There is a chill – in both climate and culture
There is no sun here……….well, not now! Perhaps sparingly, but it comes accompanied by the crispness of that oh-so-familiar autumn wind!! And in its dido, that naughty north-wind rips through the city, rearranging everything in its path, even garbage that clings loosely to the edges of the streets like sequins on cheap Madras cloth.
Sometimes I have a nostalgia for Washington and its familiarity, family, friends, food (the important things) and other times I am so darn busy that I scarcely have time for food, least of all nostalgia! But the thought of home at the very least brings some light to my dreary days. Days filled with the stench of erstwhile meals; streets desultorily punctuated with the cavalier droppings of over-indulged dogs; trains packed thick with morose, protomorphic faces; and the thick fog of destitution that oozes out of every moss-covered edifice, and denies the tales of affluence that tile-covered streets and random Baroque architecture flagrantly proffers.
I fear that I may stave to death, as I am an herbivore grazing in the pastuers of the carnivores…………….and its getting into the cold season., so pickings are slim. This travelling is for the birds!! I do miss the luxury of jumping into my car and going where-ever I please. I feel like primordial man….well, woman, except that primordial woman didn’t have to leave the cave much; I am always on the streets hunting and gathering my food! Yes, there is not end to the confiteria with all the dolces, the cream-filled Argentine delicacies and the everything that dolce de leche can fill, but the digestion of sugar begins as quickly as in the mouth and so very soon that meal is history.
So what then to sustain the system? I read somewhere ‘man cannot live on bread alone, he needs to be buttered up every now and again,’ so now I am constantly in search of butter. Which brings us to point of peanut butter being a scarcity here. My question is: which self-respecting country does not have peanut butter on its supermarket shelves? An while we are on the subject of what’s on the shelf, since when is it okay for an equatorial country to keep eggs on the supermarket shelf, and out of the fridge? Needless to say, I’ve had my share of whatever grows inside of the eggs when they are not refridgerated. It was so intense that I lost consciouness, collapsed on the tiled bathroom floor and split my forehead, and cracked my nose. Then I became really popular on the tango floor!
With a bruised and swollen face and a split forehead, I presened to the ER in Buenos Aires Hospital Fernandez in Palermo, where Alejandro sat alone before an empty waiting room, twidling his thumbs and wearing that mask of melancholic disinterest. I explained that I had just sufferred a concussion, the evidence of which is still quite visible, the invisible part, as I explained was that I have been unwell and disoriented since the collapse. With as much interest as the guards at Buckingham Palace gives to a tourist, Alajandro listens to my recount, and without much inquiry, he dismissed me with the signature medical advise: ‘come back tomorrow at 7 am,’ although, he did forget to give me the two aspirins.
As I walked out of the hospital, straining to think clearly as to how to find my way home, it occurred to me how archaic the medical system is, in a country that makes great pretense at being the creme de la creme of the South American landscape; a country that so far fails to find ways to justify to me the apocryphal title ‘little Europe.’