In this game of musical chairs, the music stopped when I was traveling from Argentina to Chile. After a night of changing my mind literally 10 times about where I should be for the quarantine, the decision became final when I was halfway to Chile the next day. I had planned to try to make it to Chile to stay with friends, but half-way to the Argentine border city I got news that they were starting to close entry to the city. I still had a long way to go to get to my friends in Chile, so I opted for a closer home base – heading back to Bariloche where I had made a friend who lives outside of the city. There I would be in good company, with access to stores, not in the middle of a major city with lots of people, and with the bonus of being in a beautiful place.
It’s really interesting to be in Argentina during this time, especially because of the perspective of the people I’ve been around, which has lead to their lack of panic and their ability to be pretty calm in the face of everything that’s happening. (Note that these are just the people I’ve been around, I can’t speak for the general population of the country.) They have been through tough times and have come out of it, and that seems to give them a sense of hope or faith that, just like before, things will be crazy but they will be ok in the end.
Argentina is known for going through cycles of economic crisis, and most people have experienced at least one or more serious downturns in their lives (some affected much worse than others). For example, one friend I met was 21 with three kids during the last major economic problem, and for TWO years she suffered, literally getting by with basic survival skills, sometimes only eating corn on the cob so she could feed her kids. As she was telling me her story, she didn’t only talk about how horrible it was but also noted how much she learned and grew from the experience.
Another friend, Daniela, that I met through my travels went 20 minutes out of her way to take me where I was going, and as I thanked her profusely, she responded (in that typical Argentina way) “Por favor!” (Please! It’s not a problem!) I mentioned to her how I had noticed that many people were so flexible here, they didn’t have a problem with changing plans so easily. Her response was interesting – she said people were so used to the economic instability, that people learned to adapt and got used to being flexible, so changing plans was just a part of life. I would add an observation to her assessment that changing plans specifically to help out someone else seems to be a real part of the culture in the people that I’ve met.
Though I hadn’t talked to Daniela since she gave me that ride a month ago, I received a text message from her yesterday asking how I was, where I was, and offering me a place to stay if I needed. The fact that she had looked for my number just to check up on me meant so much to me that I might have even shed a tear.
I also received messages from at least three other Argentines that I had met along my journey, all just checking in on me – a friend I stayed with in San Juan, a couple I had met in a hostel, and a couple that I coincidentally crossed paths with 3 times along my journey.
In addition to learning about generosity, kindness, and hospitality from the people I’ve met in Argentina, I’m thankful to have their help practicing this art of not freaking out, of being flexible with changing plans, and making the most of (and doing the best with) whatever situation comes up. This mindset has helped me every step along my journey, and now it’s really being put to the test.
So far so good (though I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about what the future will hold). I’m sad that I can’t be with family and close friends to help each other get through this crazy time together, but I’m extremely thankful to have contact with everyone and be able to talk whenever we want. And I am thankful to feel safe in a beautiful place with good company, and to even have the opportunity to visit beautiful lakes and hike through the beautiful hills in the surrounding areas. (And, I will have more time to post blogs, so stay tuned to hear about my last few weeks of adventure before the quarantine!)
Diary of the Quarantine:
Day 0 (3-16-2020) – After changing my mind 10 times, I end up in Bariloche, staying with a friend. To de-stress (and to process and appreciate my decision of how and where to survive the quarantine), I run to a nearby beach to swim and meditate in the (cold!) lake.
Day 1 (3-17-2020) – My host and his friend invite me to go kayaking on Lago Moreno, where we kayak, swim, and enjoy one of the last days of summer – a day of full sun – on the lake. (This quarantine thing doesn’t feel so bad in this moment.)
Day 2 (3-18-2020) – A day of meditation, writing, and checking in with friends and family.