Letters From Latin America: Confluencia, Argentina (Part 2)

20 May 2019
3:15pm
Monday

¡Hola again! Still from the wilderness!

My fingernails are unfailingly consistently never clean; endlessly filled with dirt, ashes, dead skill cells, and who knows what else. Seems so quick that it’s been over two weeks already. The days pass really slowly. We wake up much later now, at 10:30am-ish, because the sun only rises at 8:30am and it’s much too cold to get any work done outside before noon. Yet somehow, when we think it’s already nearing sundown, it’s only 2:35pm. I guess when there’s no reason to rush about, time chills out with you too.

There’s four of us on the land now. Our Argentinian host, a German, a Frenchman, and myself. The Frenchman being the latest addition, for whom I’m appreciative of the moment we met because I could sense he was different from the other two. He wasn’t an alpha. It’s much easier to get along with men who carry slightly more feminine energy. When the other dudes have a discussion, all I can do is laugh because it’s like witnessing two blocks of testosterone go up against each other. Neither one backing down, both persistent in insisting their rightness; be it about politics, how-to-DIY stuff, technology, food, whatever. I tend to not get involved. I’ll wander off mid-debate. Mentally first, then physically. They’re all good guys though, just, if I’m not in the most pleasant of moods, their stomping, chomping, masculine presence becomes too huge for comfort.

We all moved into this cabin

A few days back, the German and I made plans to catch Avengers: Endgame. We got up that day, filled with excitement, had a huge breakfast, and then headed out. It took about three hours to get to the cinema. This involved a lot of walking, waiting, hitchhiking, and the ride into the town itself took an hour. Showtimes revealed they had one English version at 9:30pm. The rest were dubbed into Spanish (I can only imagine how horrid that viewing experience would be for me).

It was 2:30pm then, and the cinema only opened at 3pm, so we checked ourselves into a hostel. Where I could finally, for the first time in over a week, take a shower. Oof. Reborn! Upon returning to the cinema that night, we were confused to see that the English show time was removed from the screen. I went to the counter to inquire, and guess what? Just our luck. The schedule we saw was for the previous night. The very final night they screened Avengers: Endgame in English. Todo en español. All in Spanish from now on. Guess it’s a good thing I’ll still be away from social media after this. By the time I’m back in civilisation again, the hype would have dispersed along with its spoilers.

The following day was a gloomy one. Woke up to clouds and rain as our companion while we grocery shopped for the basics. Butter, oats, vegetables, dulce de leche. Caught a bus back to Confluencia Traful, but stepped out to even harder rains. While making our way to the land, I felt as though I was repeatedly being shoved to the right. I looked up, the six-footer (or more) German, was also struggling to find his balance. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was that wind, just gusts of air, was so strong a child would have been blown away, that I couldn’t help but burst into fits of laughter as I stumbled along to this new experience.

We cook outdoors when the weather permits 

The good thing about grey cloudy skies though, is it’s less cold at night. I actually never knew this until recently. Do the clouds trap the heat in or something? It’s funny to notice the yin and yang of things. Clear skies will give you a sunny day, but then you’re freezing your face off at night. A big, bright full moon lights up your path but chases the stars away. Or, ironically enough, the fewer options you have, the more satisfied you are. I’m talking about food in this instance.

I’ve never considered myself a foodie, not in a way where I’d drive out of my way for bak kut teh, or wake up extra early to get the best dim sum, I’m too lazy for that, but the food is on my mind a lot. Plus, it’s simple foods which make me really happy. Especially in this type of travel situations. Low budget, minimal options. I’m always either thinking of what I wish I could be eating or what’s available to eat.

Here, while having breakfast, I’ll be pondering on what to make for lunch, and/or dinner. In abundance, we have potatoes, onions, rice, pasta, polenta, lentils, flour. In average amounts, on occasion, we have carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, garlic (I just realised that ‘garlic’ in itself is singular and plural. I can’t say ‘five garlics’. I guess it’d have to be five cloves/bulbs. Although I don’t get recipes that mention two cloves of garlic or whatever. It’s always at least one bulb of garlic on anything for me. Why Scrooge on all that garlic goodness?

Our kitchen in the cabin

The point I’m trying to make is, you have to get creative with meals when you’re looking at the same box of ingredients every single day for weeks. It’s been fun and gratifying. Everything tastes better when cooked over a fire. Also because that’s all you’ve got.

This land, if I’m not mistaken, has been in our host’s family for generations. Nothing much has been done to it until fairly recently. When he took us for a walk across the fields and down memory lane, I was amazed at how much work has been done, much of it with Workaway volunteers. From clearing up all the thorny bushes to flattening the land and installing the piping system in order the build the cabins we’re living in now, it’s pretty incredible. He’s a big dreamer and has many plans to make this place more sustainable and eventually be able to rent it out.


Read Part 1 of Petrina’s adventures in Confluencia, Argentina:
Letters From Latin America: Confluencia, Argentina (Part1)

In a space such as this, you can’t help but dream. My night dreams are crazy vivid; maybe because I’m not getting sucked into screens. My daydreams go all over the place – about jumping in front of a car to save a kid’s life, and the kid turns out to have super-rich and generous parents who give me a new phone, about hitchhiking all the way to the States, all the way to Caro-Bear’s house just to do Burning Man with her again, or even about being back in KL, staying in Zher’s house, baking her breakfast and it is delicious, and we TMI-talk endlessly about writing a book, picking up a new skill like juggling, or working out and getting the toned arms and abs I can only dream of. Because that’s all I do… dream. And eat.

A beautiful day in Confluencia, Argentina

I read this thing recently about some study (yes, I’m keeping it vague as possible because I’m wondering if I got this right) that shows how, women especially, have higher self-esteem if they’re kept away from mirrors. Like, if you left your house feeling good with how you look, and for the rest of the day you don’t see your reflection at all, you’d still be feeling as good as when you left your house. However, if there were a lot of mirrors along the way, you may keep looking at them, each time coming up with more self-criticism, and by the end of the day, you feel super crummy.

This piece popped into my mind because I hadn’t looked in a mirror for ages until one day I noticed there was a tiny mirror by the door entrance. Don’t know why it never caught my eye before. I took a peek, saw a few spots, rounder cheeks, a disappearing jawline, and decided I don’t want to look anymore because I’ll start feeling self-conscious. I didn’t bring any facial products with me. Haven’t used facial wash for months just as an experiment (also to travel light), only water. I don’t think it has made much of a difference to my complexion, which is hardly ever clear anyway.

Vanity aside, I now take back what I said in one of the earlier letters, where I was wondering if maybe I prefer just proper, planned, shorter-term trips because those are almost definitely sure to be enjoyable. There’s so much I’d be missing out on if I did that. I guess I just have to remind myself that it doesn’t always start off amazing, neither will it be amazing all the way through. But the in-between moments, the moments where it gets good, it’s so great, and more often than not, unexpected.

Snow makes the cold seem okay

Being here has brought much peace and goodness to my soul, I believe. I haven’t felt anxious about not knowing what I’m doing. I’ve accepted and am more than okay with being single again. I think I’m finally getting into the groove of things. It’s been almost three months of travel now, which seems about right. My last big journey also took about this long as an adjustment period.

Bueno, I need to start preparing the patatas. By the time I get to send this and the previous letter off, I’ll be on my way to Chile to see what’s up over in that long, long, slim country. Until then, adios!

Con todo mi cariño,
Petrina

*All images courtesy of the author. 

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Occasionally referred to as a hobo, Petrina happily sleeps on cardboard boxes at petrol stations, digs through bins for food, and can go without showering for days, when necessary. She has terrible sense of direction but believes that getting lost can be pretty fun too.

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