I left for Argentina on a Tuesday (Tuesdays are my busy days) and all I could think of was going on such a big trip alone, how my garden was going to survive, and the kids. Well, while I was teaching my class outside that morning of the trip, a group of beautiful blondes, black, brunettes and red heads passed by the garden. Just beautiful faces that represented the entire world. Had to have been Americans. They indeed were, representatives of the company TOMS. A shoe company that provides shoes fabricated with a lot of love to many bare feet in the world. They quickly came by to see what the kids were learning and took many awesome pictures of them. They were so warm and kind, their energy was so contagious putting me more at ease for my trip. They asked me what I missed most from home and questions that the kids at the school just don’t ask. They asked where I came from and questions that made me feel just, well, Special! Then they went on their merry way touring the school grounds leaving me on cloud nine! Later, as I was heading out of the school I heard Marcos screaming, “Why are you escaping??” and after him another kid ran after me and said “the people left this especially for you.” THREE REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS. That simple token of love meant the world to me. I saved one chocolate for each village that I visited and savored the symbol of love in my heart during the entire trip.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis
My first stop was Buenos Aires.
The air was filled with tango, men and women dressed in their best; living their normal cosmopolitan life, taxis’, remises, Starbucks and bicycles whizzing by with baskets filled with fresh bread.
Sunrise Over the City
Not Lost Art
I told the barrista my name name is Michelle. She handed me my order. I can deal with that!
2nd Stop: The WILDLIFE SANCTUARY: Puerto Madryn, Patagonia
Then I headed over to the bus terminal and waited 8 hours for a the next bus to the town 12 hours south of Buenos Aires. The 12 hours was entirely worth the wait. It was a beautiful town along the coast of the Atlantic ocean with all of my hearts desires concerning seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. The air was clean, the wind blew STRONG, the whales danced through the ocean accompanied by the sea lions and penguins. It was such an exotic experience for me to be out in the pier just staring into the deep blue ocean filled with the Southern Right Whales RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.
I was the only person on the beach!
The next day, I went on a pretty intense bike ride and made it to the most beautiful destination. It happened to be that the coast where I was standing was a couple hundred years ago the bottom of the sea. There were so many fossils and neat caves that just made the experience of being there even more magical.
For the next couple of days I super glued my eyes to the beauty of the whales that just swam so gracefully through the ocean. I took a break on Saturday morning to run a fun run around the shore of Puerto Madryn. I was the first unofficial Chinese girl anybody in the town had ever seen so the entire town cheered me on all the way to the finish line saying, “Go Chinita!!!”
The next day was the first day of Spring! Being in Patagonia there was no WOW factor change in the temperature, but that did not stop the town from celebrating! There was a family bike ride around the town and everybody decorated their bikes with flowers, bells, flags and signs of spring!
On my last night I stayed in town so that I could go to a church in Puerto Madryn and was so blessed by getting to know a woman named Vicky. For her privacy sake I won’t share her life story but don’t you worry I will tell everybody in person her POWERFUL life story. AHHH it just makes my heart shout for joy just thinking about the woman!
3rd Stop: WEST IS BEST: El Bolson, Patagonia
Getting on a bus for 18 hours was really expensive but really beautiful. The town was beautiful to me before I even got there because the locals were trying to describe it to me as we were going along the way and they said Forget IT! You will see once we get there. They were correct. I LOVED IT! I was basically given a tour of the foothills of the Andes Mountain range. I learned from a native how to say a couple of words!
Epuyen- Dos Que Van or Two that go
Puelo-Este sol or the Eastern Sun
Antu- Sol or SUN
Mari Mari- Buen Dia or Good Morning!
I made my way around the town and got to a place where they did native tree walks. It was amazing, I learned so much.
Then I made my trek over to the bridge to cross the Rio Azul, (Blue River).
On the other side of that bridge, up a mountain and around a couple of bends in the road lives a family of four. This family is everything but Ordinary. They are extraordinary. Their home is in the process of being built with adobe and wood. Their windows are made of wine bottles. Their kitchen table was hand crafted by Pepe the loving husband. The wife Alexia is just so sweet and a great mother to her to daughters Xio and Indie. We spent the mornings painting on their kitchen table sayings like, Water does not last forever and THE SUN SHINES ON YOU. It was such a joyful time being with this earthy family. We ate indian rice and stir fry. In the afternoons we created their first garden in the shape of a sun. Oh I wish I could see their garden filled with veggies ga-lor!! O did I mention that they have no electricity therefore no running water. Xio played the violin while Indie skipped around her massive rock collection with her dolls while Pepe was in the back ground finishing their dry latrine and Alexia was telling time by a mere look at the sun.
It was a small house but filled with so much love!
Read the Sign Behind Them!
They took me to go hiking on the side of a mountain called the Cabeza del Indio resembling a toothless hippie.
This town was so delightful to be in and will never forget the hospitality of that beautiful family.
LAST STOP: It took 29 hours to get to THE ICE CASTLE: El Calafate
29, YES IT WAS LONG but so worth every hour on that bus. The minute I got off the bus I breathed the cleanest most crisp air my lungs have ever come in contact with. Oh it was almost squeaky clean. I was so excited to get going the minute I got off the bus, so I went to a National Bird Reserve called the Laguna Nimez located on the eastern edge of the bay. After that I went to the Lago Argentino and found lot of fishermen having a lot of luck! The water was a turquoise blue and looked like a picture perfect post card. The next day, I woke up super early to see my last Patagonian sunrise. The sunrises stretch it seems from the west to the east with no effort. The waves of pink and purple and cream all blended together so beautifully in the sky was like a waving nationalistic flag. Then I went on an organized tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier located in the National Park a quick 85 kilometers away from the town El Calafate. Everything about that park was so beautiful. The glacier was a major Jaw dropper or knock your socks off type moment. We all got on a tiny boat to the southern face of the glacier to go hiking on the glacier. The guide told us that we were super lucky because we could see the ENTIRE glacier because there was not a cloud in sight. I felt like an ant in the Redwood forest. We were assisted putting on our crampons (ice shoes) and then quickly led us to the frontier of the Glacier. I could not believe that I was going to go up those slopes and had no idea if I was going to want to get down. There was too much beauty to take in! It was like a frozen sea, its waves being sculpted by harsh winds. Once I got to the top (not even near the tippy top) I could see so many beautiful turquoise folds and crevices. At one moment there would be immense silence and SUDDENLY a mighty ROAR announced the fall of another hunk of ice into the blue waters below. It was something like 30 km long, 5 km across and 60 Meters high. AH. It was breathtaking.
Home on the Range- Cerrito, Presidente Hayes, PARAGUAY
I basically chickened out on the what would have been a straight 72 hour bus ride back up north so I decided to break the bank and take a plane ride back. It was so worth it because I was less stressed out. The trip was all in all a wonderful trip, but what is more wonderful is that I made it back to my beloved little Paraguay safe and sound. It is so good to be back in sweet Cerrito in my garden happy as a bee. Just me and la tierra (and all of my new experiences and memories thanks to the Good Lord)!