Delia Downes

Delia Downes

"When you come to the edge of all you know, you must believe in one of two things, there will be earth upon which to stand or you will be given wings." I'm 60 years young, extremely happy with my life experience and open to ever more enlivening possibilities

Los gentes estan mi amigos

 Posted by Delia Downes at 7:26 am  Argentina  Comments Off on Los gentes estan mi amigos
Aug 092014
 

Today I must report on all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet in Argentina.  Some of them I now consider friends, others I have met only briefly but will remember forever because of their kindness towards me.

Of course my family is marvelous; Nora and Carlos, their daughter Cecilia and her family.  We all went to dinner together last weekend as an expression of my gratitude to them for being such wonderful hosts.

              My Family in Cordoba from the left, Santiago, Delfina, Carlos, Nora, Matteo, and Cecilia

                              Me and Nora                                          Me and Morea

 

Then there is Parque de Kempes, Equinoterapia, directed by Ricardo whom I cherish and who is like a grandfather to all the children who come there.  He is both loving and tough depending on what is needed at the time but always with a smile, causing most others to break into a smile if not laughter at his jokes and pranks.  The other volunteers here have also become my friends, Colo, Eugenia, Brigie, and Gabby all so sweet and giving to the children and their parents or caregivers.  These women all have other responsibilities, be it jobs or studies and yet make the effort a few times a week to give to these children.  We have worked together well and have come to enjoy each other’s company.

          Equinoterapia, from left, Gaby, Diego, Ricardo and Guillermo

Colo and her mother

Then there are some of the clients at Equinoterapia that I have come to know as well, like Guillermo who I told you about before but who has really become a friend because we have gotten to know each other from the time spent riding.  Last weekend we met in the city and visited for a while, sin caballos,  having lunch and walking around talking.  He is a very spiritual person and emotes such gratitude for life, it is contagious.  I have also come to know his driver Diego, who always brings mate and shares.  He is a very animated speaker, though talks so fast there is little I understand.  Thankfully Guillermo is able to translate.

Mariano, is the father of one of our very young clients who I finally got to know better after spending some time together last week, building a fire for making Choripan. (Choripan is a grilled sausage eaten with bread, tomato and lettuce.)   Mariano is a gentle soul who loves his little girl Codti and is always willing to assist lifting other clients if we need a  hand.  There are so many other people I’d like to mention, but the list is very long.  The Cordoba Police keep some of their horses in the same area as the therapy group and I have come to know and like, two policemen individually, Fabian and Oscar.  I cannot leave out Agustina, who is my mentor and on site director of the volunteer program and I also want to mention all the great teachers at Able Spanish especially mine, Belen.  Again it is impossible to list them all.

 

Belen, my Spanish teacher and friend who took me for Mexican food in Cordoba

Clients at Equinoterapia

                              

                                                                 Just loving the ride                         Learning what a horse looks like when you cannot see

   

  Ricardo, everyone’s abuelo

  Practicing Balance

All of the people mentioned above, I have come to know because they are involved in some way with the programs I am participating in as a volunteer.  But I have met some other folks that came into my life as absolute strangers and left with relatively the same status but leaving behind a memory that I will cherish for a long time though the encounters were brief.

A couple of weeks ago, I went into the city center to find a store that I was told about that sells tack and other goods related to horses and riding.  Although I thought I knew the destination, I evidently got off the bus too early and decided to continue on foot.  When I thought I was close, I stopped a woman on the street and asked her if she knew the store.  She did, lucky for me, but I was not as close as I thought.  So this kind woman went out of her way to escort me.  I have no idea where she was going when I stopped her, but she didn’t seem to mind in the least to go out of her way.  We walked together to the front door and she bid me farewell in the customary way, with a kiss on the cheek and a ”Chau,”  like we were old friends.

I may have eventually found the store as I have numerous locations after much walking around, but this woman certainly shorten the expedition and just made me so happy by her thoughtfulness.  This is one of the feelings you get when traveling that cannot be explained, other to say that people, total strangers, can be so empathetic and selfless it creates a bond that though brief is beautiful.  I appreciate all kindness, but that of strangers is so unexpected, and yet again it is not.  We were all strangers once, even our parents did not know us and certainly it provides a good reason to pay the kindness forward to others we meet along the way.

Not long after that, I was on another adventure, because even small excursions in a unfamiliar place become adventures, when I met a gentleman by the name of Rudi.  I had decided to go to one of the small towns in the nearby Sierra Chicas for the day and needed to take  a bus from a terminal in the city center.  I ventured out as usual with somewhat of an idea of its location and caught a bus into town early in the morning to go to the terminal.  Well, my bus card that must be scanned for a ride was not  working.  It registered nothing on the scanner.  Usually you pay with a ping and then your balance appears on the screen, but this morning I got nada.  Since I knew there were at least 70 pesos still remaining on the card, I complained to the driver who did not seem to care.  I didn’t think it right that I should have to get off, so just took a seat with my apologies and hoped for the best.  A gentleman sitting behind me struck up a conversation trying to assist me.  It was soon obvious that I was a foreigner so the conversation went in another direction about me, and where I was from and what I was doing in Cordoba.  Rudi, introduced himself and offered to take me to the terminal.  Once we got off the bus together, he invited me to have a coffee with him first.  Good coffee is always welcomed here so I agreed to go with him.  We talked for a while and he was patient with my Spanish. He asked my age and if I was single, if I had a boyfriend.  He asked about my family, children and siblings.  Finding out the answers, he then asked for my number and I gave him Nora’s since my phone does not work here.  He wrote it on a napkin and then took me to the terminal.  He went in with me and made sure I got the right ticket and knew where to wait for the bus and then he left.  Another kiss on the cheek another heartfelt “Chau” and he was gone.   I have not heard from him and suspect  he lost the napkin because he was definitely sincere.  I’m not sure if he had called we would have gone, but I am glad to have met him and he truly helped me out that day.

Now today I had what might be a karmic experience to compliment the one with Rudi, because while I was waiting for the bus this morning to go to work, there were 2 women also waiting.  One asked me which bus I was taking and then asked if she could buy a ride from me since she did not have enough pesos on her pass.  I have learned that this is a common practice here for those that have no pass or insufficient funds, another passenger can scan twice and then be reimbursed, an efficient and friendly solution.  I was therefore happy to oblige this woman and then we all got to talking.  One woman asked about me, where I was from, what I was doing in Cordoba etc, small talk.  Anyway the bus arrived and as we boarded, her friend who was not going, gave me the customary kiss on the cheek and wished me well so earnestly you would have thought us long time friends.  It made me feel so good, so appreciated for such a simple act.  I thought again these people are the sweetest on earth.

 

 

 

Cigarillos

 Posted by Delia Downes at 7:47 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on Cigarillos
Aug 022014
 

I was a smoker for 15 years and quit back in 1986.  I understand the addiction, but hate to see people smoke.  My son smokes and it breaks my heart because among other things it is just so unhealthy and I really don’t know any smoker that doesn’t wish they could quit. In the US at least the last time I looked, on the skinny side of each pack of cigarettes is the “WARNING:  The Surgeon General…blah, blah, blah.”  A fairly benign caution for such a deadly activity.   Well here in Argentina, though still a country full of smokers, there are very explicit, large warnings on the cigarette packs.  I wonder if it has any effect.  I don’t know.   I think my pride more than anything else may prevent me from taking out a pack twenty times a day to smoke, with these warnings boldly written on the broad side.  Or imagine being on a date, in a romantic setting, having an intimate conversation and one of these is sitting on the table between you. Kills the mood if nothing else.  Don’t you think?  

 

Even in another language the message is understood and if not the graphics certainly get the point across.  Caution:  Graphics are disturbing but not nearly as disturbing as the reality they represent,

I must apologize to those that may be repulsed by these pictures but I am compelled to share regarding both the beautiful and the ugly.  And certainly their intention is to repulse.  If you smoke please quit.  Somebody loves you.

 

 

Trash is everyone’s problem everywhere

 Posted by Delia Downes at 2:00 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on Trash is everyone’s problem everywhere
Jul 292014
 

One of the most disappointing things in any place I have ever visited is to see trash carelessly strewn within the landscape.  When I ride in the Assunpink in NJ and find trash in an otherwise beautiful spot along the lake it makes me sad and mad.  Why would someone enjoy such a gift and then leave their trash to spoil it for the next person.  I often want to bring along a trash bag to clean up some spots but have never done so and I swear that in my retirement having more time to take care of the messes others leave, I will venture into the park someday with the sole purpose of picking up trash.  There is a woman in my neighborhood that takes a bag with her on her morning walks and picks up trash along the way.   Thank god for angels such as these, but here in Cordoba you would need an army of such angels.

I believe well intentioned people often collect their mess in a bag but then make the error of leaving the collection behind, in the park, right there on the shoreline, or in the city out by the curb.  Wild animals in the woods or stray dogs in the city find the parcel, rip it apart, have a meal and leave the rest, which then is further dispersed by other critters, wind and rain.  I believe in Cordoba the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that a lot of people just don’t seem to have a consciousness about it.  There is trash everywhere.  The river I cross over on my walk to work could really be a pastoral vision if not for the volume of trash on the shoreline.  Most disturbing are the dirty, torn and twisted plastic bags choking the trees along its banks.  It is evident that when there is high water, tons of trash moves down river quickly getting trapped in numerous trees and  low lying branches. Like a sieve they collect the debris from the water but no one every empties the sieve.

Along the river by Estadio Kempes 

 

The other upsetting thing about all the evident trash is that there have been obvious efforts to curb the problem.  For example, I have never seen so many trash receptacles along city streets and park areas.  Every hundred feet or so there are these little elevated containers for trash.  For the most part they appear to be used regularly, but there are still those that just drop whatever is in their hands on the sidewalk or in the street.  I must admit that when I see this happen at home, which is infrequent, I pick up the said piece of trash and return it to the owner, much to their disgust and often receive a barrage of insults in exchange, but I don’t care.  That thought crossed my mind here but of course I did not act on it.  I just felt culturally unsure and also overwhelmed by the size of the problem.

There are 3 trash receptacles in

                    this photo

The other issue with trash is something I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog and that is the dog population.  Dogs roam every street all day long.  Trash is often their sustenance, and may even be their entertainment.  After all dogs are hunters and scavengers.  Anyway, in Cordoba all the trash receptacles are elevated.  If one is unavailable you may find bags hung from poles or whatever is handy.  The elevation may be a remedy to keep it out of the reach of canines but I’m not sure of its efficacy.  It seems to work better in the suburbs but bigger dogs may easily reach some of these heights and I imagine clever teams of smaller dogs forming piggybacks to gain access.

trash bintree trash

Another innovation and quite doggy proof is incorporated into the fencing that surrounds most homes.  Many fences have a bin, a draw like mechanism, that can be filled from the  inside and then open to the outside for pick-up.  I like that.

trash gate

Finally regarding trash, I never see the garbage trucks, but I do hear them at night.  They come along late, empty all the bins and baskets and are gone.  I suppose they could be considered an army of angels  but I think they are in need of civilian recruits.

 

 

IGUAZA WOW

 Posted by Delia Downes at 1:57 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on IGUAZA WOW
Jul 252014
 

Well I opted to go on another group trip as it is long and far away and I would rather travel with some people I know than go alone.  Able Spanish, the language school I attended arranges for trips for some of their students and even though I only studied there a short time they have included me in the offer.  The July trip is to the Cataratas as known in Argentina or Iguazu Falls as known in Brazil.  It is one of the 7 wonders of the world.  (I need to get a list of these wonders as I believe they alter or add to the list every now and then.  Or that every country claims to have some.)  Anyway, the trip is 22 hours by bus

Delia on the KMB buss

 Again not as horrible as it sounds because the buses are quite luxurious, equipped with large, reclining seats, blankets, movies, snacks and bathroom facilities.  I traveled with 6 other girls, really girls, about 40 years younger than I, from the school, 2 from Germany, 2 from Holland, 1 from Scotland and 1 from Switzerland.  Along the way however we picked up a lot of other folks from the surrounding area and I am happy to report that I made some new Argentine friends, a few I hope to see again before I leave

Mariel a new friend

Our first stop on the excursions was to an ancient mission site where the Jesuits settled with the native people.  I am told there were only two priests among thousands of natives.  I was also told that the Jesuits were able to accomplish this because the surrounding tribes in Brazil and Paraguay were more aggressive and threatening to these people and the Jesuits offered a modicum of protection, in building a fortress like mission.  Anyway, we got to this site at about 6 a.m. as the sun was beginning to rise and a thunder and lightning storm was brewing.  It really made for a uniquely beautiful experience among the ruins.  We had breakfast in the small town and walked around a little before the rain began.

The next stop was the Minas Wanda.  This was a mine tour of an area where semi-precious stones are mined from rock formation called geodes.  Our guide was great and explained that there had been an underground volcano pushing magma from the earth’s center, which on the surface is then lava, which when cooled is basalt.  Within the lava gas bubbles formed and then cooled into a hollow rock formation with different gases inside that eventually formed into different types of colorful crystals.  The most famous of which is the amethyst.  When the miners find such a formation they first drill a small hole to examine the interior and determine its value.  There is often water still captured within this enclosure.  Once the value is determined, it is their objective to remove the most valuable bubbles fully intact.  This can take up to 5 days depending on the size and shape of the bubble.  Incredibly, there were some miners working while we toured.  I can tell you this type of tour would never be allowed in the US due to several factors, the interruption of work, the dust, and noise hazard, not to mention the overall risk of people traipsing through an operating mine.  It was great.  By the time we got to the associated gift shop however, the lightning storm had gotten so bad that the lights went out and we were all fumbling around in the dark.  Not good for sales, I can tell you that.

We got to the hotel on the Brazilian side of the border later in the afternoon and had showers, dinner and a show.  A really hokey show.  I remember seeing a similar show when visiting Cambodia.  It could have been the same place except for the culture change.  A big room with long skinny tables lots of chairs and a stage with tacky decorations of a native jungle habitat.  The show consisted primarily of carnival like costumed people and scantily clad women, gyrating to a Brazilian beat.  It could have even been great, but many of the costumes were dirty and in shabby condition.  For example one young women wearing fishnet stockings but still showing most of her butt had a wide run extending the full length of her upper leg.  Still the performers were so enthusiastic it was hard not to enjoy it despite the shortcomings.  The best part about the show was when they selected people from the audience to participate.  Our table was up front and of course had a nice selection of young foreign girls to choose from.  One time Martina from Switzerland was chosen and asked to lay on the floor while acrobatic dancers jumped over her, and at one point a rose was placed in her mouth and a guy suspended on his arms only, hovered above her, removing it with his teeth.  Christina from Germany was then selected to be used in a musical percussive demonstration using her body.  Both girls were very cooperative and good natured and it made for a lot of fun.

Martina

Christina

Day two is when the real adventure started.  Our first excursion into the park was on the Macao Safari.  After a short ride through the jungle on an electric tram we walked for a while to the river.  There we boarded a boat that would take us up river under the falls.  WOW, I’ll say it again, WOW.  That’s a lot of water.  These falls are enormous.  They count 275 including the minor falls and about 30 major falls which stretch 1.7 miles between Brazil and Argentina.  Further up on the river there is a point where 3 frontiers meet, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.  It is simply awe inspiring to watch this volume of water, gush endlessly over these falls, and know that they have been doing so for millennium and will continue on for more.  How is it possible? I thought in my first moments, viewing this phenomenon, about the futility of our trying to exist anywhere but in the present moment, our lives like the water here are moving in a continuous flow, unstoppable, powerful, beautiful and somewhat terrifying.  You know it is water you’re seeing but it‘s not like looking at a river, or the ocean. Even while they are moving you can get a sense of the process, you can witness the same water in its transformation, contained but changing.  Here it is just passing, with thunderous intensity, so much speed, so much power.

falls brazil at sunset

 

We rode very close to one of the falls taking a few passes as we all shrieked with the spray and the thrill of the experience. Returning shivering but not caring cause our senses had been shocked.   It was great, and definitely worth the 22 hour bus ride.  We were able to change to dry clothes and hike around some more before returning to the hotel.  Day 3 we would hike the Argentine side.

Argentina actually contains most of the falls, the view however is more panoramic from the Brazilian side, so I was not expecting to be thoroughly awed again, but I was wrong.  While we were not in the water on a boat the walk along the falls was magnificent, and we were able to get as close, with many long distance views.  The only thing I would have preferred was solitude but there are thousands

of visitors to this park every day and I am grateful that I have been able to see this in person.

The Guarani native legend about the falls is that a young warrior fell in love with a young women with whom one of the forest gods was enamored and so made jealous by this affair.  When the young couple attempted to escape down river the jealous god dropped the bottom out of it, creating the falls, the young women turned to stone beneath the raging waters and the young warrior remain onlooking as a tree from the banks.  Tragic story, beautiful place.

Later we visited a bird sanctuary with many of the jungle birds found round the world.  I love birds.  So many of them still preserve that prehistoric look, and the colors are incredible.  It must just be so much fun living in a colorful body like that, and be able to fly.

Nonetheless, I always feel sorry for creatures that are caged and even though this habitat was well intended they are all still contained.  I did have one personal encounter, however, that may have been an expression of discontent.

          THE BITER                                                                                                                                                                                                            While watching the parrots fly overhead, swooping here and there I suddenly felt a sharp pain and looked down to see this one large bird pecking at my sandaled foot and toes and drawing blood.  Ouch!  Really Ouch! I’m just glad it wasn’t a Toucan.  You’ve seen those beaks.  Anyway another souvenir for me.

 

Cooperativa La Barranquita

 Posted by Delia Downes at 12:45 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on Cooperativa La Barranquita
Jul 222014
 

Now that I have an understanding of the entire city I am being challenged again as I have agreed to work in another project with a women’s cooperative.  I visited the first time with one of the representatives from the Volunteer network when the coop was celebrating their 8th year anniversary.  It was quite the party with live music, good food, and a puppet show for the kids.

Kids watching the puppet showPuppet show audience

This cooperative serves a very poor neighborhood, where there is little work especially for the women.  This group got together to develop their own work programs and solicit support from the government.  One group is responsible for making things like back packs for school children.  While the government supplies the back packs they were previously buying them from China and giving them to the children.  Now these women make the back packs and the government buys them from the coop.  They also have a group that does some silkscreening on shirts and bags, etc.  and a group that does cleaning for public buildings and offices.

Women's Coop

This is a very poor neighborhood, or barrio on the south side of Cordoba.  It takes 2 buses and more than an hour to get there.  I really expected my second visit, made on my own, to be a challenge but I managed ok getting there.  Unfortunately upon my arrival I learned they were only having a meeting that day and that there would be no activities.  Communication is not great in Argentina even if you speak the language and certainly, I do not think the volunteer network would have asked me to attend if they knew it was only a meeting, but what the hell, I figured I would make the best of it.

It is interesting to witness a meeting when you don’t really know the language.  I will readily admit that there was little I understood during this discourse but the group dynamics were certainly evident.  First there was the coordinator who initiated discussion, and had a meeting topics list.  There was also a secretary taking notes and as the meeting went along it became obvious who were the leaders, the complainers the supporters etc. and really I did not understand much of the discussion, but everyone understands tone, and eye rolls even in another language.  It was fun for a while then I excused myself to watch the neighborhood kids play futbol on a dusty lot; little boys vying for status among their peers.  I noticed that one little boy was really quite good at maneuvering the ball and he had some speed as well.  His primary challenge however was keeping his shoes on.  They were obviously about two sizes to big and when he lined up for a goal seeking kick his shoe would fly off.  If that weren’t trouble enough, while setting up for his next move  he would run get the shoe,  hop along and slip it on all the while still in the game.  I could only imagine the level of his skill if this one obstacle was eliminated with a good fitting pair of shoes.  The odds for each team however, were fairly even as others lost their shoes as well just not as often and others still played with laces untied, I suspect for shoes that were too small.

After a while it was time to go and the coordinator opted to drive me to a bus stop some distance away as she said it was a dangerous area to stand around and wait.  I asked what I should do if she is not there to drive me, but really didn’t get much of an answer.  At this point I have not yet returned and am questioning the wisdom of taking such a risk.  We’ll see.

 

More Equinotherapia

 Posted by Delia Downes at 12:34 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on More Equinotherapia
Jul 222014
 

It has been many days since I have written.  I was overcome with grief for my friend and the tragedy of her son’s situation.  The situation has not changed much but I have at least had a chance to speak with her and punctuate my daily activities with prayers for each of them.

We did have some very busy days at Equinotherapia with many children showing up at the same time primarily in the afternoons.  One horse, Poli, has a bad habit of nipping, usually when you are cinching up the girth. I’ve learned to tie his head close to the post so he can’t reach me.  He is really tolerant of the children and will even carry two people on his back very well.  But one day he really gave me a surprise.  Many of the children bring carrots to give the horses after they ride. We monitor this process very carefully especially with Poli.  Everything was going well, until I was holding Poli at the bit while one of the kids was on the mounting ramp. I was completely focused on the safety of the child getting on the horse that I didn’t even see Poli, bare his teeth and go for my arm.  Not a bad bite, but painful nonetheless and it did draw blood and result in a bruise. I really think he was looking for more carrots. I did not make a big deal of it at the time because I did not want any of the children or their caregivers to get alarmed. I poured a bunch of antiseptic hand cleaner I had on it to avoid infection and kept on working.  Thankfully, I am a good healer and if it scars I will consider it a very unique souvenir.

Poli Love Bite

Poli with two ridersPoli with two riders

I also got to ride along with Guillermo the gentleman, who comes three times a week for therapy.  He had polio as a child and does not appear to be majorly effected by the disease although I know he has done a lot of work to get to this point.  He has been studying English for some time and will be taking a major exam in December which he is very concerned about.  The exam is oral and he must speak on a subject for 6 minutes.  So to assist him with his English we ride together, not on the same horse but on the same trail.  He speaks in English and I correct him and I speak in Spanish and he corrects me.  He speaks a lot with very little correction required.  I speak a little and require a lot of help.  But is fun and we both enjoy it.

It’s old news now but Argentina came in second in the World Cup competition.  It was a great final game, and I really thought they would pull it off, especially if the game had gone to penalty kicks.  I think that Argentina dominated the whole time, but it only takes one goal to win and the Germans got one in just in the nick of time.  I had been seated in a hotel right on the Patio Olmos, the meeting spot, following all the games for the celebration, so was really upset that they did not win.  I wanted to be there as history was made.  There were some minor celebrations as second place is still pretty good, but none of the madness and jubilation of the previous wins.  I walked for a long time after that trying to locate a bus line that was running to return home but there were none so I finally took a cab.

 

 

 

 

 

The next day all returned to normal and I made my way to work.  If you recall I mentioned that there are many bus lines, with different numbers which all seem to stop in the same places.  I was sure there must be a difference but could not determine what it was.  Well on this day, it became clear as I mistakenly got on the wrong numbered bus.  I needed either 13 or 19 and got on 18 by accident.  It was an easy mistake to make as I was tired from the night before and the bus stop is the same for all.  My hopes for a quick trip to work clouded my vision and I saw the number I wanted to see.  Anyway, after a certain point it was clear we had made a departure from the regular route and after a while I got off.  Now what?  Well, I am happy to say that my Spanish was good enough for me to ask questions and reverse my trip taking yet another bus to my destination.  Although I can manage some of the vocabulary and the grammar and my teachers have told me my pronunciation is good, my accent is a dead giveaway that I’m not from around here.  As soon as I open my mouth I can see the surprise and then some helpful individuals ask where I am from.  At least they don’t always know I’m from the US.  I was kind of pleased one day when someone asked if I was from Brazil.  That at least mistakes me as a native of the continent.  Any way this problem solved was only repeated the next day when I got lost again.  Not that I was lost this time but I was not where I wanted to be.  I was trying to go to work from the city center where I had been applying for my Visa to visit Brazil.  I took the right bus, #19, but it was going in the wrong direction.  I thought well I’ll just ride it around until it gets going in my direction but you can’t do that.  So finally being the only passenger left I was asked to get off at the terminal and wait for the next bus going in the right direction.  Live and learn, that’s what this is all about.  It took me a long time to get there but I had built in plenty of time so I wasn’t even late and got to see the entire city.

July 10 for Jacob

 Posted by Delia Downes at 11:52 am  Argentina  Comments Off on July 10 for Jacob
Jul 102014
 

July 10, Thursday.  It’s been an intense day for me.  I started out trying to provide the Brazilian Consulate with all the documentation needed to get a visa, so I can travel to Iguzu Falls next week on the Argentine border and go to the Brazilian side.  A fairly simple request but a very complicated process, with lots of documents to present and a fairly hefty payment for 3 days travel.  Everything, and all my concerns for anything else came to a screeching halt upon hearing from a dear friend that her 22 year old son was on life support and things were not looking good.  Suddenly everything stops, all priorities are reshuffled, in fact the deck is tossed aside and we are, I am speechless, helpless, powerless and sorrowful.  All I want to do is comfort my friend, so I can comfort myself.

I had been listening to Wayne Dyer earlier speaking about living the Tao, verse 9, “Enough is Enough.”  You cannot fill the cup beyond its capacity, you cannot sharpen the blade beyond its perfect edge or it becomes dulled.  Enough is enough, the universe knows its capacity and more is not always better, or necessary or healthy, when more is less, less is more.  Then I thought about the cacti I had written about that I saw growing on the hillsides in Pumamarca:

We see the cacti growing toward the sky

How do they live in a place so dry

So dry so bare and  – why?

Then we stop, we cannot answer

Even when we try

Some questions are unanswerable

Begging us to accept and our logic to defy.

I thought about the cacti again today

Does the landscape miss them when they die and decay

Will the landscape miss me when I go away

Then I stop. I gasp. I stop. I breathe. No I don’t think it will.

But someone may.

Observations:

 Posted by Delia Downes at 3:14 am  Argentina  Comments Off on Observations:
Jul 062014
 

Here are some other observations after a few weeks in Argentina that I thought I would share. First I wonder if I am observing these subtleties because I am in a new place or because I can actually take the time to look around me.  Remember I just retired after 29 years of running all the time and now I am here with not a lot to do but pay attention.  This would make for a bit of a different experience, I think, even if I was not in Argentina.

Anyway, observations; people carry their babies and small children everywhere in their arms.  I have not seen the proliferation of strollers always evident in the US anywhere in Argentina so far.  Young women and men, older grandmas and grandpas carrying little ones everywhere through the streets, onto buses, into shops, it’s just what they do.  I remember carrying my son from time to time but not for long periods of time or very far and imagine I would have to be much stronger to have carried him all day long, like they do in Argentina.

Then there are the dogs. I have mentioned them before but it is such a distinct subculture I am continuously fascinated by their omnipresence.  I have actually been thinking about choosing one canine and following it around for a full day just to see what it does.  In my neighborhood for example, there are the dogs behind the fences and the dogs on the loose.  Almost every home is gated to some extent and if they have a dog that dog hangs out in the yard, patrolling all day long.  On the other side of the fence are the vagrants, the dogs that roam the neighborhoods usually at a steady trot.

Morea on Patrol

Morea on patrol

They do not look like they are starving, nor do they look well feed and they are usually dirty, if long haired, matted and sometimes injured, limping along with one foot held high.  I feel sorry for them and was not shocked but saddened to learn that the government has taken to poisoning street dogs in Buenos Aires as a way to control the population.  There was some public outrage and certainly there should be some options, castration for one.  I’ve never seen so many dogs with balls intact.  This is another major observation and big difference between home and here.  I often think our leash laws and registration requirements  along with spaying  are cumbersome and unnecessary but here the lack of control is an evident problem. Today while sitting with Nora in her garden, Morea went nuts when a stray wondered by, but Nora took the time to fill a trough with water for the strays to get a drink.  She has a big heart and a big smile to match.

Nora in the garden

Futbol mania.  Well yes I happen to be in South American during the World Cup and it is a national pastime like no other.  I have to say I have watched more television sports in the last couple of weeks than I’ve probably watched in years at home.  One day I went into Cordoba to take care of some business and when I got there around 12:30 the streets were jammed with people.  It’s usually crowded but on this day you could really sense the urgency, lots of traffic, lots of people.  I finished up my business at Lan Airlines around 1 and went back out to empty streets, suddenly no people, very little traffic and all shops closed except for cafes and restaurants.  Argentina was playing and their entire country was watching.  Every restaurant was crowded with folks watching TV. I watched the end of the game with a group on the street through a store window on a large flat screen.  Argentina won and the crowd was jubilant.  It reminded me of countless movies with scenes of spectators watching history unfold through a window.  Since then, Argentina has gone on to win and move into the semi or semi-semi, finals I’m not sure.  All I know is that the US was recently eliminated after losing a tough game to Belgium.  The only good thing for me about that loss was that if they had won, the US would have played Argentina and I would have been in an awkward position.  I suppose the closest thing to the World Cup in the US is the SuperBowl but it of course is not international.  With futbol, the whole country is united with one goal in mind.  Yes pun intended I couldn’t help myself.  We will see how this event works out.  It sure would be fun to be here if Argentina goes all the way.

In the crowd at Patio Olmos celebrating the winArgentina wins against Belgium 7/5/14Canine Messi fanMessi, Messi, MessiFans

Candonga and Equine Therapy

 Posted by Delia Downes at 2:23 am  Argentina  Comments Off on Candonga and Equine Therapy
Jul 032014
 

All is well in Cordoba and I while I worked a little bit last week, the director of the Equine Therapy program, Ricardo,  became very ill with pneumonia and could not be there for most of the week.  As a result the entire program was shut down.  While I only worked one day all by myself,  I did my best.  I spent about 3 hours cleaning the paddock removing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of manure.  I was quite pleased with the look of it by the time I was done and was hoping to be able to keep it that way, but then found out I would not be back for the rest of the week.  Now that I’ve returned this week and Ricardo was exceedingly grateful for the work I did, I’ve learned a clean paddock is not a priority.

Since the program was closed I went back to school for a few days.  My Spanish language skills are not great so the more help I get the better I will be.  On Saturday I went with a group from school to Candonga, a beautiful spot in the Sierras Chicas close to Cordoba.  We spent the day doing my favorite thing, riding horses.  We rode for about 3 hours in the morning then had a good lunch of grilled meats and salad followed by another 2 hours ride along a river.  Nothing beats a day like that in my book.  I was the only one in our group that was an experienced rider so I had an especially good time.  Salvador, the man with the horses invited me back any time and I will certainly have to take him up on that.  Candongo was an old settlement, trading point back in the 1700s.  The original church and mill is still there but now there is a small resort as well with a restaurant and a bit of lodging.  They raise all their own crops and livestock, really a small piece of heaven.

Candonga

 

Following this great weekend,  I got back to work in earnest and today had about 25 children attending the program.  It was a particularly beautiful day with high temperatures and abundant sunshine.  We had so many children that we had to use 3 horses at one time and one of the counselors walked with some of the children on the third horse.  It was just Ricardo and me today.  I do not know how he would do this without my help especially since he is not feeling great so I felt very useful today.  I am altering my schedule to accommodate the volume of students we expect for the weeks coming, so I will be working in the mornings Monday, Wednesday and Friday and in the afternoons, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Here is a photo of one of my favorite riders.  His name is Diego, he is so happy to be on a horse it reminds me of myself.  He is also so respectful and grateful of me and the time spent in the program.  I am sure, despite his disabilities, that he will work to make the most of his situation and succeed in this life because of his positive attitude.

Diego on Poli

More from the Nothern provinces

 Posted by Delia Downes at 6:55 am  Argentina  Comments Off on More from the Nothern provinces
Jun 292014
 

We did so much over this one weekend it is hard to remember the order of things.  I believe it was Saturday when we had lunch and watched Argentina play Iran in the World Cup.  The restaurant was full and everyone was focused on the game.  It was a nail biting match until finally at the very last minute the Argentine futbol hero Messi # 10 scored the winning goal and the entire room was jubilant.  There have been more jubilant moments over Messi since then as the World Cup continues.

Group shot on the way to PumamarcaOf course we did some shopping at the local outdoor market that is so amazingly colorful.  I bought the customary llama wool sweater and some other things for friends and family.

The market in Pumamarca

Late on Saturday we also went to Salinas Grandas a truly amazing site especially for someone who spent the last three decades selling sodium bicarbonate.  This sodium is far easier to access as it is an open plain of salt, stretching for miles in each direction.   Evidently it was an ancient sea with water now trapped below the surface as well.  During the summer a rainy season January and February, remember we are upside down, I was told the surface actually floods and people walk across it like Christ.  I may be just and easy mark and gullible, or maybe my understanding of Spanish is really bad but this is a lot of salt and I can believe that is possible.  We took some fun photos here and thankfully the sun was out, because without it I believe this place may have been rather bleak.  Remember we are in a high desert so while the sun was out, it was quiet warm, but windy on this open plain.  When we returned to Tilcara however, the temperatures began to plummet and I dressed in my down coat for our outdoor dinner.  Sabrina the school director and tour guide made homemade pizzas in an outdoor horno or oven.  Even though it was rather a chilly night the oven, the pizza and the camaraderie made it warm.

Barbara holding Delia up on the salt flats

On Sunday morning most of us slept later, till about 9 and after breakfast packed up for our final day and trip to Salta.  It was a really long ride through the mountains, but the scenery really began to change and suddenly we  moved out of the dry naked mountains into lush, forested terrain, on a switchbacks going up and coming down on precariously narrow roads with bridges restricted to one vehicle at a time.

Silva de Norte

Salta is another city, with a main square which unfortunately was being renovated and surrounded by tarp.  We walked around it nonetheless passing the cathedral where some type of celebration was being prepared to the other side where a demonstration was being held demanding better pay and living conditions for teachers in the area.  One woman was quiet dramatic, crying and screaming her complaints as most other protesters, passersby, and police ignored her pain.  It was really strange.  We did not do much in Salta but had lunch again, Italian fare this time, and did some more shopping.  We then headed to the bus terminal to watch the US play Portugal and wait to travel back to Cordoba.  A long trip home but shorter than the trip up with no stops arriving in Cordoba at 7 Monday morning

I’d like to say I went to work on Monday, but I did not.  I came home and slept for a few hours.  Well rested to begin a new work week on Tuesday.

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