It has been almost 2 years now that I have been living in Argentina and although life has changed a little from what it was in Australia and New Zealand, it is also very similar in many ways. Sometimes I simply forget where I am.
A friend of mine told of how they try to think of themselves and where they are on the map just to remind themselves of where they really are. Sometimes living in a place seems so normal and yet compared to where we came from it is very different indeed. I find myself in this situation at times.
A complete family traveling on motorbike.
Living here in Argentina there is a lot to compare with home. After all, we have Internet, cell phones, and trucks and cars and bikes. Our bus transport here is better than pretty much anywhere else that I have visited in the world, and most products are available here. They may not be the latest or greatest and you may have to pay a premium price, but they are available.
So there are times when I wander down the street oblivious to where I really am. The clean streets on the newly formed pedestrian mall, lined by large chain stores with big plate glass windows displaying all of their wonderful goods keeps me lulled into thinking that not much has changed between where I was and where I now am.
But then I turn around and see two women dressed in rags, towing in a slow methodical march, a bicycle-wheeled home-made trailer filled with brooms and sporting a small child barely big enough to reach over the top of the two foot sides. They look neither to the left nor the right, but continue forward in their march, exhaustion lining their deeply marked and prematurely aged faces. And I remember where I am.
Children looking for paper and rubbish to collect.
Or while traveling on the bus a young child no more than 7 years old climbs aboard and starts handing out little cards with cute messages for lovers. They have no price, only that he would receive a donation if you want to keep them, something that would help to feed him and his many brothers and sisters back at home, wherever that may be. His forlorn face shows the wear of many years working already, even at such a tender age.
Or if I am at an outside restaurant, a small hand reaches up from the side of the table. It belongs to a child even younger still, begging for a coin or two that may be able to buy what he and his family need for the next meal. I can see his older sister working one of the other tables, trying to get around as many as they can before the waiters can “shoo” them away like unwanted animals.
The trucks and cars that pass by, so old and so worn as to hardly be able to keep going. The motorbikes filled up with 2 adults and their 3 children because their parents cannot afford a car. The bicycles that squeak and groan past, ladened with tools and timber, people and parcels, because they are the only transport available. The trucks filled with people in the back tray, trying to get as many as possible in the one journey.
Riders carrying what they need on their bikes.
These are just some of the reminders. They do not come every day, but they are there to remind me that where I am is very different to where I was. They remind me of the hurt and pain that still exists so strongly in this country, of the unhealed wounds that have found no medicine. They remind me that even though there are many things that are good and getting better in this country, there are many things that must still be addressed and confronted.
They remind me of Argentina, a beautiful country with a terrible past.
A truck loaded with workers heads back home.
A grandmother traveling with her daughter.
On the way to a meeting.
Local horse and cart guy selling various goods.
A very old car still in use on the roads in the city.