Before we arrived, I wrote down a list of goals, first among which was that we make some Argentine friends. My thinking, at the time, was that we could not really understand the country unless we truly got to know the people. Looking back, I now see that building relationships with locals did enable us to better understand the country (even its looney politics), however, the greater reward were the friendships themselves. So, as we wind down our team here in Buenos Aires, it was time to say adios to our new friends.
Our first farewell was to our Spanish teacher Graciela. We have had numerous teachers during our stay here, but we felt as if Graciela was the best and we are grateful to have met her.
After our final Spanish class together, Michele returned to the states for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which left me alone with the monsters. Friday we had a terrific viewing of “The Empire Strikes Back” which was followed our normal Saturday morning routine of tennis (Kate) and basketball (Jake). We then went to watch polo for the first time. The speed and control that the riders have of their ponies is truly amazing. It’s also an interesting scene to take in watching the super elite prance around in their fineries.
Saturday night I was able to join my friends the Shelburnes for an evening out. They had arrived a few days earlier and had developed an interesting impression of the city. To them Buenos Aires was a beautiful, interesting and cosmopolitan place, but not an easy city, particularly for non-Spanish speakers. We discussed this and many other things over a a lovely dinner at La Brigada, which has now won my heart as my favorite parilla. As we were leaving the restaurant, I heard some music playing nearby. We wandered in that direction and came across a murga, which is a sort of Argentine marching band with dancers. For the next hour our so, we followed the murga dancing with the band and having a grand old time.
To me, the Shelburnes’ experience is emblematic of our time in Buenos Aires. It is a difficult city in which you really have to work to get the things that you want or need. At the same, it presents wonderful surprises that you can just stumble into; quite a paradox.
The following day was Jake’s final day for basketball at Club de Amigos
When we first started taking him to basketball, he would insist that he didn’t want to go and then cry as we coaxed/dragged him to practice. Once there, Jake would insist that I sit nearby on the sidelines and translate the coaches instructions for him. What a difference a year makes! Now, as soon as we get into the club, he runs off to the court and pals around with his buddies before practice starts, while I sit and watch from the nearby benches. I’m so proud of Jake’s development, but also very thankful to all the coaches who worked very hard to make Jake comfortable.
To thank the coaches, we got them shirts with the logos of the (World Champion) Golden State Warriors. After practice, I presented the coaches with the shirts and thanked them for all their help with Jake. Much to my surprise, the coaches began tearing up and thanked me and Jake for being a part of their class, telling me what a special player Jake is and how much passion he has for the sport. It was an incredibly emotional goodbye and I was quite touched as was Jake.
That afternoon we made the trip out to Tigre to the home of Fer and Belen Bolognini. They have been terrific friends to Michele and I, particularly in their willingness to converse with us in our third grade level Spanish. Fer made a great asado and we enjoyed the day eating, drinking wine and playing futbol with the kids. The following day was a holiday in Argentina, so we had a morning of tennis, followed out to another trip to Tigre to the home Rodrigo and Shamilla Benzaquen. They have also been terrific friends to us, inviting us over to their home on numerous occasions and bringing us into their already full lives.
The following day we were excited to welcome Michele back to start the next to last week of school and celebrate Hanukkah in Buenos Aires.
We then had yet another going away dinner with Mateo and Keri who have also been amazing friends to us, hosting us at numerous asados and bringing Michele into Keri’s circle of close friends. It’s impossible to say how much these friendships have meant to us and how much they enhanced our time in Argentina.
We were, however able to leave these folks with a small gift to remember us by: a Sonos player decorated with American flag stickers! We hope that it will be a reminder of our times together.
The friends we made in Argentina made all the difference in our experience. We are so grateful to the people who took the time to welcome us and share part of their lives with us. As we finish our rounds of going away visits, we are determined that we are not saying “goodbye,” but simply “see you later.”