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We are Familia FIG. We are a bi- lingual, blended family. Belalu was diagnosed at 9 months with hypochondroplasia.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

We will now fly from Buenos Aires to Iguazu, Argentina. The national park of Iguazu Falls is located in the province of Misiones, in the northeastern part of Argentina, next to Brazil and Paraguay. When we got off the plane the heat and humidity immediately made you feel like you were stuck inside a wet blanket. So, I was happy.

As I did with Buenos Aires, I will start with the countryside and then do a separate post about the people we met there. If you want to know more about Iguazu Falls, you can read about them at Wikipedia, or your reference source of choice. They are so amazing because they are spread out and allow for lots of multiple, up-close views. They are much, much larger than Niagra Falls, incidentally. This is one of the first views of the first section. There is also a path on top of these falls that take you to its mouth, or "La boca del diablo." Here's what part of that looks like:
And here's a video, which captures the experience a little better:
video
The other section is equally awe-inspiring and gorgeous.Here I am with our fearless leaders, Jen and Steph. A volunteer firefighter from Missouri took the picture for us.After checking out the lower sections, we took a little boat to an island where we had lunch and cooled off a little bit. We then hiked up a long flight of stairs to get even more views from different angles before heading back to the main land and hiking the upper portion.In addition to the beautiful scenery, we got a glimpse of some fun fauna native to the area. We'll start with the bird, for my mom.There were also these guys, coatís, that are in the lemur family.

This little guy wanted me to share my lunch with him.

We also saw lots of funny little rodents of some sort, and a HUGE spider that was possibly deadly, according to some man standing near us. In the park also live jaguars and ocelots, though we obviously didn't see any.This is a beautiful park and totally do-able in a day. Lots of people do it one day and then the Brazilian side the next. Americans, however, need a $100 visa to get into Brazil, though I hear that you can possibly get out of it here, if you want to try to risk it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Buenos Aires, The People

After a little delay, I am back to complete my Buenos Aires entry. As I mentioned, the most important part of my trip was the people. First, after two years, I finally got to meet in person my former secret knitting pal, Alejandra. She sweetly agreed to help me on my quest to locate some of the most important places for the writers I’m working with, and took me to la Recoleta (the cemetery I posted about previously). One of the places that was especially difficult to find was the former home of Victoria Ocampo. Situated amongst large thoroughfares and tiny cul-de-sacs, it took us a few spins around the block to locate its exact position. When Ocampo had it built in the modernist style in the 1930s, she scandalized the very well-to-do, traditional neighborhood, and people would walk by just to point and gawk at its “ugliness.” We wandered inside and found it to be a cultural center and bookstore. After a few different owners, some things had changed, but the general layout remained fairly intact. It was a luminous and spacious home, with simple lines and lots of white (which was how Ocampo had preferred it to be).The next day we met up with Gaby, another blogger friend, and drove out to San Isidro, a gorgeous neighborhood on the water that was once considered to be well outside the city. This is where Ocampo’s grandfather had built their family vacation home, in a style much more in keeping with that of the day. Too bad I didn't get a clear shot of it. After touring the home and grounds, we had coffee on the terrace. And, of course, did a bit of knitting.
It was so great to finally meet Alejandra and Gaby, and to spend a couple of lovely days with them. In addition to all her help with my project, Alejandra gave me a book that wonderfully fit in with my travels, Atlas, by Jorge Luis Borges and his wife María Kodama. He accompanied her photographs with thoughts inspired by his travels. Gaby also gave me some wonderful presents that I have not had a chance to take a picture of yet, but I’ll describe them: two skeins of the most gorgeous raspberry bulky yarn, two sets of leather buttons in teal and raspberry, and a shawl pin in the same color. I also got some delicacies of the best combination ever: chocolate and dulce de leche. Once again, I cannot thank either enough for everything, and I look forward to our next reunion, wherever that may be.

Our guide, Jen, had spent a summer teaching in Buenos Aires, and organized a reunion with some of her former English students and our group, so they could all practice the language they were studying. We met up in the hip part of town, Palermo Hollywood, as it is informally called nowadays for all the movie filmings and starlets that frequent the bars and restaurants. We also met up with Gabriella, another friend of Jen, who took us to eat at a very local, very neighborhood club, where the food is cheap and plentiful (and deliciously out of this world). I ordered my favorite BsAs dish, homemade pasta, and also got to play with the sifón for a while.
One of our last days in Buenos Aires was spent in an extremely poor neighborhood far from the center. Working with the volunteer organization L.I.F.E., we organized a birthday party for all the kids in the neighborhood that had a birthday in May.Although the students were a bit shy at first, the exuberance and friendliness of the kids was contagious, and soon everyone was either playing with balloons, at soccer, or hide-and-go-seek.

The party was held in a building that served at once as church, training center, and meeting place to help train or rehabilitate those who needed the help. It was also the home of Jenny, the woman to the left, who was in charge of most of the programs held there.That huge empty building in the back was once a state hospital that now serves as home to countless families and individuals.The kids loved our cameras, and begged us to let them take pictures of each other.

Although we were only there for less than a week, I think the students were able to get a sense of the complexities that such a large city naturally contains. They saw the tourist sights, spent a few days living with families, and saw a part of the city that even many of its inhabitants have never seen. Many later said that afternoon with the children remained one of the most memorable days of the trip for them.