A busy week of packing and despedidas (goodbyes).
To complicate (or perhaps simplify?) matters, we seemed to fly from extended summer weather to bitter winter. It was -3 degrees Celcius (28-ish F?) when we woke this morning. This drafty, uninsulated house is best suited to summer rentals: the vent over the stove in the kitchen is just a hole in the wall with a small fan inserted. As I stirred Emily’s oatmeal this morning I could see my own breath. Heating that part of the house is futile, so I’ve closed it off and we’ll stick close to the living room heater today. At least by lunch time the sun will be up.
On Wednesday I took a quick trip up to Buenos Aires to see friends one last time. Elvi was able to get away from work in late afternoon and we sat in a coffee shop for a couple of hours. She’s in a deep funk about her situation in life (doesn’t want to keep working in Argentina; wishes she could land a position doing cleaning/childcare for a family in Europe (as did her sister, in Italy) or the States; knows the chances of that are slim to nil; would have to return to Peru to await a visa in any case and work options in Peru are tiny and pay a fraction of what she earns here, which is nothing anyway). I couldn’t say much other than my usual platitudes about how much her family appreciates her sending some money every month for her younger brother’s university tuition, and that he only has 2 years to go, and that she’s working for a good family and finally has temporary “working papers” here so she’s not at risk of deportation to Peru (without being able to return to Argentina), etc. Valid points on some level, but ultimately trivial responses to a profoundly complicated social and economic situation. She joked about not returning to work that afternoon, about just staying with me, or getting on the train and just keeping going. She’s reached that level of despair and hopelessness. But eventually I had to leave, and so did she, and we walked around a little and I bought her a winter coat and gave her the little money I’d gotten out of the bank earlier for her and hugged her a lot and said goodbye again.
Quick train over to Rachel’s house and arrived in time to help bathe Luca and Max. Splashing toddlers in a state of constant motion and oblivious to the concerns of the world. Dinner conversation with 17-yr-old daughter Jessica revolved around teenage issues: rock music concerts, body piercings, tattooes, instant messaging, reluctance to complete homework. Adolescent issues that cross all global boundaries. Their lovely cat Leonardo curled next to me all night and we kept each other warm. Hope it won’t be another five years before I see Rachel and family again, but we’ve managed at least that much since 1989 and still fall into the same close conversations when we’re together.
When we left Argentina in June of 2003, I also didn’t think we’d ever see Elvi again then. Maybe this won’t be the last time ever. Quien sabe.