"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
-Maya Angelou, poet, philosopher, and activist
Turns out, I never managed a chance to find out! Our Schengen visa was so disallowing of extra time that we raced through at a pace that granted almost no free time to work (and left my parents uncontacted for FAR longer than is appropriate). So I fell (even more) behind on the photoblog.
Oh, well… Better late than ne-… Anyway, let’s talk about Argentina!
More tacos, that is.
What kindness, what heart, and what sweetness she conveyed and evoked… I was so tenderly touched by her openness and sincerity. She was warm and gentle and darling, working hard to do good while making it look effortless to be so as she fulfilled her life-long ambition to buy and run a homey, heart-felt hostel in humble Humahuaca.
While in this delightfully dreamy world of hers, I wandered narrow, sandy streets lined with crack-walled houses and infrequent splashes of bold paint whose stamina could never quite outlast the wear of the wind. I stumbled into even smaller general stores, where smiling, dark faces laughed at and encouraged my bumbling Spanish while I failed to find ingredients to make American Chili for my hostel friends.
I explored surrounding mountains banded with colors and patterns I had never seen before, striped with and adorned by geological layers like filo dough that slashed the hills with wavy stripes of bloody red and tangerine and coffee and crème.
I stood in the tiny public square as a clearly marked outsider while tight-knit town folk gathered to watch the village’s ancient, colonial clock tower make its daily display of St Antonio’s statue like it was Beyoncé singing the National Anthem at Kennedy Center.
Sometimes it just felt like a town untouched, on the precipice of discovery from an unholy outside world. I’m grateful that I was able to see it prior to a more expansive exposure that feels quite inevitable.
Keeping with the Northern parts, we rode East towards Brasil. The landscape evolved from barren, dusty oranges and sandy yellows to the verdant greens of thick leafery and the terra cotta red of fine-ground earth as we entered the jungles who create the intersection between Argentina, Brasil, and Paraguay.
*Side note: It was here that I had my first taste of Argentine steak... Maybe I'm not a connoisseur, but I liked my mother's better (thanks, Mom!). That said, my post on Buenos Aires will shed more light on the real story of Argentine beef that I learned during our interview.
But as we approached the site, I noticed something which caused me to question whether what I was seeing was normal.
As the bus drove over a raised highway towards our destination, I considered how the seemingly endless forest stretching about and below us had no solid ground that I could see, for filling the space between the trunks and branches was a flood, densely saturated with the clay-like soils that made up the earth here.
Those great cascades and the rivers that fed them were bloated and browned by the rampage of recent rains that had fallen, and much of the entire region that might have typically been (comparatively) dry was under the rust-tinted flood waters.
I don't mean to do it, truly. Yet when something is presented to me (even just the idea of something, like a trip, a meal, a person, a place, a film, etc) I start to think about it in my future. What could it be like? What might it be like? Then, without warning or realization, these thoughts transform into daydreams, which in turn morph into fantasies, where they eventually mature into those most unwelcome expectations that sneak up on me.
I will continue to pursue liberty from this repetitious process, but until then, Iguazu's off color felt like a let down.
What awaited me was like a nature's version of dirty dishwater, namely debris-ridden cataracts, discolored sprays, and a kind of caramel-colored river, not unlike the one which churned chocolate in Willy Wonka’s candy factory.
So not only did I not get my much-desired blue-and-green shots, but I was really craving a Snickers bar...
And even if I didn't, it was a blessing just to be there and see it, no matter the color scheme.
Clearly, however, there have been…. altercations, in the past. Signs are commonly seen dissuading humans from feeding these pointy-toothed, sharp-clawed cuties (some postings even feature a grotesque photograph of a coati bite in the torn remains of soft, pink man-flesh… Ew).
Some silly people run away from them (afraid of what? I haven’t the faintest idea…) while others aggressively try to catch them (some wings, sadly, did not survive the clumsy, crushing grips of less-than-careful children and insensitive adults) and others still take the peaceful road, permitting the graceful bug-birds a chance to flutter about and land where they will, frequently on a head or hand where they would probe pollen-less skin before deciding there was no nectar to be found and fly on.
Muchisimas gracias, amiga querida. Please, por favor, come to see us when we return home! I truly want to pay your kindness in due time.
This current section of Argentina served more as a glimpse into the dusty, delicate rural life that still lives in the Northwestern corner of the country, and the fertile, forested majesty of natural wonders that fills the North East. Even still, that was only a fraction of the country. We still had to see the capital, and the wild Patagonian frontier. But first, we took a trip through South America’s Portuguese-speaking big-boy, host of the 2016 World Olympics, and the sole subject of my next post: Brasil.
There is more to see than a post has room for!
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