Monthly Archives: December 2013

La Falda Fiestas 2013

Life is a mix of family gathering things – mate and snacks around the pool, music with the piano, guitar, others, a few meals altogether, some at restaurants – and things we always do in South America, like go for walks in the country or around town. We are spending money at a faster rate than during our years here, or during our six months on the road, but less than we would just to feed ourselves in the U.S.

95F, pool time

95F, pool time

Zeke, Akabi, Anna in the plaza

Zeke, Akabi, Anna in the plaza

Anna, Hector

Anna, Hector

Leticia, going up the Banderita

Leticia, going up the Banderita

old railroad bed, La Falda

old railroad bed, La Falda

Scott, Jessica, Ramona, Ramona's monster

Scott, Jessica, Ramona, Ramona’s monster

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The Summer (!) Solstice, or, Otra vez a La Falda

La Falda is a town of about 15,000 in the Central Sierras of Argentina, about an hour (by the new road) from Cordoba. It is the town where Patricia, Hector, and Felipe, Leticia’s aunt, uncle, and cousin, live, and the town where Leticia’s parents have moved, and the town where we lived for a year during our sabbatical year 2007-08. There is a large family reunion happening here this Christmas and New Year, and when we bought our plane tickets in July, it seemed like too much – after the months of preparing, buying, moving and selling, after two weeks of the Woolman Walk, many weeks away during the summer, and Anna and Zeke starting at a new school – that we would also spend a month in Argentina over the winter. 

As the date approached, though, we were all looking forward to the trip, and as the taxi from the airport got closer to La Falda, our smiles got bigger. (Well, until Anna and Zeke fell asleep.) This is also a good time to talk about the new road that comes over the mountain from Cordoba. Perhaps no one of my generation in the United States can understand the marvel of a new road that magically changes the distances to lots of neighboring towns. It has brought more business and tourists to La Falda, and the town seems to be growing.

At the same time, lots of the houses that were half built 6 years ago are still half built, the dirt streets are still dirt, and the stray dogs are still out there, though there seem to be fewer aggressive dogs loose. Having spent time in Peru and Bolivia, La Falda seems affluent. By North American standards, though, it is definitely South American. It is a bit surreal to be back in the place we lived for a year; it is like we have tunneled down in time and come back up here, but with Anna and Zeke older. Also surreal to walk by the house we lived in for that year, longer than we have lived on Anthony Avenue. And yes, also surreal to spend time in the pool or wake up from a siesta with that lethargic summer nap feeling, knowing that last week Anna and Zeke were digging caves in the snow outside our house. There have been a few days in the low 90s here, but mostly it has been reasonably comfortable, and the evenings are wonderful.

On Thursday we hiked up the Banderita, the mountain above La Falda, with Leon. One gets to the path after about half an hour of walking, and then follows a creek for a bit before turning steeply uphill on a path thorny with acacia and other plants. I had thought about running this on my own, but it is too steep and rocky for that. For Zeke it is a little hard, with a combination of steps that require using his hands (in thorny ground) and spiky plants at face level. But he and Anna did well, as we had hoped (they did, after all take this hike many times before – we realized on the way that we have been to the top of the Banderita more than any other mountain) and after two and a half hours we were at the top. We stayed for half an hour. The sun was hot, but there were good breezes higher up, and we took the shadier way down along the creek, getting home five hours after setting out.

Two days later I celebrated the solstice by running up the old road over the mountain. The old road is dirt and rock, rutted and often just a single lane (again, by North American standards). There are a few spots where the retaining wall has given way, and the road may eventually wash away too. But with the new road, there is almost no auto traffic on the old, making it great for foot traffic. I got to the pass at the top in 47 minutes, and went down the other side 9 more to the intersection with the new road, which felt like a strange return to the 21st century. I was home in an hour and 50 minutes for a round trip of about 12 miles with a climb of 1000 feet or so. During 90 minutes on the old road, I met, in this order: an old man walking with a cane, two guys sitting on a motorcycle, a guy resting after bicycling most of the way up, two kids hiding in the weeds, and the same guy on the bike, flying downhill. 

As for everyday life? There are 12 of us here now; 7 more arrive tomorrow. There is always food to buy, which we get by walking; Anna and Zeke are in the pool twice a day, at least; Daniela’s daughter Akabi is a babbling happy 18 month old, and taking her around town in a stroller or on shoulders is a delightful reminder of doing the same here with Zeke at that age. Games and guitars and violins and trombones are played, some math is done, coffee and submarinos and beer and wine are drunk, more walks are taken, meals are fixed and eaten…

In short, it is a good life.

 

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Outer Banks

(This should have been posted in August, but when I logged in today, I found this draft. Here it is, only four months late.)

This is my fifth visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I remember them all. We came to Ocracoke Island in 1985 ad 1986 and camped in a campground that was basically a large sandy parking lot behind a general store. I remember eating at the picnic table, walking the streets of the small town of Ocracoke, the long ferry ride from Cedar Island. Most of all, I remember the waves. For kids from Indiana, the ocean was so far and so foreign – as far as I know, these two trips and a day at Virginia Beach were the only trips to the ocean in my first 18 years. So we played in the waves for hours and hours, getting exhausted and sunburned, eating, resting, and going back for more. I don’t remember that we had a beach umbrella or even a dining fly, which means, looking back, that there was no shade ever. But I didn’t notice that then. I remember how hard it was to leave, knowing there was nothing like playing in waves in my normal life and wondering when I would next get the chance. It took two days driving each day, so we were there for perhaps 5 days. They remain some of the most memorable of my childhood.

Peter and I went back to Ocracoke in 1996, camping again in a borrowed tent that was at the end of its usable life. I remember one night when rain blew right through the tent walls; I sat up awake and wet while Peter slept on. The next morning we found several folks had packed it in in the night; others lost dining flies that a ranger said would be “flying over New Jersey by now.” On another night the rain opened up while we were at a restaurant; by the time we got back, the tent and sleeping bags were soaked (not that we could have prevented it) and we spent the night in my two-door Honda Civic. I don’t remember the waves that time – I had been to other beaches by then, and I was no longer 90 lbs and easily tossable by the ocean.

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Now we live in eastern Pennsylvania, and most years we make it to the shore in New Jersey. But the waves aren’t the same, the beaches are more crowded, and there is not that tenuous end-of-the-world feeling one has out here. With Leticia’s family, I have been here twice – 2004 and now. We rent a house in Buxton or Avon, and the first thing we do when we arrive is shut off the AC and open all the windows. The ocean is a one-minute walk away, and we want to hear it at night. Camping seems rough compared to this, but it is pretty nice to have a roof when it rains. In 2004 we timed our trip perfectly between two hurricane threats, and the waves were wild and powerful. I was like being 15 again. Now, though, we don’t really want wild and powerful, since Anna and Zeke are now playing in waves. It’s a pleasure to see them become stronger swimmers and more comfortable wave-players, but stressful too, and Leticia and I have different levels of worry.

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One attraction of the Outer Banks is their seeming unlikeliness – these long narrow bits of sandy ground only a few hundred feet wide in many places, swept every few years by hurricanes. They move, too, pushed a little westward every year by wind and water. The evidence of this (and of the storms) is around us in the form of empty lots with house-shaped depressions in them and, out on the beach, a few three-story houses boarded up and with their bottom stairways removed, waiting for the ocean to come take them for good. It seems crazy to own property here, but we are happy to rent for a week.

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