Sunday, December 11, 2011
El Calafate is a sweet town, positioned 65 miles east of the Perito Moreno glacier, right smack in the middle of gaucho territory. Calafate is the “Cheers” of Patagonia; where everyone knows your name, and your business, and your great aunt’s brother’s wife’s business too.
99% of the people I worked with were wonderful and I will remember them forever. I will also, unfortunately, remember the 1% as well. Let’s sum up my relationship with this individual with his last works spoken to me the night before I left: “SSSHHHH mother FUCKER.” Ahh, it really couldn’t have ended in a better way.
Living in El Calafate is slow paced and I soon found work politics filtering into my everyday life. You find your place pretty quickly in an isolated community. Soon I was forming relationships with the other volunteers, employees and owners; their story was becoming mine. But, in finding a place here I ended up realizing how distant the call was from the real world back in Oregon. The 9-5 world is not calling my name, or if it is I’m hightailing it in the opposite direction. My travel itch became more and more intense the longer i sat behind a desk answering questions and caring for traveling adults who act like helpless children.
We collectively cooked meals to share with the staff which, in turn, brought all of our different cultures to one dining room table. On Thanksgiving we went all out. I made sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie and a load of homemade stuffing. We had 3 turkeys, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese and potato salad too. We invited the hostel guests and had an international Thanksgiving of 30 people from around the world. The night was filled with people who were thankful for a community so far from their own. As the wine bottles were drained musicians slowly surfaced and the evening was filled with music.
And just as suddenly as it all started, it was over. I was walking out the door into the great unknown, once again. I was panged with an unexpected sadness. I held it together saying goodbye to almost everyone, but when I got to the front door to find Silvina walking up the steps after not hearing from her for almost 2 weeks I almost lost it. I knew for sure I would be leaving El Calafate without saying goodbye to my first friend here. She and Natalia took me to the bus station and I grew sadder as Natalia instructed me to write to her and asked if I would ever come back. I hadn’t seen this coming, I knew I would be sad but I felt more like I was losing a bit of family that I may never see again. I took a moment to compose myeslf on the bus, and once i did, I thought about the open road ahead of me and the endless possibilities. I hope (and expect) to see the people i met in El Calafate again, but this girl has got to roam, and so off i go once more.
Also: penguins. Almost a million fuckin penguins. I love them. I could have done without the bizarre guide who, besides pouring 100 degree fucking water all over my lap, decided to open the morning with a conversation about a woman’s role as a mother and men instinctively not knowing how to parent or being expected to do so. Oh good. It was an interesting 2 hour car ride.