Alex Hart

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Saturday Night Fiebre!

In practically every small town in Europe you will find a café in the town square that is the living heart of the community. Here in Añatuya, ¨Jose´s café¨(as I call it) is no different. Jose and his brother Marco act as patriarchs, confidantes and general advisers to all who pass through their doors. The café, with its generous array of pastiles, is always warm and welcoming and its impossible not to be drawn into its atmosphere. When I slipped in quietly on my first day back in Añatuya last week, M, the quiet, twinkly eyed waiter simply said ¨Buen dia – long time no see¨as though I had somehow been away on holiday for a couple of weeks.

Jose was nowhere to be seen and a rather garbled conversation with my friend N led me to believe he had passed away suddenly from cancer. This was a bit of a shock to me, however a further conversation with Marco revealed that he was not dead but merely unwell – although nobody seems to know what is wrong with him – ¨it´s all in his head!¨says Marco.
The café has a different feel about it depending on the time of day, but whatever the time, the main focus inside is the large plasma TV fixed to one wall. Before lunch, the café is the province of the older men in the town – no women are to be seen (presumably they are elsewhere cleaning, shopping, washing or cooking…….). The ¨No smoking¨ rule is ignored as the men sip their coffee, smoke and debate the important issues of the hour as they no doubt have done for the last 30 years or so.

Jose's café and its TV

Jose’s café and its TV

The choice of daily morning show that these guys watch on TV is completely baffling to me. The host is a very tall and somewhat glamorous transsexual male dressed in the highest heels imaginable. The show´s guests (on this particular day) are various men dressed in pink lycra tights, also tottering on high heels and sporting the oddest womens´ wigs I have ever seen! ¨HAPPY HAIRDRESSERS DAY!¨appears across the screen in bold letters. It´s so bizarre! Meanwhile Jose´s elderly macho clientele are completely transfixed!

On Saturday nights though things are a bit different. For some men there´s only one thing more important than strutting their stuff or chasing girls and that’s the beautiful game of Fútbol!
As I wait for my evening meal, a group of young men enter the café, gravely nod and wish me a good evening before sitting down in front of the TV screen. On this particular Saturday night, things are not going so well for the home team – there are no excited shouts or frenzied exclamations of Gooooooaaaaaal!

It seems this particular football god may have fallen from heaven judging by recent Argentinean newspaper reports

It seems this particular football god may have fallen from heaven judging by recent Argentinean newspaper reports

Montevideo it seems is winning. You could cut the tense atmosphere with a knife. The men don’t make a sound but you can feel their agony and their desperate hope that things will turn around in the last few moments. It´s just too painful to watch – so I tiptoe out quietly. Time for an early night methinks!



Añatuya – The return journey

It has been quite a year – over the last 12 months I have left my tax career behind, made a TV programme, enrolled in University, travelled to Argentina for a month to volunteer for a charity there, jumped out of a plane to raise funds for the same charity, welcomed various foreign students into our home and oh unfortunately also spent a couple of weeks in hospital. Best of all working with my hubby hasn’t ended in murder on either part – although we have learned to leave work at the front door whenever possible. Phew! You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been a pretty exhausting time but in truth I have loved every minute of it – even when our finances have been tight.

So when I have told people I planned on going back to Añatuya, some have been slightly puzzled and asked “why – haven’t you just done that?” I guess that’s the point though – this trip is all about closing the circle. I am dying to find out how all of the children I met are doing, to see and do some things I didn’t get round to and of course it’s a perfect way to advance my Spanish too.

Arriving into Buenos Aires this week I was surprised at how excited I felt – after all I’m on my own and I’m going to be working and studying for most of my trip. However, Buenos Aires is simply an amazing and beautiful city – from its proud and elegant buildings to the vibrancy in the city centre and theatre district. It’s the week of the Tango world championships and the whole city has a real buzz about it. The president announced that the country is doing OK economically and whilst there is a massive inflation problem, in the city people are feeling really positive. Even the hotel I stayed in last year has had a bit of a face lift. “I don’t know what it is today” groaned one taxi driver “everyone – not just the tourists – has 100 peso notes it’s driving me mad!” At which point he leaped out of the cab mid traffic to change my 100 peso note with the cabbie in front, much to the irritation of the drivers behind us.

Another thing I have noticed this time is that people in Buenos Aires didn’t automatically revert to English when I spoke to them. Clearly my Spanish has improved dramatically (¡Gracias a L por supuesto!). It’s great to be able to have a decent conversation with strangers and as I am studying South American literature this semester, browsing the bookshops on Corrientes again was even more enjoyable than before.

The Recoleta cemetary is one of my favourite places in BA. It's one of latin America´s ironies however that the military leaders have the most ostentatious tombs of all!

The Recoleta cemetary is one of my favourite places in BA. It’s one of latin America´s ironies however that the military leaders have the most ostentatious tombs of all!

The journey north to Añatuya by bus was comfortable and uneventful and the staff at the Hotel Difuncor greeted me like a long lost friend and showed me to the room I had last year – so far so good. In fact too good – based on previous experience that must mean something is about to go horribly wrong……

….The weather here has turned back to being very cold and is expected to between 2 and 5 degrees at night for the next few days and here’s the rub. The hotel has no heating in it. At all. Ah! When I enquired about some heating for my room I was kindly offered an extra blanket. To think I whinged about the heat last year!
Anyhow, the children from the hogar are away on a holiday until next week and I will find out how this went and catch up with everyone from Haciendo Camino properly at that time. Until then I think I will grab some supplies and make a tent under my blanket to wait out the cold weather.

Hasta luego!