After a long flight and a disorienting many hours in an airplane, I finally made it to South America. We left Toronto very late Saturday night and made it to Santiago, Chile where we stopped to drop off passengers, refuel and refresh our flight crew. Waiting in line to board back onto our plane in Santiago, I was roasting. Too many winter layers still being worn from my departure in Ottawa that was accompanied by snow and about minus 5C. The heat and humidity of Santiago were a reminder of the mind-bend that modern travel brings – that we can be in a completely different part of the world and climate in less than 24 hours.
I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to my overnight in Buenos Aires. I’m not a city person. I grew up on the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada but have spent a large part of my life in rural areas and cities just aren’t my thing anymore. So to come to a big city like Buenos Aires wasn’t the part I was looking forward to. Certainly not compared to seeing Antarctica. Having said that, I’ve been here a total of about 7 hours and have fallen in love with this city. The first thing I was struck by was the friendliness. I went to dinner at a restaurant nearby my hotel, recommended by the hotel. Fantastic! Definitely not a restaurant for vegetarians, but it was fantastic. BBQ’ed chicken, veggies, French fries (real homemade ones), a small bottle of Argentinian Malbec wine. Food heaven! With me, I had a little advert and map to to get to the restaurant, provided by my hotel so I could find my way to the restaurant. The waiter saw it, grabbed it from me and brought me a complimentary glass of champagne. And then another one. I have to admit that I both waddled and staggered home from far too much good food and good wine and champagne.
I think the thing that struck me most about the things I’ve experienced in just several hours of being here, is the difference in the pace of life and the perspective of life. I think in North America, we are so focused on appearances – our houses, cars, cottages, boats, clothes, whatever. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just get the feeling that here, life is focused on things much different. One thing that struck me was the connection with family. I was concerned about walking back to my hotel alone after dark. The concierge said not to worry. He was right. Wandering back around 8:30 pm, downtown Buenos Aires was filled with families – young parents pushing strollers or having dinner with their young children. There are kids everywhere here. I love it! This place just seems to emanate a different set of priorities than what we have in North America and frankly, I would say better priorities. Buenos Aires reminds me of my trips to Costa Rica long ago – a country where family, friends, faith, and friendliness prevail. It’s easy to drive through cities in these countries and think wow, look at the dilapidated buildings. But is that really what life is about? Appearances? I think not. I think it is about connecting and the connection in this city and in this country are palpable. I think as North Americans, we have much to re-learn.
The sense of connection here is also so appropriate to the mission I’m on – the Homeward Bound Women In Science Leadership Expedition to Antarctica. The expedition is about 76 women, with science backgrounds, connecting and collaborating with a sole mission in mind – to elevate and enhance women’s leader globally, so that more women are influencing decision-making and policy development, globally, in the areas of sustainability and climate change. Ultimately, the mission is about bringing about change. About doing something concrete. About changing the world. Sure, some will say we are dreaming. That a mission of ‘changing the world’ is delusional. But collectively I think we can have an impact. It all comes down to connection. To collaboration. To mutual support in pursuit of a common goal.
I’m glad that I’m spending a night in Buenos Aires on the way to Ushuaia and on the way back, will spend 2 nights here. It’s a fantastic city. Lots more to discover and learn.