven't caught on to yet. Frequent fliers will no doubt adopt Aerospeak as their lingua franca in the very near future, so I'm practising basic phrases. The next time the ticket clerk asks about my preference for seating, I will confidently declare,
"On my trips going from strength to strength in Argentina of latex, I always pot for the window seat."
The truth is, I never left you. Yes, I'm living in Montevideo, Uruguay now, but a part of my heart still remains in Mendoza on the finca.
Three years in Argentina enriched my life and taught me many things. I loved the bright, clear mornings filled with birdsong. I loved the view of the snow-capped Andes mountains on the horizon. I loved having my own fruit trees, vineyard and vegetable garden. I loved the sound of the water rushing down the canal. I loved the fresh strawberries, asparagus, cherries, melons and apples. I loved the wine and most of all, I loved harvest time.
I loved the warm, generous Argentine farm folk who did not hesitate to help us out when we needed assistance in managing the farm. And we often needed help, believe me. From the locals I learned that sticks and wire can be fashioned into a sturdy ladder. I learned that eating a meal is a social event, not just a chance to fill your stomach. I learned to make do, using the resources at hand. I learned to slow down and be mindful of the present moment. I learned to drink mate and take siesta on hot afternoons. I learned that poverty has many forms and isn't simply defined by a lack of money: there are more impoverished people living behind the walls of an upscale gated community in San Rafael than on the humble, traditional farms in Rama Caida.
I never got used to the garbage carelessly thrown into the canals and riverbeds, and the piles of trash burned in toxic fires. I never got used to the sick, stray, unneutered dogs that wander the streets of San Rafael in search of food. I never got used to the chaos of Argentine driving, and the dangerous practice of riding bicycles on the road at night without lights. I never got used to the noise level in the city. I never got used to the long line ups and the inefficiency of government offices. I never got used to bribery as a means of getting things done. There were many things that I just couldn't understand or accept.
Getting out of Argentina was not easy. First the bank informed us that a transfer of funds to an acount in Uruguay would require a deduction of 35% in the form of an exit tax. Can you imagine how nervous-making it was to carry the cash in my purse? On the day of our departure, we got to the airport early with our multiple fully-loaded suitcases only to be told by the Aerolineas Argentina official that the plane would not be taking any checked luggage. Our bags were sent by car to Mendoza city (a 3 hour drive) and then flown to Buenos Aires Aeroparque, arriving on the luggage belt in a vacant airport in the middle of the night. We stayed for one night in BsAs, retrieved our bags the next morning and flew, triumphant at last, over Rio de la Plata to our home in Montevideo.
Montevideo offers a new adventure, with new challenges. We are enjoying the cultural aspects of the city and the availability of goods and services that make daily life just a little bit easier. There are exciting opportunities to work on creative projects, form new friendships, and expand our language skills. Look for the launch of Eye on Uruguay
coming soon. I'll be writing reviews of visual and performing arts events, making notes on historical and architectural highlights and recording my impressions of the city of Montevideo and other Uruguayan destinations.
The Dutch imagination has always been expansive, looking beyond the borders of its own small territory to acquire perspective and influence of global dimensions. The Golden Age in Dutch history (17th c.) established The Netherlands as a dominant force in world trade, commerce, science and the arts.
Replica of Dutch East Indies merchant ship
Our three week stay in Amsterdam reveals that the Dutch still regard themselves in a privileged position within the EU and in the global community, with strong ties to foreign places and exotic cultures. They maintain a fascination for the new and different that is as genuine as the cabinet of curiosities we viewed in the Tropen Museum with its multiple drawers containing labelled samples of minerals, plants, spices, feathers and animal skeletons brought back from voyages to far off shores during the 1600s.
Vendor at the market
When Robert, who was born in The Netherlands, speaks his mother tongue, Amsterdammers listen carefully to his accent and intonation. They clearly understand him, answer his questions politely and then invariably remark, "You speak excellent Dutch, sir, but I can tell that you've been away for a while." This line, as intended, prompts a brief life history from Robert, an account that traces his emigration to Canada at the age of 18, his career as an art dealer and his path to retirement on a farm in Argentina. On a day of touring around Amsterdam, the tale gets told many times (and gets better with each repetition. ) Mention Argentina in this city, and Dutch faces instantly light up.
The heir to the Dutch throne, Prince Willem-Alexander married Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in Amsterdam on February 2, 2002. Princess Maxima hails from Argentina, from a wealthy Buenos Aires family of Basque/Italian heritage. She has captured the attention of the popular press and appears in the Dutch newspapers almost every day attending official functions, enjoying family gatherings, opening a new arts centre or christening a new ship in the harbour. Her inclusion in the Dutch Royal Family has sparked a wave of interest in things Argentine and on this trip we note a string of newly-opened steak grill restaurants in Amsterdam with names like La Pampa, Gaucho, and El Rancho.
Maxima is featured in De Telegraph
The Argentine connection also has business interests in San Rafael. Princess Maxima is producing and marketing a line of wine under the label 1830
which is elaborated by Bombal y Aldao
bodega, the winery that offers a buy-your-own-barrel program. 1830 is the year that Finca los Alamos was established, and that's where the grapes for this wine are grown and harvested - a vineyard right in our own backyard.
The more one travels, the more foreign threads are woven into the fabric of your own personal history. The traces of other lives and past events become a part of you. We take a walk along the canals of Amsterdam and end up buying cheese, fish and flowers at the same open-air market where Robert's grandmother used to shop. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain