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To the One Who is Reading Me

January 9, 2019

I went to Argentina and brought in the New Year in Buenos Aires. It’s not a place I’ve ever particularly longed to go, but my family has a tradition of going on graduation trips together, and it’s the place my niece picked when she graduated from college. She does ballroom dance, so we all went to a tango show and then had a lesson. The lesson was most useful to me for making me appreciate more of what I’d seen at the show, so I recommend trying the lesson first if you’re intrigued by tango.

49104210_10216265804110845_5975071387373535232_nLearning to tango was not the only physical thing that I was barely able to do but tried anyway during the trip. I walked more miles than seemed possible, rode a horse, and walked down and then back up 220 stone steps to get to a speedboat ride that went under some of the Iguazu falls. I used a set of metal stairs to mount the horse and got a lot of help from my son, my brother, and a nurse from a red cross station on the stone steps.

It was summer in Argentina! So much color and light! The water went the other way down the drain, and Orion looked upside-down in the night sky!

We walked around Recoleta, which is the part of the city with the most European architecture. The Recoleta cemetery is a large necropolis with a maze of narrow walkways in between above-ground mausoleums. Evita Peron’s body is there, in the Duarte family tomb. I do not, of course, approve of the lengths some people will go to house the bodies of their loved ones after death, but do understand the impulse, senseless as I find the results.

49248405_10216265726228898_2701888313014353920_nWe went to La Ataneo bookstore, which is in an old theater, although it looks like a regular little bookshop for the first hundred feet before it opens out into the full glory of bookshelves and balconies. There’s a café on the stage.

49560051_10216259035941645_2709398454173433856_nThe evening after we went to the bookstore, we saw a performance of The Nutcracker at the Colon theater, which was the most spectacular theater I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of them, since my theater professor father toured every one he could get us to). Our seats were on the main floor, and each one was like a throne. I’ve never been as comfortable in a theater in my life, with more-than-adequate hip and leg room. And there were so many gilded and lighted balconies–the applause, when it came, was thunderous. The stage was so big and so deep that the spectacle of the ballet, with elaborate costumes and scenery, managed to surpass the spectacle of the theater itself.

We walked around on cobblestones through the Caminito in La Boca and through the market in San Telmo. The horse-riding took place during a visit to a ranch in the pampas, south of the city. On New Year’s Day we took a boat ride up the river from the Tigre Delta to the enormous Rio de la Plata estuary, which looks like the ocean but is still fresh water. Along the way, we saw how the Argentinians celebrate New Year’s—like how Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, with picnics and swimming. We had empanadas for lunch every day, and beef with Malbec for dinner most evenings.

49393981_10216298464567336_6113624330808066048_nFrom Buenos Aires, we flew to Iguazu to see the falls, first from the Argentinian side and then from the Brazilian side. This was the right way to do it, as we got to see some of the falls close up and then got a panoramic view of them the next day. We began very early in the morning on the first day, before it got too hot, with a trek through the national park to the first train of the day that took us to a very long pedestrian bridge over the wideness of the river that leads to the falls that produce so much spray that they are called the “Devil’s Throat,” because from a distance the spray looks like smoke rising. This was the first of several sweaty hikes through the sub-tropical rain forest that culminated in cooling spray from one waterfall or another. 49530441_10216298464167326_7316479249752260608_nThere are so many! I’ve been to Niagara Falls, and it is mighty impressive. Iguazu has falls that are as impressive and also hundreds of others. Amazing vistas everywhere you look.

49769210_10216288567279910_7938914109381148672_nEverywhere in the park, we saw coatimundis. At first we were charmed, but by the second day it became clear that these animals are like raccoons that aren’t afraid of people and come out in the daytime. Most of them act like extra-aggressive pigeons or seagulls, but with sharp teeth. We saw enormous orb spiders on their webs between the trees at the edge of the forest and hundreds of brightly-colored butterflies and birds.

49289573_10216298470447483_3217183379493486592_nThe morning we got up early to get to the Devil’s Throat, I was crossing the rope bridge between our part of the hotel and the main part with the lobby, and a hotel employee motioned to me to look up. I did, and I saw a toucan tapping on a window of the hotel with his beak. After a few minutes, he flew back into a tree and I saw there were two toucans up there. Then they flew off together, and the employee and I went our ways. I didn’t have a chance to get out my camera, although I did get some shots of the same kind of toucan the next day, when we went to the Parc d’Aves in Brazil.

I got away with everything that I was barely able to do—I didn’t fall off the horse, get heatstroke climbing the steps, or fall too far behind on the walks. For this trip, at least, I was, to use Borges’ word, invulnerable.

To the One Who is Reading Me
By Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Tony Barnstone)

You are invulnerable. Didn’t they deliver
(those forces that control your destiny)
the certainty of dust? Couldn’t it be
your irreversible time is that river
in whose bright mirror Heraclitus read
his brevity? A marble slab is saved
for you, one you won’t read, already graved
with city, epitaph, dates of the dead.
And other men are also dreams of time,
not hardened bronze, purified gold. They’re dust
like you; the universe is Proteus.
Shadow, you’ll travel to what waits ahead,
the fatal shadow waiting at the rim.
Know this: in some way you’re already dead.

On this trip, I had the sense that it was the last time I could try to do some of the things I barely managed this time. For now, though, I’ll keep traveling to what waits ahead. We have another graduation trip coming up, this summer, for my younger niece.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2019 4:55 pm

    Will your family adopt me? That trip sounds fabulous!

    • January 9, 2019 8:22 pm

      It was. We had great tour guides, although the last one was a Brazilian supporter of Bolsonaro, who was surprised to find that we were not enthusiastic supporters of our current American president. “Why not?” she asked. “He lies,” my brother replied.

  2. January 9, 2019 9:16 pm

    I am so glad you shared your notes! I loved following your trip through your pictures and can’t wait to visit one day.

    • January 9, 2019 9:27 pm

      It’s great to travel with grown-up kids, except that it can be hard to keep up!

  3. January 10, 2019 6:38 am

    What a wonderful sounding trip! I share Kathy’s sentiments! :–)

    • January 10, 2019 9:05 am

      They’re a good family; we all know how to ask for ocho aguas.

  4. Rohan permalink
    January 10, 2019 4:13 pm

    Oh my goodness, that bookstore! What a memorable trip. You are very adventurous!

    • January 10, 2019 4:19 pm

      The bookstore was amazing! And yes, we felt adventurous.

  5. January 10, 2019 5:35 pm

    Sounds like you had an amazing trip. Congrats on not falling off a horse! 🙂 I love that tradition of yours! Love that waterfall photo.

    • January 10, 2019 6:33 pm

      The horse-riding required balance and knee strength, and I’ve worked on both in the past year!

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