Alex Hart

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The end of the road

It´s almost time for me to leave Añatuya, but before I do I should really say something about the main reason I came here and that is the children.
I have had a lot of fun helping out in the Kindy (jardin as it is referred to here). Everyone has been very welcoming and it’s great to see the kids coming on and blossoming. Some of the older ones remember me from last year and it has been lovely to be greeted by some of the mothers in the street too.

Danny and friend with their 'babies'

Danny and friend with their ‘babies’


At the Santa Catalina children´s home there are some new faces who are still settling in. When I arrived at the house for the first time I was a little unsure as to the children’s reaction to my visit.

One of the boys R was sitting on the step outside and seeing me coming shouted ¨LA CHICA DE NUEVA ZELANDA ESTA ACQUI¨ – ¨the girl from New Zealand is here¨. Immediately a dozen heads appeared at the door to greet me and it was though I had last visited a week ago. They were all full of news of their holiday. The new arrivals since my last visit viewed me warily before introducing themselves and telling me all about their day. I was lucky enough to see a couple of kids who due to their age have been moved on to other homes. It is clear that while they are doing well that the links with Santa Catalina are still so strong. It must be so hard for the children to leave what clearly becomes their home and family to live somewhere else.

Just chatting with girls from the hogar and some of their friends

Just chatting with girls from the hogar and some of their friends


The new children´s home El Refugio is also a happy place thanks to the wonderful people who work there. Marcele is a young woman who lives in the home with the kids and tends to their needs 24-7. Quite frankly I don’t know how she finds the energy, but as she says ¨it´s all for the children¨. A few new faces arrived during my stay. These children, stressed and traumatised from recent events, are immediately accepted by the other children and gathered into Marcele´s arms. I have no doubt that in a year or so from now they too will be wearing big smiles and blossoming.

Añatuya should be very proud of Haciendo Camino and all the good work they do here. I feel honoured that I have been allowed to play a very small part in their day to day work.

Perro de la calle  and her new mum

Perro de la calle and her new mum


And one more happy ending . The little stray dog that lived outside the hotel has too been adopted. Although the little dog thought she belonged to the hotel, to most people she was just a “perro de la calle” – street dog. One of the women who works here in the evenings at the hotel took pity on the little dog and on cold evenings I noticed the dog curled up next to her.

I am not sure if I will make it back here again – there is still so much more of the world to explore. Whether I do or not, it has certainly been a great journey.


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Magical Realism

The people here in Añatuya know me a bit better now and laugh about how bad my Spanish was last year (and comment that it is better now). Certainly, it was very frustrating at times and it led to quite a few misunderstandings.

It is however difficult sometimes to work out, when, things aren’t quite as you would expect if this is due to the language barrier, people winding me up, or (as is so often the case in South America) whether it´s just the way things are done here.

For example yesterday I went to buy my bus ticket back to Buenos Aires. I am travelling back with the same company I travelled here with, the same class of travel (cama) and the distance of journey is the same. Why then did the ticket cost nearly 100 pesos (20%) less than it cost in Buenos Aires or to buy online? The girl behind the counter explained I shouldn’t worry, it´s all good. When I ask other people they simply shrug – it’s a complete mystery!

Last weekend it was very cold. Temperatures dropped down to close to freezing at night and didn’t get above 14 degrees in the day. There is no heating in my room and needless to say I was very cold. The kind offer of an extra blanket didn’t help and when I asked if there was any sort of heating in my room I was told no. I took to wrapping myself in the little fleece blanket I brought with me for the bus journey at night just to keep warm. I mentioned this to people in the café and they all roar with laughter. ¨change to the other hotel¨ they helpfully suggest. I am reluctant to do this, firstly because the people here are so lovely but also because the additional cost would mean I have less money to spend on treats for the kids.
El Hogar y Anatuya 020
On Sunday evening I come back to find the staff huddled round an open fire in the café – yours truly meanwhile has to huddle under blankets to keep warm. ¨Go and buy a little heater and smuggle it in your handbag¨ the café crowd say. I explain I am also a little nervous about plugging a heater into the one socket that works in my room. It has been known to emit blue sparks and one day last year when I was here, the electrics blew. This just makes everyone laugh even more! ¨If your hairdryer works, you should be fine¨ they tell me. So I duly purchase my little fan heater and it works beautifully – bliss!! Of course I can´t watch TV or plug in my computer and stay warm at the same time due to the 1 socket issue but that’s okay.

So imagine my surprise a day later when I notice the store room door is open and I spy around 4 or 5 electric heaters there!!!! I am completely baffled. Why didn’t they offer me one? Maybe they are too expensive to run? Maybe they just don’t work? As to the real reason – I suspect I will never know.

And finally, if you have ever had to deal with the post office system in Argentina you may have some sympathy for my dread of going to the post office to buy stamps. I am convinced that the man behind the counter was born a public servant – he only speaks in straight lines. Last year, even with local help, buying stamps was a real mission. This year things are no different. We spend a long time debating what I need.
The post office
¨New Zealand is in Europe¨ He states. I give him my best Paddington bear glare but to no avail – he really doesn’t know where New Zealand is. Finally we manage to agree on what I need. I grab my purse and immediately he wags his finger at me. ¨No, no, no¨ he says. ¨You need to come back at 11.00¨. And then it dawns on me that despite our long discussion, he actually has no stamps.

It´s going to be a long day…………….