Occupying a Fairytale

Trip Start Mar 11, 2009
Trip End May 06, 2009

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, April 23, 2009

When you are surrounded by woods, sipping champagne made from elderberries and popping chestnuts covered in honey into your mouth, you canīt help but feel a bit like a bear, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood....maybe Goldielocks, more aptly in my case. You canīt help but feel a bit magical while you blend into the wilderness. Like you want to gather up all these new plants and flowers you see, boil them down and make potions with them. The wart at the end of my nose definitely grew bigger while in El Bolson!

I met Romina and her family back in October when I was traveling around Samoa. I arrived in Upolu with Julia (us having latched onto each other from Savaiīi) and after declaring that the bathrooms at our place were just Too Much (or maybe, not enough...) we moved next door. It was more expensive but you could walk into the bathroom without fear of Death By Unnamed Disease. Dinners in Samoa are round table affairs, with everyone sitting at the same table forcing themselves to be social. This is where we met Romina, her sister, and her parents, while we were screaming enthusiastically to "Please Pass The Lettuce!!! YAY!!!" (Samoans arenīt very fond of vegetables and we hadnīt had anything resembling salad for at least a week.) If it werenīt for meeting Romi, I would never have gone as far south as Bariloche and I certainly wouldnīt have known about the hidden jewel that is El Bolson.

Much like Alberta, Pantagonia is full of shockingly blue lakes, jagged mountains and rugged landscapes. Some pretty spectacular flora and the odd Puma wandering around in the rocks. Unfortunately, (though itīs probably fortunate) I didnīt see any Pumas. El Bolson is a sleepy town full of organic, homemade food (mmmm), naturopathic medicines and "green"-conscious people.

Being with people from the town, also meant that I was privy to more of the Argentinian culture. I was invited to sit for mate with Romiīs family - mate is a bunch of herbs poured into a hollowed out gourd which is then filled with hot (but not boiling!) water and then sipped from a silver, perforated straw. The custom is for the pourer (very technical term there) to fill the gourd with water and pass it from person to person, refilling it after each person is finished. Everyone shares the straw. When you feel like youīve had enough, you say "Gracias." which lets the pourer know not to pour anymore for you on the next round. If offered to have mate, you should always accept, itīs considered rude not to.

Iīve found Argentinian customs to be very inclusive as a whole. Instead of thinking only of yourself and the people you have direct contact with, it feels and seems like down here people think of everyone. Everyone is included in the conversation, everyone is greeted, no one is ignored. You kiss people to say hello, you kiss them to say goodbye. You kiss your friend, your friendīs boyfriend, your friendīs mother, the guy who runs the hostel, the taxi driver, the stranger who is a friend of your friendīs friendīs friend. When you walk into a room full of people, you walk around and kiss everyone (well, cheek touch and make the kiss noise) and say hello, how are you? Even strangers. When you are leaving, you do the same around the whole room saying goodbye. Which is why you should always phone a taxi well before you plan on saying goodbye, so that you have time before it comes to do so!

Itīs a very warm culture. Iīm very much enjoying being a witness to a culture that seems to be so loving, inclusive and aware that they are not the only people living on this planet. Not only that, but that they are genuinely happy to discover they are not alone.

After nearly a week of Very Quiet Frolicking in the Woods, Iīve booked myself into a "party hostel" in Buenos Aires in hopes of getting in some tango dancing this weekend. Either I will be successful or I will end up being frustrated with the noise. Weīll see!

Miss you all,
xox K
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