Sunday, 31 January 2010

Memories of the past, dreams for the future. Part 10 - and last of series!

The “Chicas”

Picture from Google - wish I had taken it though.
 My favourite mental image of Buenos Aires:
in the spring, with the jacarandas in bloom

The following afternoon found Michèle and me racing against the clock to get to an event I had been looking forward to for weeks – a good friend from schooldays had managed to get some of my former classmates together (the “chicas” or “girls”, whimsical term I only dare use with inverted commas…) for a tea party, and we charged through rush hour traffic in downtown Buenos Aires with Michèle at the wheel, as I gained new insights into her multi-tasking expertise (already described in Part 2, of 18th December, with pictures of her). 
Deprive her of any of the contents of her huge handbag if you must, but don’t touch her mascara!  Did she leave insufficient time for applying makeup before she left home? No problem, that’s what cars and their rear view mirrors are for.  So while I notified her of red lights, buses cutting across us,
pedestrians chancing their arm because they were unwilling to wait for their light to go green, and sundry motorcyclists heading towards us on the wrong side of the road, (the tyke on the left)

she steered with her left elbow while peering in the mirror and applying mascara with her right hand, alternating with phone calls to our friend on her mobile to ascertain the whereabouts of the tearooms we were heading for.  See?  I’ve got the grey hair to prove it.

The buses of my youth (colectivos), and right up until the nineties, were brilliantly coloured...
(Google image)

(Google image)

...frequent, so crowded at peak hours that people often travelled on the lower step of the door hanging on for dear life, and were typically driven by a man who remembered Fangio with affection and attempted to emulate his racing skills while chatting to his friend standing beside him in the well of the driver's door (there was always one there, don’t ask me why), dispensing tickets, change and choice epithets, advising new passengers - over the blaring sound of the tango or the football on the tinny radio - at which bus stop they should eventually descend, or arguing with the bolshie ones (who wanted to arrive in one piece and were finding it difficult to hold on while the vehicle was being flung from one side of the road to the other), and generally making sweeping statements at high decibel levels out of either door concerning the ancestry of every other driver on the road.  The modern colectivos however are large and sleek, and the bus driver has little contact with his passengers - in my opinion their charm and uniqueness has been lost.
This gorgeous (modern) red and green one is the 59, an earlier incarnation of which I took to go to school every day for many years in the seventies.  I usually arrived late despite the bus driver’s breakneck speeds, looking slightly dishevelled and with wet hair; I would slink into the back of the hall after assembly had already started, to the embarrassment and irritation of the headmistress, my mother, who didn’t miss much.
St Andrews Scots School, Buenos Aires.
Headmistress in the back row, right, keeping an eye on things…
(taken in 1973, after I had left)

The tea was a great success.  I hardly tried any of the dreamy cakes, and the lapband had nothing to do with it – I had barely any restriction anyway.  I just talked till I was hoarse.  The organiser had sprung a last minute surprise, bringing along the lady who had been my favourite teacher - Julia.

- here's a picture taken on my wedding day in October 1977; she's on the top row, next to me on my left: 
Julia taught us music appreciation and singing, and was very popular; she had continued to inspire affection and respect in subsequent generations of school children until very recently, when she had retired. 
I had not seen three of the chicas since the day we left school in November 1971, but such is the bond you form as a teenager when you spend every waking hour over 6 formative years with these human beings, that those 38 years just melted away.  These events are often the overweight person’s nightmare, and yes, one of my school friends walked right past me and we virtually had to be re-introduced. 
Julia, me, Janet    (Photo by Cecilia Forrester)

If you’ve followed any of the pictures from posts dated June/July/August 2009 in this blog (the "Chubby Chops" series), you’ll know how different I looked in those days, but this is another blessing bestowed by the lapband:  I’ve only lost about a third of the total weight I want to lose, but I’m confident that the rest will also go eventually, because the band is … well, there.  It’s secretly hidden away, like the genie with the lamp, waiting to be taken out and polished.  All I must do is calmly follow a few basic rules – and be patient.
Michèle, Cecilia, Claudia


Back Row:  Janet, Diana, Gisele, me, Claudia
Front Row:  Julia, Michèle, Cecilia, Vivi

The socialising was extended as Michèle drove four of them home in different parts of the city, still all trying to catch up with the 38 missing years.  My voice had been reduced to a whisper.

The final hours were a blur of packing, unpacking, re-distributing, re-packing – checking that my documents were somewhere accessible, and trying to push to the back of my mind the sadness I felt at the prospect of departure, as I checked and checked again that the alarm clock would work the following morning.  I’m a night-owl and absolutely hate, loathe and detest getting up early; planners of air schedules are a bunch of sadists who clearly don’t sleep much and are damned if anybody else will either.
Seven thousand miles (11,200 km) and 24 hours later with half an hour’s sleep and my head in a spin, I was home, and it all turned into a dream, like Alice in Wonderland – until I sat down and told you all about it in this blog. 

Thank you very much for reading this far.



Tina said...

What a wonderful ending to a wonderful trip! I enjoyed reading about your adventures. So now what are you up to-any more localized adventures?


Zanna, travelling tart said...

So sad that we've come to the end. But how wonderful to have been able to catch up with the 'chicas' - I love that term. Zxx

Nola said...

I can't begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading all these posts!! I love the chica photos and how happy you all look.....and you look fantastic!! Shorter than I imagined

Lonicera said...

Tina - sadly not for the time being, unless I get good news from Buenos Aires about the book. Half an invitation and I'll be off like a shot! But I love telling stories, so be sure I'll think of something...
Zanna - it's fun telling about these experiences to devoted travellers such as yourself. Have you read Bill Bryson's books? if you haven't you have such a treat in store, particularly "Down Under" about his travels in Australia. Funny and thought provoking.
Nola - you should have heard the noise of us all talking at once. And (sob) I am indeed a short arse (1.62m). That's why I'm the wrong weight for my height you see.

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