Never a stranger. From Daniel’s family to all his friends I never felt like a stranger. They all seem to know me, where I’d been and how I’d met Daniel. But one part of the Argentina culture that truly came alive for me in Bolivar was the custom of greeting friends with a small kiss on their left cheek. Guys do it with other guys. Children with grown ups and other children. Women. Everyone. It’s quite an ordeal when there’s a large group. Enjoying pizza at a local restaurant after a children’s futbol game, family came into the restaurant and greeted our table of six and their family may have been 6 or seven but everyone was greeted with an exchange of the left cheek’d kiss. In the USA and other counties I’m sure, guys would be taken back by this. I found it endearing, warm and tender reaffirmation of friendship and love of life.
Bolivar is a small community in the province of Buenos Aires some three hours from the big city. The clean stone laid streets are lined with nice shops, cafes and restaurants. There are parks everywhere. And I quickly learn that anywhere there is a park, there’s a school. Part of the city plan. A large community park features a futbol stadium, a running and bike track, a lake and shady trees cover playgrounds and dozens of asado (bbq) grills. The town largely is built on an agricultural-base. Miles surrounding the small town are farms with cattle, soybeans, sunflowers, vegetables and more. Daniel owns a few farms and runs a gas station in the center of town. It was here with his manager Willie that we’d share coffee, read the local paper and meet the locals who’d stroll by for a coffee or a snack. His team of workers took one look at Doc after more than a 1,000 miles of travel and cleaned up the bike shiny and new. I thus was better able to now monitor the bike for signs of an oil leak. We also visited a local “welder” who had the correct equipment for weld aluminum and therefore was able to fix the breach in the previous weld when my bike was blown over by the wind in El Chalten.
Bolivar is relaxing. Daniel and I caught the end of an indoor soccer match his son was playing in. Bautista, his youngest child is passionate about “futbol” And the young boy is a great athlete. He lives and breathes futbol. Later in the week we saw another game – outdoors. Daniel has two other children, Victoria who attends “colegio” which is high-school in Buenos Aires. And then there’s Manuel, whom he and I played with there small dog Azzaro. Victoria can speak English, but for the most part, doesn’t like to. Which is okay with me. I am constantly looking to improve my Spanish. She helps. It’s the end of summer here in Bolivar. Soon the kids will be back in school. Mirna, Daniel’s wife, keeps the kids activities going while still having time to go to the gym, playing tennis, helping Daniel out with the business and sharing some of her special wines with her new house guest. A member of an exclusive wine club I had the chance to taste some wines from small special boutique wineries.
One day, eager to see one of Daniel’s farms we took a short ride outside of town and took a walk through the campo. A wealth of knowledge about the names of flowers, birds and other flora and fauna of the campo, my nature walk through the pampas was educating. I just wish I could retain all of the information. Park of his farm was hit hard by flooding several years back. Sitting under six feet of water for months, the land becomes unusable. It had been three or four years and still hadn’t revived itself. I can imagine the economic strain of such uncontrollable environmental plagues. But that’s the business of agriculture. Much of Daniel’s farms grow soy which nearly 100% is exported. And rather than maintain an inventory of specialized equipment and machines, Daniel rents what’s needed when it’s time to harvest.
As in the rest of Argentina, we have dinner after 10pm. And always with the family.
Bolivar. I’m liking it here.