Notes from our foreign correspondent*

This year: South America. One advantage that having a scientist spouse who goes to conferences in interesting places is that sometimes I get to tag along, which is why I am on Tierra del Fuego.

Ushuaia, the small town I am currently in, strikes me as surreal: everyone speaking Spanish, and the architecture is alpine. Lots of half-timber buildings and so forth. Maybe not exactly Germanic: it reminds me of some ski towns I have been, which makes sense since this place is a winter sports heaven a good part of the year. Not right now — it’s high summer which means that it’s fifty-one degrees and drizzly.

It is also breathtakingly beautiful. The town is ringed by mountains dotted with glaciers. I look at the scenery and find myself in tears. The weather is my weather — mists and softness to the air. I have problems in the summer back home because the sun beats down on me like a hammer. Here, the sun only shows itself occasionally (or at least that is what is forecast for our visit), and soft breezes caress my skin. I can cope with long days (that’s what sleep masks are for), but I have trouble coping with bright direct sunlight.

Foreign emergency rooms I have known: this was my second in three years. Fortunately we caught the cellulitis before it got really bad. During the flight from Houston to Buenos Aires, I felt something bite my leg in several places. That evening the welts were massively swollen. Thinking it was simply an allergic reaction, I took Benadryl cream. Two days later, one of the spots was red and the size of a half-dollar surrounded by a much larger and lighter pink area. The other two are smaller — quarter sized. (It wasn’t completely surprising: years ago I had cellulitis from a spider bite.) So off to the regional medical center. It appeared to be, like many regional centers in remote areas, kind of run down. On the other hand, I saw a very nice doctor (VND) and was in and out in about ninety minutes, which is just about the amount of time it takes to get through triage back home. We didn’t have insurance, so we had to pay out of pocket, which came to a whopping 480 Argentinian pesos or… eight dollars. That’s less than what I pay for generic drugs back home.

I complain about Google all the time. How they are collecting all our data to control the world, how the only company worse than they are is Facebook. That said, Google Translate made this visit possible. Both the Rocket Scientist and the VND used it to communicate about my leg. (My tremors were very bad, due to stress and too much caffeine, so RS did the typing for me.) I had used the same app to communicate with nurses when I was in the hospital in Madrid.

Poor VND. Although he was very nice, at times he did have this stressed, “You have got to be kidding me” look. My hunch is he may go home tonight and say “I had one of those Americans who don’t speak Spanish in today.”

Speaking of Buenos Aires, we had twenty-four hours, and got to do some cool stuff which was great even through the jet-lag. We had a dinner of the best beef tenderloin I have ever eaten (for each of us), appetizers, sides, and a half-bottle of a very lovely Malbec. In my neck of the woods, that meal would have cost over a hundred. Here, it was the equivalent of thirty-two.

If you are ever in Buenos Aires, you must go to Recoleta cemetery. Yes, it’s touristy (how often can you say that about a cemetery?) but it is well worth a visit. The tombs show a fascinating mist-mash of architectural styles (my favorite tomb was Egyptian Revival with Victorian floral accents), some of them have stained glass windows, and many of them have ornate statuary. Many famous Argentinians are interred there, most notably (at least to me) Eva Peron. (Cue: “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”)

We also went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, because God forbid I should be in some major city and not go to an art museum. This brings my art museum total to thirty-three over the past twenty years, not including the British Museum, which I go back and forth on as to whether it’s art or anthropology. This number also does not include other places filled with art, such as churches or palaces or, in the case of Recoleta, cemeteries. (Westminster Abbey is not included, nor are the churches in Toledo, Spain that have amazing El Grecos. The Vatican is, because it is considered an art museum by the less than devout, and has significant (and varied) art.)

So that’s everything from this end. I’ll try and post more as things go along.

*I hope someone got the Little Women reference.

This entry was posted in Art, Travel (real or imaginary) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Notes from our foreign correspondent*

  1. Alien Resort says:

    Tierra del Fuego in the summer sounds delightful. Buenos Aires too.

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