You Can Never Go Back
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus
As I planned this trip, one of my thoughts was, “seek out new adventures and avoid retracing our steps from the last trip.” I made one exception, Buenos Aires. The South American jewel on the Rio Plata was one of our favorites. It was a magical stop on a magical trip. I knew it would not be the same, we would not have Anne, Paula or Dax, but I thought it would be nice to cross our paths at least once and to see if I could reanimate some of the same enchantment.
Initially, I had planned on staying in BA for just a couple of days, and then we would march off to more South American Adventures in Uruguay. However, after our adventuring and trouble bussing, I decided we needed to slow down for a few days. We needed to do school, church, blogs, and just recover.
Unfortunately, the Buenos Aires I was longing for was in the past and rediscovering it was like chasing ghosts. Most of the people (including the three lovelies) were out of town for vacation. (February is their August. ) The town was shut down for a four day weekend, Carnival. Rather than cool nights we had hot days and nights, but perhaps the biggest change was the overall mood. Years of inflation and the current money crisis are taking their toll on people’s dispositions. When we were there nine years ago, the exchange rate was 3-1, and it was a bargain for us. Today the official exchange rate is 8.5 to 1, but there is an unofficial exchange (the blue dollar) nearer to 13 to 1. At the Blue rate, Argentina was a bargain for us, at the official exchange rate it was rather expensive. Doing the math twice on each purchase gave us an insight into what it feels like to have an insecure currency, and how painful it is to pay $10 for lunch one day and $16 the next day for the same lunch. That didn’t happen very often because I came prepared with a pile of dollars and made use of the money changes. Unfortunately that is not an option for most Argentines, they earn their money today and watch its value disappear. This reality appears to be weighing on them.
Already upset about the currency, there is a new crisis brewing in Argentina. A leading prosecutor was found dead days before he could present his case against the government. While we were there this lead to a silent march of 400,000 people, seeking answers and justice. Unlike recent clashes between police and protesters in the US, this was purely peaceful and was populated with people of all ages and from all aspects of life. In fact, most of the people I saw marching were north of 40. The president had asked the police to leave their weapons at home, to prevent things from getting out of control. Apparently it worked, and the protest was peaceful. The Argentines we met were justifiably looking for an answer, the heavy-handedness of their government and the legacy of those who disappeared in the early 70’s leave many Argentines dubious of their leaders intentions.
Not only had the city changed, but we have changed. Our group is not the same, and being in one of our old places, highlighted that fact. One day Kieran was arguing to not leave the apartment and stated the obvious, “There is no way this trip can be as good, without Mom and Dax. What makes something good is the people you are with.” Kieran was right, it can’t be as good. I told him as much but also explained it can be great in a different way. That “different way” is what I needed to keep in mind as we move forward. The palliative portion of this trip is about looking forward, and building something new. Buenos Aires, the city, was not going to be a place of healing, We shouldn’t recreate scenes or experiences from the last trip. We need to face forward and create new scenes, and experiences. It took us a few days to figure it out, but the last couple days we were in Buenos Aires we did exactly that. The city opened up from its holiday; we toured some areas we hadn’t seen; we visited some interesting companies, (more on that in the next post), and we didn’t try to relive past experiences.