I write this on the 14 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires, munching on a sweet cone of dulce de leche. The last two days have been some of the best in years, filled with homecooked feasts, endless laughs, and incredible kindness. I know I can wax hyperbolic, but this has been an unforgettable, eye-opening experience to the joys of Argentina.
My beautiful couchsurfing hosts, Adriana and her daughter Maria Jose, have been more welcoming than I imagined possible. Adriana is a professor and former dean at the University in Neuquen, teaching tourism and its environmental consequences, very kind and a great cook. Maria Jose (Majo?) studies social communication (media studies) in Buenos Aires-- she's smart, talented, environmentally- and socially-conscious, and hot. They were patient with my Spanish (but good English speakers), and Majo filled papers writing words I didn't know. They live on 7 ha, with fields and (a little) forest, a small orchard, vineyard, and garden, five dogs, and an absolutely beautiful house.
They also have an outdoor mud-brick oven (a la Crook'd Cat), where they cooked delicious homemade empanadas (pockets of meat), bread, and a big parradilla (Argentine BBQ)-- they let me help make the fire. Plus, over the two days I was there, there was pickled fish and a wild rice fish dish (Majo and her father caught the fish themselves), work-of-art salad and pizza, and sweets from Argentina's favorite. We ate it all over plenty of good discussion and wine.
The first morning, I lazed in their hammock with a book of Majo's (El Principito) while she did crafts. After more food, Majo showed me the city. Every block, it seemed, as we walked and talked, Majo would run into friends, and they would laugh and talk for a couple minutes, with cheek-kisses to me. Majo told me about the city in her youth, where everyone in town gathered at the big market, where she would dance every night. A river borders the city, an easy walk from the center, where people chill and play in the water, and beyond which is sudden forest green. We walked in the river and had ice creams. Before heading back, we drove to the other side of the center, to a huge planned canyon landscape of trees and trails, where people run and bike and walk and sit in the stark beauty.
Maria Jose drove me back to the bus station, with a full tummy, a head of beer, and lots to think about.