It was my last day in Mendoza, and it was a bittersweet day.
On the one hand, I was looking forward to my afternoon bus ride through the Andes to Santiago, Chile. It would be fun to experience a new country and a new city, not to mention to actually ride INTO the Andes, a mountain range that for me has always held a mysterious and exotic appeal.
On the other hand, it was really sad saying goodbye to this family that had welcomed me into their home, fed me, helped me to learn their language, invited me to family and friend get-togethers, taught me about Argentinian culture, history, and politics, and had basically treated me as another member of their family.
One of the best things about traveling is getting to meet different people from all over different parts of our globe, learning about their backgrounds and becoming friends in a very short time. Then, just as quickly as you found common ground (you quit your job to travel around the world?! So did I!), they or you are gone, on to the next destination.
Travel friendships are unique friendships. After spending a memorable time or experience together – a tour around a city, a dinner, a night out, or just a conversation during the hostel’s free breakfast, or even a month living in their home – you say goodbye and your friendship is relegated to the internets, if you are fortunate enough to have gotten their email address or become Facebook friends. Sometimes you are lucky and will be in the same place as your new friend in the future. Maybe they will visit your hometown or you will visit theirs. Or maybe you will never see or hear from them again.
Nora and I had a really fun time bonding during my four weeks in Mendoza. I learned so much about Argentina from her, despite my minimal Spanish language speaking skills. We cooked a wide range of Argentinian dishes together (okay, she cooked and I watched), from empanadas to pasta to milanesa (beef or chicken pounded flat and cooked in bread crumbs). She explained that Argentinian cuisine is strongly influenced by Italian and Spanish cuisine because of the high volume of Italian and Spanish immigrants in Argentina.
We watched the news together and talked about Argentinian politics and the implications of having a woman president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in a country known for its machismo culture.
We discussed the differences between her country and my country, such as the free university that is offered to all Argentinian students and the fact that public universities are viewed as more prestigious than private universities.
It was so fun to see and experience Argentina from an Argentinian’s perspective.
On my last morning in Mendoza, Nora drove me to the bus station, helped me with my luggage, and waited with me at the platform until my bus was ready to board.
We hugged goodbye, promising to keep in touch. My entire family has a place to stay in Mendoza if they ever decide to venture there, and Nora’s family will always be welcome in any place I happen to have an abode.
It was so strange to say goodbye to someone I had shared almost every single dinner with for the last month, someone I had had sincere conversations with despite our language barrier, someone who had gone out of her way to make my time in Mendoza meaningful and my learning of Spanish easier.
I found my seat on the upper deck of the bus, and Nora waved goodbye to me from below.
And now I am on to my next destination.