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Monday, February 08, 2010

From Iguazu to "Ideal"

Dec 17/09

I could still hear the sound of waterfalls crashing against the rocks over and over again as I sat on the bus from Iguazú to Buenos Aires. It would be a sound that would haunt me yet invite me every single moment of the day for the rest of my life. On the 16 hour bus ride, there would be plenty of time to reflect on my 4 day adventure and contemplate having other adventures in this country. My mind kept thinking about how amazing it would be if I could say that I've been to the ends of the earth.....literally. For those who want to journey to the ends of the earth, Patagonia is the place to begin. I guess you could say that Bariloche, Argentina is the entry port for that adventure to begin. A city known for it's crystal clear lakes, well preserved forests, mountain ranges etc. From there as you head south, the voyage to the end of the earth will eventually lead you to an encounter with the famous Perito Moreno glacier where you will never be the same again.

But for now, my thoughts turned towards my very next adventure. For this adventure, I wouldn't need to travel very far. It was Eduardo Saucedo's birthday bash happening that same nite at "Confiterial Ideal". What a life I live......going all the way from Iguazú to "Ideal" all in one day. This was going to be interesting. At least it would be a comfortable bus ride. I still cannot get over how luxurious buses are in Argentina and how little of a difference you have to pay to upgrade and get a better level of service. The ticket there and back cost about $135 CDN and the chairs are massive, especially for someone like me who is short. It is equivalent to business class on a plane. And with the class of service I had booked, there is an on board movie and you get a hot meal, breakfast or lunch and a drink to go along with it.

With that thought came another thought about how far our money can go in another country. The total amount I spent on this trip came to about 1200 pesos which is $300 CDN. And $300 CDN covered EVERYTHING. My tickets there and back, accomodation, food and drinks both in Iguazú national park and in the hostel. Included in that $300 was my admission to the park for both days, special excursions like horse back riding through the jungle and wet & wild boat ride at the falls. It covered souvenirs and extra spending. $300 was the total amount that I ended up spending on this whole trip and it covered all that I needed or wanted. It simply blows my mind what is considered little in one country is alot in another. This experience helps me to see that there is a whole world outside North America and I can do very well in another country. I don't necessarily have to spend my life chasing the "Canadian Dream" in order to live well. There are tons of options for me in other country's if I'm just willing to think outside the box.

Anyway, back to the bus ride. After being an 1.5 hrs late, my bus finally pulled into the bus station in Retiro. Upon getting back to the residence, I got a much needed shower and dropped my clothes off at the laundromat. Another thing I love about this country is that here, in the laundromat, they do the laundry for you. All you need to do is just bring your clothes in and you can forget about it and go on with your day. Your clothes will be ready later on that same day or the next day. After a day of traveling, I cannot tell you what a heavenly feeling it was just to be able to pass my clothing off to someone else for 18 pesos ( just a little less than $5 CDN!!!!)

After freshening up, I grabbed my tango shoes and slowly began to make my way to "Confiteria Ideal". Not many people actually know that Eduardo and I, our birthdays are next to each other. Mine is on Dec 15 and he is on Dec 16. But might have shared the same birthday with him if my mother had not gone to the hospital to try and induce me. Apparently, an unborn child I had a very stubborn refusal to come out. Maybe for me, I was finding the womb of my mother to be as comfortable and luxurious as the coaches here in Argentina. After all, in both places I was getting food and drink brought to me on a silver platter and I also got to sleep whenever I wanted. Although the one advantage of the coaches is that you get to watch a movie but if you are unlucky, you may get stuck with a movie that is about as boring as watching amniotic fluid go by in the walls of of a woman's womb :P

Upon arriving at Confiterial Ideal, it was quite obvious that the place had been nicely decorated and well prepared for Eduardo's birthday. A couple of tables were put together so what eventually happened is that there were three full length tables side by side that sat about 10 people. These were where the friends and family of Eduardo could sit apart from the other tourists who were simply visiting for the lesson or the milonga. The lesson proceeded as normal, but not without tons of birthday wishes to Eduardo. As always, Eduardo Saucedo and Marisa Quiroga always give the very highest quality of teaching whether they are doing a group or a private lesson. For those of you who are non-tango people, if you are looking for something to do, just go to YouTube and type in their names. You'll be in for a real treat watching them dance and perform and it is an excellent way to get introduced to what Argentine tango is. And no, Argentine Tango is NOT fluttering around the floor like a silly idiot with a rose in my mouth. I want to comment that as part of the decor for Eduardo's b-day, there were rose petals and roses on the tables where the food was being served but at no point did Eduardo or Marisa or ANY of us pick up one of those roses and stick it in our mouths while dancing Argentine tango.

When the lesson ended, it was time for the party to begin. Plates of sandwiches and picadas got brought out for everyone. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a "picada" is, I will explain. Have any of you been to a buffet where there is a block of wood often with meats or cheeses and olives etc on it. You are suppose to take something and put it on your plate if you desire it. Here in Argentina, people can actually order a "picada" and have a block of wood with meats, cheeses, olives etc brought to them personally and they will eat it as a meal. There are many different types of "picadas" you can order and you can order it for an individual or a group. I had a picada once for myself when I was in a rush and I was really hungry and wanted something to eat but I wanted something that I could eat that would be fast and filling. The word "picada" literally comes from the spanish word "picar" which means "to pick". Because you are literally sitting there "picking away" at meats, cheeses, olives etc. The concept is extremely European and also makes for a very sweet and delicious meal :)

People who know Eduardo know that he is a very generous big hearted person who loves life and loves people. There is an Irish proverb that says "There are no such thing as strangers, just friends we haven't met". I think that proverb describes Eduardo perfectly. All were welcome to the food at the tables, friends, family, and tourist and visitors who happened to be there that night for the lesson or the milonga. Eduardo and Marisa and Kikki laughed and chatted with the folks who were there, and it was such an enjoyable evening that nobody noticed when Eduardo and Marisa quietly slipped out to go get changed and ready for the performance that they would be doing around 12:30.

After the people had gotten a chance to do some regular dancing, Eduardo and Marisa then re-emerged dressed from head to toe, completely ready to perform. It constantly amazes me how these two people who are internationally known and well sought after all over the world, can be completely professional and yet totally personable and approachable at the same time. One minute, Eduardo is taking plates of picadas and humbly offering it to guests and the next minute he is poised and ready to go. Marisa, this same woman who I was laughing with last week about the time she made her cats miserable when she tried to give them collars as a Christmas gift (a gift they did NOT appreciate LOL), now stands there elegantly dressed and ready to demonstrate tango perfection.

The crowd cheered as the two of them took off like a rocket. Their feet memorizing the beat and moving in complete harmony with the music and with each other. And it was clear when you watch the look on their faces that they were enjoying every single moment of being able to perform. Eduardo's countenance showed as being gentle yet firm as he led the steps while Marisa closed her eyes and let her legs do the rest. One thing I love about the Argentinean culture here is that there is a love of life that comes in everything that these people do. Whether they are sharing a maté in each other's homes, or lazing around on a park bench, or dancing tango, Argentineans soak up every minute of life and live it to the max and Eduardo and Marisa are no different. Each dance that they did had a newness to it and they made it look totally fresh, as if they were doing it for the first time ever. It is a rare mix to see people in our world who are perfectionist and professional. Yet with all the pressure and busyness that they face, they have a complete balance and their faces radiate with joy every beat and every step.

When the performances were finished, Eduardo thanked everyone for coming. He was simply beaming at seeing everyone show up for his b-day. He reminded us once gain of the things that were important in life, respect, freedom, joy, peace and most importantly LOVE. These things form the basis of every aspect of his life, both personally and professionally and these are qualities that radiate out from him in everything that he does- whether you are having a simple chat with him or while he is doing a class or performing. You can feel the energy permeating from Eduardo and you can feel that the presence of other people makes him come to life.

Later that nite we were treated to Argentinean folk dancing. I had seen some of this dancing when I was in San Antonio de Areco and it is fun to watch a different type of dance that goes on in Argentina that shows yet another side. This country and culture is rich with traditions. Speaking of traditions, there is a tradition in the tango community that when someone has a birthday, what happens is the birthday person would get in the middle, then someone would start to dance with them. Then another person would come and the other person would leave and the next person would continue the dance. This keeps happening where the birthday person dances with person and after person until the music was finished. And Eduardo would not be exempt from this tradition. Dressed up in his fancy clothing, all of us got to have a chance to dance with him. When it was my turn, he was so sweet, he immediately told me "Happy birthday" as the two of us were on the dance floor.

There were so many ladies there who wanted to dance with Eduardo that I think he went through 2 songs before all the ladies who wanted to dance with him had the opportunity to. Marisa was one of them. Now she was dressed back in her regular casual clothes. It was fun to see Eduardo and Marisa dance again and it is here that I will tell you something very interesting about the dance culture. Here in Buenos Aires, the difference between tango for performance and tango that is danced in a milonga social dance. The difference is like NIGHT and DAY!!!!! Of course their moves are just as elegant and beautiful and technically perfect as the performance they had did earlier that evening. But they looked just as stunning as ever doing movement that was gentle and subtle. Which goes to show you that in tango, you can be just as beautiful doing something light and subtle as you are doing big dramatic moves. Sometimes, people who are joining Argentine tango for the first time think that the only way to look beautiful is to do the dramatic moves they have seen on TV. And those are the moves they want to learn. But once they start dancing for awhile, they begin to see that tango is something that is danced from the heart, even if you are performing in front of crowds of people. The tango community values both dancing that is done for performance and dancing that is done socially in milongas. And some milongas (depending where you go in the world) the moves that are done for performance gets mixed into a social dance at a milonga. It gets interesting to watch how the culture of tango varies from country to country.

At the end of the nite, it was time for cake as well as time for us to surprise Eduardo with a gift that some of us has pitched in to buy for him. He was pleased with the cake and pleasantly surprised with the gift. The celebration continued with people dancing into the night. Having been a long day for me, I bid good night to the three of them and went on my way. That night I drifted off to sleep to the mysterious melody of waterfalls but this time, the sound was mixed with the enchanting milonga beat that now danced within my soul as well :)

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas