I’m leaving Argentina tomorrow, and I wanted to get down a quick post before life rushes in and I’m already home and on to the next thing. I plan to share more from the past few week’s adventures, but here’s what’s on my mind tonight, unfiltered, with some not-quite-related but still beautiful photos:
When I arrived here in January, my foot was swollen and causing serious concern. I’d been on an overnight flight, during which I wore compression socks and stood up and hobbled every 45 minutes because I was terrified of the increased possibility for blood clots. When we landed in Buenos Aires, my foot was so swollen and red and painful that the sight of it nearly made me cry. At the bus station, we bought bottled water and I poured it over my bare foot by the curb, just for the three seconds of cold. We arranged my luggage so I could keep my foot elevated while we awaited our bus, and most people probably thought we were weird and uncouth. A kind stranger offered advice and ibuprofen. I’d already used up all my ice packs at the airport, also probably looking odd or inconsiderate, my foot bare in public. During the twenty-four hour bus ride, I routinely stuck my leg straight up in the air to try and get the swelling down. I was nervous and sad and beyond caring what the other passengers thought. I worried the 50+ hour trip had worsened the fracture. When we finally arrived in Bariloche, it took two full days for my foot to go back to normal.
Once we settled it, the reality also appeared: I was in the mountains, in a trail runner’s paradise, and unable to run or hike or hardly walk in them. I wasn’t seeing a doctor and I got nervous about so many things maybe making my foot worse – from the temp of my baths to the tightness of my ace bandage. But over the course of the past 3 months, I’ve spent part of every day getting better. I started using one crutch, then none. I started using resistance bands, and then working out – at first just dancing-while-sitting. Then dancing while standing. Then real squats and abs and a new boxing routine I’m kind of obsessed with. What was, for a long time, a genuine struggle, has become this wondrous thing – every day I am a little stronger than yesterday. And I’m still not even running yet, which is crazy. I wonder at what force I’ll feel when that happens.
In all this, I’ve grown absurdly sentimental of all the rehab routines unique to this house, this neighborhood, this city. The crickety, camp-style stairs here remind me of the first time I got up them without crutches. My first bus ride, my first outing into town by myself. The first morning Will didn’t have to carry my coffee for me. My weekly trips to physical therapy – which by the way, without insurance, cost a whopping $15 here for an hour of therapy. The week I stopped needing ibuprofen and ice all the time. Last week when I accidentally forgot my crutches at school and I got super psyched because it showed how I hardly need them.
Today I packed up and returned the furniture to how it was when we got here. Will and I had made a writing desk for me by using two side tables and a moveable glass tabletop. I walked, as is the routine, for a half hour inside the house – a routine because none of the ground here is level. And every single corner of the house reminded me of all the ways I’ve grown stronger since I got here. I also finished my last semester of grad school while here, and, aside from a few tweaks, just finished a full draft of my thesis. I got to teach creative writing to high school students learning English, think about inventions and green energies with them, and listen to their imaginations shape their stories. I finished my Rotary volunteering. I shared so much peaceful time and space with my sweetheart. I met some very kind people. I ate good food and learned a lot and grew a little less afraid of roaming dogs.
It is a wistful and happy place to be, to have found such meaning here but to have to leave. In all the running and studying abroad and the luck of traveling, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as sad to leave a place as I am here and now. I guess the good news is that I can keep getting stronger back home, and that maybe as I do each routine back in Maine, I’ll feel some connection to here.
But here, this magic mountain house in Villa Los Coihues, and the city of Bariloche, will always be the place I got better. It will be a place I arrived to in a state of anxiety and helplessness, and, now, a place I’ll leave on both feet, with strong legs and a lot of happiness. Hopefully, no matter which way I go, I’ll end up back here in Bariloche.