I've recently arrived in Tucuman, to a virtually empty, but lovely, hostel, so I thought I'd make the most of the free computer to post a quick update. It also seems quite fast, which is a major bonus after some of the connections that I've experienced in various hostels around Argentina. So, I'll begin with Boxing Day, which is where I left you last time:
Sunday 26th December 2010 (Boxing Day)
Well, today was dominated by Adrian's departure. I think Oscar and Andres did a good job of covering up their sadness, but I'm sure everyone felt rather upset about their fun few months coming to an end (and friendships being put on hold). Oscar cooked a farewell feast for lunch: 3 different Chinese dishes, eaten with noodles. He's such a perfectionist (maybe that's why we get on so well), he was most perturbed by the lack of soy sauce. But he needn't have worried, once again it was delicious. We then played a few last games of cards before the inevitable time came around... and it was time to get a taxi to the bus station.
We waved an emotional goodbye to Adrian (after a quick goodbye beer) and then Oscar, Andres and Manolo took me on a tour of the University. It was totally deserted (Christmas holidays), but at least I got a feel for the place. We also met up with an older Chinese couple (whose exact role I'm not sure of, but I imagine they do something to co-ordinate the presence of Chinese students in La Rioja).
After a quick trip to the supermarket (Chango Mas has become my home-away-from-home during my stay in La Rioja... well, that and Super Vea [both supermarkets handily placed so as not to work up too much of a sweat]), I cooked pasta with aubergine, pepper and tomato (and a lot of chili) and the troops seemed to enjoy it (I think the chili helped!). I wish I could have cooked more typical fare, but most British dishes require more than one ring (i.e. an oven is quite useful)! Hopefully they will be able to visit the UK at some point in the future (although I fear they might find classic UK dishes a bit bland... well, I'm sure a bit of chili and garlic would work wonders!). We played more cards and felt totally at ease in each other's company, despite Adrian's departure (sad though we were that he had gone). It's so nice when you just click with people and can enjoy their company, even when there is a (major) language barrier to overcome.Oh, yes, and more raw eggs were consumed as forfeits for losing (luckily not by me... although I can't say I'd have been that worried... I eat most things, after all!). The looks on Oscar and Manolo's faces as they consumed said eggs were priceless, though, and will long stay in my memory...
Well, my time in La Rioja was also running out, so I packed my bags in readiness for tomorrow's departure and tried to get an earlyish night (which was rather difficult with the combination of heat, previous late nights and the fact that it was a Sunday!).
Monday 27th December 2010
In the end I managed quite a good night's sleep, but it meant getting up later than anticipated. Oscar had said he had wanted to get up early to cook me a farewell meal (which sums up his kindness nicely). Well, instead of cooking, he insisted on going and buying empanadas for lunch, which I happily devoured before getting a taxi to the bus station (La Rioja is the only place so far where the bus station is right on the edge of town). The watermelon was aborted, however, on discovery that it was rotten (once it had released it's putrid juice all over the kitchen... which reminds me: in my increasing catalogue of breaking things, I managed to drop a watermelon earlier in the week! Well, to be precise the handles of the carrier bag broke and it cracked in half! Luckily, the carrier bag captured the wreckage, so there wasn't much that went to waste! Phew).
It was really sad to say goodbye to Oscar and Andres... and so the bus journey was the most melancholy so far on my trip (sensitive soul that I am!). Luckily the scenery was there to boost my spirits. The pass over the mountains between Catamarca and Tucuman was particularly impressive and highlighted a major climatic difference: Tucuman is much more wet and humid than La Rioja. So, instead of deserty scrub and occasional olive groves/vineyards, there were fields upon fields of sugarcane and other lush green tropical greenery. The contrast was amazing considering that it was only a 6 hour bus ride ("only" 6 hours! See how Argentina affects you!). You could also see it in the weather (great big storm clouds, with patches of blue and occasional showers... including a heavy downpour on my way to the supermarket this evening [which you don't really mind when the temperature is still in the 30s at 9pm!]).
Well, I arrived in Tucuman a few hours ago and my first impressions are good. The city is much bigger/busier than La Rioja, and as I say, it is much more humid (despite the temperature itself probably being a few degrees cooler). The hostel (Tucuman Hostel) is really nice... in a great old colonial building, with a small swimming pool out the back (and lovely internal/external courtyards - if you know what I mean). Sadly, it is almost deserted, but at least that means I should get a good night's sleep! And luckily, the owner/manager is really friendly (we had a good chat while I ate my dinner) so the atmosphere is totally different to San Luis (where it was similarly quiet). So, basically, that's brought things up-to-date. I will explore the city tomorrow and can give you more detailed impressions then! Now it's time to make the most of the quiet dorm, so I will be bid you goodnight!
I hope all is well with you and that you have finished digesting any Christmas overindulgence...
Love J xx