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.
Chris’s brother, Alex Sinton, is visiting for a week. Tonight he and Chris are cooking LOTS of beef on the parilla. Alex is in his element.
Barking dog chorus
One escape triggers the rest
There will be no peace
Parade of birthday parties
Almost every week
Ants dig towards the light
Build a little mound of dirt
On the bathroom grate
Sings his favorite songs each day
From the hit show Grease
School bus late again
Flat tires leaking windows
Sixteen kids in van
This morning as he was getting ready for school, Eric said, “I love living here. It’s like being at an awesome camp where you speak a foreign language.”
My quixotic yet fickle child. Just yesterday he was part of the chorus shouting, “Get us out of here!”
It’s really only funny in hindsight, the three weeks that the younger kids had head lice. From April 24 through some day last week, we spent a LOT of time checking, washing, combing, conditioning, removing. Julia has LOTS of hair. Some days I was resigned and stoic, other days fuming with frustration. Especially annoying was not to have a washer/dryer here at home to easily cleanse any of the peripherally contaminated items, so we had to do lots of extra hand-washing and trips to the laundromat. And our kids weren’t the only ones last month: their school held two “campañas” (campaigns) of checking to battle the uprising. The only other time they’ve had lice? During Argentina 1 in 2003. I know these infestations are world-wide, I know the bugs are indiscriminate to race, gender, ancestry, language, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation. I know there are families in Redlands dealing with this. All I know is I’ll always associate private schools in Argentina with head lice.
Somehow, Chris, Emily and I managed to stay bug-free. Thanks for small favors.
On Day 1 of the onslaught, we went to the local pharmacy and invested in their top-of-the-line, super-duper, deluxe, imported from Europe (so it must be good), nit-picking comb, named the Assy 2000. For obvious reasons this was the (sole) source of great amusement we associate with the situation. Though I still snicker at remembering Eric’s pronouncements that “Today is an Assy Day,” and my visions of little lice flying out of their hair on their Harry-Potteresque-Nimbus 2000 comb, we’re just glad it’s all over. Nothing new for over a week, and constant vigilance will allow us to return to California nit-free. But if our kids have shaved-heads next time you see us, you’ll know why.
A somewhat frustrating week of dealing with the asynchronous orbits of life. Parenting, partnering, household managing, writing as a geographer, preparing data for classes I’ll teach in September. Meanwhile every time some natural disaster occurs, like earthquakes that bury children or cyclones that swamp them, I wonder again why I’m not using my mapping skills for humanitarian work (instead of a life teaching privileged students in higher education). You might say that I’m teaching them so that they can go out and do good deeds themselves, but sometimes I don’t want to be once-removed from a real and pressing need.
Yesterday at Colegio Patris the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders hosted an all-day sports tournament with three of the other local private schools. It’s part of Patris’s celebration of their 10th anniversary. So for hours Eric played rounds of soccer and Julia played rounds of field hockey. By the time I arrived in mid-afternoon I’d missed all of Julia’s games, but others told me she played extremely well. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that she towers over her diminutive, younger peers. She now wants to play field hockey when she returns to the States, something that would be a matter of course in New England, but not so easy in Southern California. Eric’s 5th grade team also made it to the championship round but they lost in the last few moments. I got to hear the girls in his class chanting his name, which sounds like “Aihr-Reek.”
Two weeks and counting …