Passport Virgin

I am pleased to introduce another guest blogger this week…my wicked stepmother, Maggie.  She and my father recently joined us for two weeks in Argentina…a significant leap of faith on their part, for which I am very grateful.  Maggie, or Mémère as my babies call her, has been a joy and rock in our family and I am ever thanking the stars for my wonderful luck in step-parents (Papa Phil is pretty fab too!).  Here Mémère reflects on her own experience traveling to Argentina:

Buenos Aires Scenes

Buenos Aires Scenes

“My parents taught me many things: the importance of family, humor and resiliency, independence and hard work.  Did I say family? Travel was not something my family did.  Family vacations were not in the cards and we never took one.  Well, one summer I did go to New Bedford for a week to stay with my godparents.  That was it.  Home was on Cape Cod, my world was small, and I never knew what a bagel was till I went to college.

Fast forward several decades and now my own children are teaching me things. At the encouragement of our daughter Rachel, my husband and I recently left the comfort and familiarity of Cape Cod to meet Rachel and her family in South America.

Photos captured by Mémère during a grandmother-granddaughter photo class

Photos captured by Mémère during a grandmother-granddaughter photo class in San Telmo

When I first met Rachel she was eleven years old and she and 13 year old Aaron were a package deal, a bonus, that came along with her dad Bruce.  Now, the Greenleys are their own wonderful package in my life and bravely experiencing varying levels of togetherness as they travel round the world.

At 62 this was my first passport.  My first trip to a place where I didn’t speak the language, know the culture, the history, the currency, how to order in a restaurant.  So many firsts.  I loved it.

I chastised myself.  Why hadn’t I learned Spanish!  Read up more on Buenos Aires!  Planned on staying longer!  As I look back through the 600 plus photographs I took I realize this was just a taste.  There is so much to see.  So much I don’t know about. I never missed bagels till I ate my first and now they are a staple. Where should we go next?

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

I found I was comfortable in Argentina and Uruguay.  People seemed the same. They came in various sizes and shapes.  Some were friendly and helpful.  Some were not.  My grandchildren were tall and lean and let me hug them.  Well, one hugged me alot and the other tolerated a couple of hugs.  We won’t name names.

This trip was about the things my parents taught me…family and humor and the reward for hard work.  And it was about the things my children are teaching me. Life is damn good.

Photos taken by Julia during a grandmother-granddaughter photo class in San Telmo

Julia’s photos from her class with her Mémère

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The Embrace of Argentina

Leaving cold Germany for warm Buenos Aires was bittersweet. It meant the last leg of our eight month rtw trip.

The kids happily left the winter coats that no longer reached their wrists in the airport…Julia’s discretely hanging from the hook in a restroom stall and Sean’s wrapped in a blanket and shoved under his seat on the plane. Their dollar-store winter boots sat abandoned in the Munich hotel room we departed from that morning.

And with good reason. Buenos Aires, in the height of its summer, was a sauna.

After a 14-hour flight, we made our way to a lovely Palermo loft apartment that we would be sharing with my father and wicked (ly loved) stepmother who were joining us for two weeks in the Paris of South America.

South America seemed an appropriate place to spend our final three months…it blended the grit, vibrancy and laissez faire attitude of SE Asia with the customs, architecture and conveniences of Europe. Of course, it was a unique experience unto its own but it carried a balance of where we’d been. And we liked that.

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In each new local there’s an arrival dance we do to ensure comfort…how will we brew coffee? Where is the nearest grocery? What is soy milk called in Spanish? What is the tipping policy? Exchange rate? Laundromat? On a vacation, one generally researches prior to stepping off the plane. But on an rtw, the longer we travel, the more relaxed our attitude is to figure out the details upon landing.

I had once been fluent in Spanish, having lived a year of my youth in Mexico, and hoped it would quickly resurface from my subconscious and make the dance less clumsy.

Our favorite images of Buenos Aires thus far:

  • Sean and Julia, too giddy to sleep, at the impending arrival of their grandparents.
  • Our first ride on a Buenos Aires bus…the retro style made me feel like I had finally made it to Cuba.
  • The funky street art of San Telmo and the pulsing creative energy it inspires.

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  • Witnessing the evidence of the 30,000+ young desaparecidos — a reminder of what happens when power = control at any cost.

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  • Our wonderful tour with Jonathan Evans of Local Tours…standing in the Plaza de Mayo where mothers and grandmothers march weekly in white handkerchiefs in remembrance and protest of the lost children and grandchildren.
  • My first taste of a parrilla and empanada in the streets of Buenos Aires.

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  • Our multi-generational bike ride through the ecologia reserve, an enormous expanse of biodiversity set along the might-as-well-be-an-ocean Rio Plata.
  • The daily discoveries of hidden delights in the form of cafes and small retail shops of unique wares down quaint cobblestone alleyways in Palermo Viejo.
  • Our first sips of maté as a family as we passed the single cup of tea around.

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And the promise of sun, good food and laughter with family for many days to come.