Argentina Diaries: Day 8 / by vanessa

Of course Hav had already packed and of course I had not. He left to get us some coffee while I masterfully pushed, squeezed, and cajoled my purchases into an already crowded suitcase. We finally got breakfast at a restaurant on Santa Fe where we were its youngest patrons by at least three decades. I took this as a good sign. I really just wanted a breakfast taco and tried to order it in a roundabout way, but either my Spanish or the meaning for 'tortilla' differed. We ended up with a potato, egg, and cheese frittata, which was fine by me. (Post-note: I recently learned that 'tortilla' in Spain and Argentina is what we call 'frittata'.)

After breakfast (by this time, brunch), we walked through Las Canitas and Palermo in search of a notably chic jewelry store that's open daily but by appointment. "I just want to look in the window," I told Hav, "then decide if I want to call." Unfortunately, it seems the reason reservations are required is because there are no windows. We continued walking to Malba, a privately funded modern art museum.

I don't know how to describe nature, much less art, so I'm happy to read a quote in Malba's program from Oscar Buny, an artist whose work was there on exhibit:

I don't believe that art can be explained, deep down, what it leaves behind is always an unknown.

His work filled the third (or in Argentina, the second) floor. Much of his photography pieces captured death removed. For example, he frequently took pictures of men flopped on pavement. He overlaid the photograph with a piece of Plexiglas sprayed with bullet holes. I'm not sure I got the meaning, exactly, but I liked looking at the pictures. I stopped abruptly in front of a comparative piece. On the left was a prophetic portrait of the Twin Towers he'd done in 1996. Each tower had a bullet hole in it. On the right, at least ten times the size of its counterpart, was the ubiquitous, fateful 9/11 image of Tower One being blown up and the plane heading for Tower Two. The piece was titled, Osama 2001. I felt hollow and confused. I'm not an especially ethnocentric or patriotic kinda girl so reaction to these reminders of 9/11 have surprised me. Maybe it's being in a foreign country?

We left the museum, turned the corner, and went to what's billed as "Buenos Aires' Greatest Mall", which turned out to be a little bit like getting a massage and then helping someone move. I can report that malls are vacuous anywhere in the world. We left quickly.

Walking back to Palermo Viejo Hav and I had an awkward conversation about expectations and well, hooking up, or not, as it were. We remain in this hybrid, amorphous state in part because of our shared reluctance to pull out the magnifying glass when it comes to Us. I had questions but lacked the energy to probe. This trip has been a sublime experience and no one wants to look at the clock on vacation.

At 5 we returned to the apartment to wait for Cristina. We had packed our belongings and in the last hour before the airport we talked about what a great trip we'd had and how we should have taken Spanish lessons when we arrived. Oh well, next time we'll be prepared. Cristina came with a friend? Housecleaner? I had written her a note to say that I tried to wash the sheets but the upstairs door to the laundry was locked. (I always had to prepare in advance what I wanted to say.)

She took us through a checklist of questions, an "inquisition" we told her, when she asked for a word to describe the process of asking what we'd used or broken. Technically, inquisition missed the mark, but I couldn't think of a nice and tidy alternate. And then we spent the next hour with her teaching me Spanish and me teaching her English. She told me that when I return to BA (something in me blurted out "proximo ano" - huh?!) I'd have to stay with her at her house. She has a garden and a bathroom and bedrooms. We talked about the new president and Hilary Clinton and yes, Bush. We talked about everyday stuff really -- the way people who've just met speak, independent of barriers -- country, language, or otherwise. We exchanged addresses, a throwback practice that has a sincerity to it which escapes electronic mail.

She called a taxi for us. Eventually it came, and we were off. Our trip had a sense of completion to it. I didn't want for more time (save another day in Patagonia), yet I hope someday I'll return. I feel inspired to learn Spanish, and Italian, and French. My desire to live in a foreign country is renewed.

So that's it. My Argentina diaries as forthright as I know to be. At times journaling this seemed more chore than joy but more often it was the opposite. In fact, a typical scene would be sitting at a cafe waiting for our coffee or meal, and I'd pull out this notebook and start writing just after Scott got up to wash his hands or check something out. He'd return sooner than I expected and say "are you writing again, Vaness?" Yeah. I guess so.