LEAVING BUENOS AIRES TO IGUAZU FALLS
Since my trip to Chile and Mendoza, I had spent 2 months in Buenos Aires not having seen anything beyond the boring gray and brown buildings on the city streets. I had to assure myself that my eyes would not become color blind after so much time without seeing the colors of nature. I was spoiled in California, where I saw mountains every day. Eefje, my Belgian friend, and I took off on an organized tour to the falls. To start off the 22 hour bus ride, the tour guide made everybody make animal noises in an effort to get us acquainted with each other. That lame exercise should have been a clue that we had a bad tour guide. We found out later on that he was more interested in taking us to overpriced restaurants and souvenir stores than to the actual falls. We eventually ended up ditching the group and took off on our own. Iguazu Falls can only be described in celestial dimensions. I was expecting something along the lines of the waterfalls I had seen in Yosemite. No way! Instead of 3 or 4 huge falls, Iguazu has 275 incredible waterfalls! As the path would turn, we would see more and more amazing waterfalls. Sometimes, we would just stop and stand in awe of the beauty and shear power of these works of nature. I looked as though I were in a coma when I stopped to admire. I told myself that I were religious person, I would consider the falls as a testament to the strength of God. In the indigenous language of the zone, Guarani, the word Iguazu means “big water”. The falls are located on the Brazilian-Argentine border and one has to cross the border to go to the Brazilian side to see the falls. Being in Brazil was really fun. After the devaluation in January, Brazil has become even cheaper than before. A buffet meal with meat costs about $1.50, without drinks. Besides the light effect on my wallet, I had other reasons to be thrilled about staying there. It was fascinating to walk on the streets and see so many different ethnicities. People of European, African, indigenous, Asian and Middle Eastern descent all live in Foz do Iguaçu, the city. This was a pleasant change as my eyes the physical homogeneity of the Argentine population began to tire my eyes. Thirty five percent of the city is Arab. It was funny to see Muslim women dressed in head scarves and long dresses walking on the street next to women in Western clothing. I don’t know how they can maintain their conservative culture in Brazil, whose people are known for their sexual openness and provocative dances. In general, the people seemed very friendly. It was amusing to try to speak in Portuguese with my very very, very limited vocabulary. Spanish and Portuguese are very similar, so it is fairly easy to communicate.
I quit working at the embassy because I wasn’t learning anything. I found the embassy staff and diplomats to be totally removed from the reality of Argentine society. Working in a diplomatic bubble, with high fences and armed guards, was no way to educate myself about this country. So now, I am looking for an internship with a foreign newspaper or news organization in order to get a better picture of what is happening here. I noticed that after leaving the embassy, I became much happier.