Now that I’ve been back home for a few weeks, it’s past time to wrap up the South American adventure in pictures. What did I accomplish with this solitary 24 day sojourn? Here’s the short list:
-I doubled my Spanish vocabulary which now rivals that of a clever Myna Bird.
-Confirmed that water really does swirl down the drain in the opposite direction south of the Equator.
-Discovered that Latins and Europeans work less than that we do. As a result most people walk around with less money and less stuff, but they have more family and friend time and less stress- a reasonable trade-off in my opinion.
-Gazed at a waterfall that makes Niagara look like the splash pad at Curtis Hixon Park and a desert mountains cape that could have been the setting of “The Martian”.
-Was reminded that I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful life here in Tampa Bay that makes coming home the best part of every trip.
Now the sights and sounds of Argentina. (Imagine the sounds)
Like Ybor City in Tampa, the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires gets an unfairly bad rap. Guidebooks are quick to dismiss it as a dangerous tourist trap, which by the way, could describe Chicago. The gritty waterside barrio is known for its colorfully painted buildings, tango tradition and art museums. Sure, tacky souvenir shops abound and the occasional tourist who’s forgotten they’re not in Wisconsin gets jacked, but it turned out to be one of the most pleasant excursions I’ve taken during this three-week trip.
Kitsch sculptures in La Boca. My friends in Gaybor need to put in an offer for this one.
Don’t cry for me, Pope Francis.
Renowned Tango master and painter, Guillermo Alio knew Tampa (and the rest of the world) pretty well. He and his dance partner wife run a coffee shop/art gallery in La Boca.
Guillermo sold me this reproduction of one of his collages for about $7 dollars. When he drew an original sketch on the back, I offered him more money, but he refused it.
La Boca is home to a formidable futbol team that’s inspired generations of kids.
A classic Argentine face from a painting at the wonderful Benito Quinquela Martin Museum
Many a visitor to Mendoza has stumbled into the drainage ditches that line miles of city streets- especially those who’ve been over-served the juice of the indigenous Malbec grape. And it was the indigenous people who first dug those mini canals that funnel glacial runoff into what would otherwise be an arid high desert. The vast tree canopy over Mendoza is possible only because of that irrigation. Local orthopedic surgeons like ’em too.
Uno: Don’t shake the hand of a person of the opposite sex unless you’re closing on a real estate deal. One quick, but genuine kiss to the right cheek and you are Senor Rico Suave.
Dos: Remember that as a pedestrian, you hold the same status with drivers as a stray chicken.
Tres: Despite the Latin American stereotype, Argentinians, particularly in Buenos Aires moves right along quite nicely. I kept showing up to stuff early expecting a cluster and was pleasantly disappointed.
Cuatro: Tip like a rock star. Yeah, yeah, tipping 10% or less is customary in other countries but you’re not from ‘other countries’. Not if you’re a friend of mine. Point is, unlike some Europeans who might think you’re a sucker for dropping 20% percent everywhere you go (I’m talking to you, Malta), Argentinians are hurting financially. They’re nice people who really appreciate a generous propino (which would be a great name for an erectile dysfunction drug).
I arrived in Mendoza, Argentina’s prime wine region under gray skies. My weather luck may be running out as rain is forecast for much of this week. BUT, tomorrow is going to be beautiful and I need to decide between exploring the Andes by car OR touring wineries by bike. My dilemma’s not as bad as Sophie’s Choice. It’s much harder.
Well look who’s making friends! I bought the very last ticket to a dinner show featuring live Brazilian music. Happily, I was seated at this table with three charming divorcees who spoke barely a lick of English. Best Spanish lesson I had all week. They think I’m a narcoleptic podiatrist from Florence, but we had some laughs.
And finally today, an Argentine puzzler. Anyone know why one (and only one) windshield wiper is left in the up position on each of these three parked cars? No, it’s not snowing. And yes, the word for ‘windshield wiper’ in Spanish is awesome…Limpiaparabrisas.