"Argentina 2002-03" story # 3

Estancia Leleque, Chubut           December 16, 2002

Hey, guys. What´s up?
     As for me, let us begin by reviewing some of my crazier ideas for sustaining myself as I try to live temporarily in Argentina:
     PLAN A: Get a job in the city of Bariloche.
     PLAN B: Work as a cowboy on a farm.
     PLAN C: Start a two-man tap-dancing act with a penguin.
     And here´s an update:
     PLAN B: scratched.
     It was tough deciding between Plans A and B. On the one hand, if I stayed in Bariloche I could make lots of side-trips, perhaps get taught to tango dance, get to know the Argentinian rock music, and maybe even date one of the stunningly dark-featured Argentinian women. Whereas, if I worked on a farm, I would have nothing but six long days a week of cows and sheep. To help me decide, I let my mind get whisked away from reality into the land of dreams where I knew my heart would show me the path I was to take. And I began daydreaming ... dreaming ... fading away ...
     And then, there I was, pampered in a cloud of white. And I was frollicking. Frollicking, surrounded by smiling, bleating sheep scurrying to catch up, on a long, green Patagonian plain beneath elite mountain and yellow sun. "Mmm-baaa-aa-urr, Blinky, mbaa-aa-aa-aa!" I said to one timid little lamb. (Well, hello there, Blinky, good morning!) And I scooped him up and threw him into the air, still frollicking, until he came down snug in my arms. "Mbaa-aa-aa-aa, Justin!" a fluffy friend greeted me. "Mbaa-aa-aa-aa, Flippy," I said back and patted him on the head. And there were so many sheep that I began counting them. And as I counted them, I began to get sleepy ... sleepy ... tired ...
     And then, there I was again. This time, in the soft embrace of a pettite Argentinian woman, with eyes dark like space that you could get lost in forever and long, smooth hair that shone like oil on water. And then, behind her, a dark wing reached out from an open door, grabbed a cane and top-hat off the coat-rack, threw me one of each too, and I pushed the girl out of my way and ran to join the penguin skidding along the kitchen floor. A-tap-tap-tap.
     The fact that I dreamt like this disturbed me a little bit. Nevertheless, my heart had feet: dainty white hooves, that had first steered me in the direction of the farm. So, I took off from Bariloche, heading south.
     After two rides, I was in El Bolsón, a town of 20,000 that sits low between dark, sharp-altitude peaks on one side and duller, snow-covered mountains on the other. I slept there this night, dreaming peacefully. Peacefully dreaming a new, temporary dream. A dream of hiking to the top of a white-topped mountain and going sliding in the snow.
     Unlike my other dreams, this dream was silly. Silly because, in order to get to the mountain, I would´ve needed to penetrate hill upon hill upon hill of "bosque" (a word meaning a thick jungle of cold-climate vegetation). Trying to reach the mountain, I climbed and descended one very big hill. I passed underneath large conifers and through bushes and five-foot-tall pricker-weeds. On this first hill, I followed trails; not one sensical trail, but thirty or forty confusing, criss-crossing trails. I was like a rat chasing after some cheese - or, to make me feel like an even lesser being, like a contestant on a reality tv show.
     Free from the bosque´s maze, at the hill´s bottom, breathed a valley that was "hermosa" (something unusually beautiful that delights the eyes and ignites the soul). Grass and weeds and dandelions and daisies tangled up on the long valley floor, kissed by orange or white butterflies and ping pong ball-sized bees. Small birds made for loving darted around each other near the occasional trees that provided shade. And the sun dipped itself in the almost-transparent, icy blue river rushing over heavy stones to the valley´s side. Kingly purple or pincessly pink cone-shaped flowers topped long, green stems near the river bank. Snowy mountains and dark bosque hills surrounded the valley, and instead of "pressing on!" to my snow-sliding dream, I spent the day here. It was very peaceful.
     The following morning, I listened to Cat Stevens´ album, "Teaser & The Fire-Cat." A very entertaining album, using pretty much just Cat Stevens´ acoustic guitar and his wise, docile lyrics. The theme of the album is love and peace: worldly peace and also peace within oneself - the dream of achieving ever-contentness with what you have, and to find the positive side to everything.
     I put on my "Pizza67" shirt from the restaurant I worked at in Iceland. Incidentally, this shirt has a big peace sign on it. Hitchhiking south, I was first picked up by a brave late-twenties´ lady on her own. She was a wedded mother of two, and she had her own stall to sell things at in the El Bolsón crafts fair. She took me a few miles, gave me a cheek-kiss good-bye, and told me her name: Paz, meaning "peace."
     Next, a guy who sculpts life-like human statues out of wood took me a ways down the road. After his ride, however, I had a long wait before another car would stop. Very long; 2 1/2 hours. Which sucked a lot. But, there were still many positive sides to the situation: 1. I still had long hair; 2. I was outside, beneath a tall, steep, brown ridge; 3. The sun was shining; and 4. When bored, I could juggle rocks with my feet.
     But, after two-and-a-half hours, the bright side of things had certainly dimmed considerably, and I contemplated giving up and going back to Bariloche. I stuck to my guns, though.
     A jeep with three guys in it pulled over beside me and said, "Que tenés suerte!" (Good luck getting a ride from someone!) But, it takes me a second to understand spanish, so by the time I figured out the joke they were trying to make, I was already in the back of their jeep anyways. And off we went!
     The driver, a long-graying-haired guy, ranted on to me with the same crazy energy of Doc from "Back to the Future." He told me of a trip he´d taken around Brazil in his campervan with thirteen other people. He pointed to the guy next to him, a brown-skinned Mexican with a dirty-looking, stubbed-out beard and a Rambo bandana. From what I understood, this guy was highly sought-after in many countries because he built igloos and then went inside for days to carry out religious ceremonies.
     A bosque of brown hair blew across my face, because the jeep was open completely in the back. I put on my hat. The guy I sat next to was normal-looking and young and about to be dropped off at university. He was quiet; I assume he was the ashamed son of the driver.
     The driver carried on to me. He wanted the world to have one God, that it would stop the wars. He spoke much of peace. I think they were communists, but the driver told of his possessions, including a fourteen-hectacre yard. "Hay muchas cosas para nos a compartir, pero esta ... estoy feliz que es mia." (There are many things for us to share, but my yard ... I´m glad this is mine.) He told of his religion, called "The Calendar of the Moon."
     The silent Mexican suddenly turned around, and they asked my birthdate. On a religious wheel he held, the Mexican started lining up numbers and strange, colorful pictures. Studying the wheel, he read my fortune.
     Among many advices, he told me to leave the old for the new, that I needed to travel. He said love is the most important thing, and I had to follow it. Boy, wouldn´t those guys have been proud to know I was going after my Flippy and my Blinky!?
     They dropped me off, and they let me take their picture. The driver and Mexican stood up proudly, while the young student tried to hide, I think. The driver reminded the religious guru to hold up their flag. "Es la cosa mas importante!" (It´s the most important thing!) On the white flag was only a purple peace sign. They said good-bye and drove off.
     Those guys were weird.
     The very next car stopped, and it left me at the entrance to the Estancia Leleque, a humongous Italian-owned ranch. A grassy plain the size of a large town sprawled out like felt on a pool table, interrupted eventually by mountains to each side. Two horse-back gauchos herded up cattle in the distance, and it was a very beautiful setting.
     I´d already hitchhiked 120+ miles to get here from Bariloche. I still had four or five miles to walk - carrying my two heavy bags - to reach the ranch´s office. Whew, it ain´t easy looking for work in these parts ...
     After all those long hours of effort on my part, it only took two seconds for the office to shoot me down. The Estancia Leleque, which owns large percentages of land from three Patagonian provinces, wasn´t hiring.
     It was a good thing I was following my love and dreams and travelling and rather at-peace, or I WOULD´VE KILLED SOMEONE! Also, just before I went into the office to look for work, it suddenly occurred to me just how boring-er than hell working on a ranch would be.
     And so, miserable Plan B was scratched. I trudged back to the highway and began hitching north.
     And now, I´m back in Bariloche - already I have rented a room and am looking for work.
     But, don´t rule out Plan C!

Peace out! - Modern Oddyseus

"I could learn to understand,
if you lend a helping hand.
I wouldn´t make another demand
all my life." - Cat Stevens ("Tuesday´s Dead")

"If I ever lose my hands,
lose my plough, lose my land,
oh if I ever lose my hands,
I won´t have to work no more." - Cat Stevens ("Moonshadow")

"´Cuz out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a Peace Train.
Peace Train, take this country,
take me home again." - Cat Stevens ("Peace Train")

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