I made many and various notes while I was away in Argentina, but one page I kept coming back to and adding things to was the page full of differences between Argentina and the UK. The little things that stuck in my mind’s throat or struck some sort of chord with me. Here are some things I noticed about Argentina:
The fruit in Patagonia was incredible. Nora, whose house we were staying in, went out every day to the bakery to pick up delicious fresh rolls, and to the greengrocer to pick up plums and nectarines the size of oranges. Juicy, tasty, wonderful fruit. Homegrown, not imported from the other side of the world. All ripened with the ceaseless, piercing southern hemispherical sunshine that could turn your skin to bacon in 20 minutes flat. To come back to the tasteless wizened tat they sell in the fruit aisle at the local supermarket was frankly upsetting.
One of the things that I particularly like about Germany, for instance, is that the toilets are of a uniformly high standard and of broadly similar construction. They are all expertly engineered and very well designed. In Argentina, pretty much every toilet I came across (apart from the German ones) was completely different, and invariably they didn’t work very well. I am all for countries going it alone where they can, you know, like doing their own thing and that? But sometimes, especially where toilets are concerned, it’s probably best just to admit that some people are better at that sort of thing than others.
Health and safety
It’s not so much that there’s a difference in health and safety between the UK and Argentina, it’s that it just doesn’t exist over there. It’s not even a recognised concept. There’s such a cavalier approach to things that in the UK would require a licence and the presence of a police officer. The friends we stayed with had this ageing Mercedes camper van to cart the family around in, which is what we hooned around Los Alerces national park in and went camping with. I sat in the back next to the dining table on a picnic chair, sliding around as we went up and down mountain bends. It was fairly magnificent if truth be told.
I know it’s a big country, but there are even main roads in Patagonia – main roads between main towns, if I may put a little bit of extra emphasis on the matter – main roads that are not paved. Dirt roads, gravel roads, roads without lights and drains and those useful little lines that tell you where the middle of the thing is so that you don’t crash into someone else and die. The relaxed approach to road surfacing only serves to underline the relaxed approach to the rules of the road amongst the Argentinean populace.
I know it’s a fairly obvious thing to be saying from this detached vantage point, but at the time there was quite a mindblowing realisation that much of the world has been on the same inevitable path of crushing progress as each other. There’s a big thing in the Evita museum about feminism and women’s suffrage. Of course, women get the vote in Argentina a number of years after they do in the UK, but all the same there’s still a suffrage movement that’s campaigning to get the right to vote. Obviously we’re obsessed with our history, discovering things and that, but there comes a point when you realise that everyone has been doing the same stuff as you the whole time, whether five minutes ahead or five minutes behind. Wouldn’t it all better just to pool our resources and do things together? That’s globalisation, innit.
The electricity pylons
This is what really freaked me out. I even drew them in my notepad. Cast about all the way through the desert were these electricity pylons – V-shaped pillars sprouting out of the ground like chopsticks, with a cantilever support about two-thirds of the way up and three sets of wires slung on the underside of each one. Even I remember from basic physics the notion of three legs being better than two, but seeing all of these electricity pylons standing on their own two feet – I just wonder how a country can function like that. Those things could topple like comedy bookshelves at any point, starting a massive domino-like chain reaction that would take days to come to a graunching halt. What’s wrong with at least three legs on your electricity pylons? I don’t know…
33 minutes ago