Baja Day 14: Argentinians, Eastern Europe and Bigotes

So how often does an Argentinian ex-pat who lives in your home town when he’s back in the states sit down with you while you’re drinking your chai-mocha and give you one of the sugared doughnuts he purchased fresh from a cafe? Well, surprise, that is exactly what happened to me today. After popping into work this morning to hunt down some scrap wood for the art installment (this included going to the lumber yard and asking for the kind of wood I wanted in Spanish, and seeing that I got what I came for is a pat on the back for how my Spanish is coming along), I asked John, who was librarian-ing with Dawn, the Aussie in the body-brace, where I could find a big cinnamon roll; I needed one. Fast. (You know how that is, right?….Right?) He pointed me towards the Todos Santos Cafe up the street. I immediately biked over, ordered myself a cinnamon roll and a chai mocha and was just settling down at an outdoor table with some good ole’ Toni Morrison when…*enter Leonardo*.

I had met Leonardo, the jolly, rotund, chic-ly outfitted, Argentinian when I went to the literature “reading” last week at the art gallery. After greeting me he ordered himself a coffee and carried a bulking white pastry bag to the table. We hit it off and started talking about life, art, traveling, food…

I gleaned:

• Left Argentina in the 80’s when it was a dictatorship. Moved his family to San Francisco (where I was born), moved to Tiburon (where I grew up), and now resides in San Rafael (home for me now).

• His wife organizes and puts on the SF Latino Film Festival which I’ve attended many times, and is a film adjudicator, a job that sends her all over the world to judge films at festivals.

• Started and maintains a gourmet jam, jelly and mustard food line in the Bay Area.

• Has traveled all his life: “You travel to learn how to be free” and told me volumes of wonderful things about Prague and the Czech Republic (though he didn’t mention any cemetaries) when I told him I may have the opportunity to study there next year.

• Gave me the names of several of his favorite Czech authors and I gave him the name of my favorite surrealist Czech short film maker- Jan Svankmajer (also the only Czech film maker I know of)

That’s the gist. It was a wholly pleasant and fascinating interaction. He even gave me a doughnut from the depths of the white pastry bag. We exchanged info and he went on his way. Not a moment later, a woman (who I discovered was named Heather) came to my table and introduced herself:

“I couldn’t help but overhearing but I studied for a year in Budapest and love Eastern Europe.” She proceeded to take Leonardo’s place across from me and tell me of her travels. I sat there agape, thrilled at the synchronicity that just unfolded across the table from me, and at my good fortune of having the spontaneous opportunity to learn more about the world from this enthusiastic, and bubbly stranger, thus feeding my voracious travel bug all the more. Soon, Heather’s friend showed up for coffee but before she left she asked for my email address so we could continue the discussion at a later point. Though she didn’t give me a doughnut, I was thoroughly pleased with all the wonderful people I was meeting, simply as a result of  following the tenacious inspiration to locate a cinnamon roll for my immediate consumption. (Let this be an example to everyone– follow your inspirations no matter how strange they may seem at the time. Blessings surely follow, as they did in my case)

The afternoon was lovely. Got work done at the casita. Walked the dogs (no avian fatalities today) and then biked to work: manualidades (arts and crafts) today. I sat with a little boy (5) named Sebastian and taught him how to make paper “snowflakes” by folding a cutting colored tissue paper that were later meant to be glued onto translucent paper and taped to the window as a sort of faux “stained glass” piece. I walked Sebastian through the steps numerous times and each time he’d unfold a cut he had made, he would let the cuttings fall out and then open them eagerly and hold up the shape: “Mira! Mariposas! Una mama y un bebe” (Look, butterflies! A mom and a baby) he’d say pointing at the shape which of course looked like nothing until he mentioned something and then I could see it right away. We repeated the process with “globos” (balloons) and “ojos” (eyes)– man, would this child ace Rorschalk tests– before a strip of green tapered paper floated onto the table. Sebastian immediately picked it up and stuck it above his lip, holding each side with an index finger.

“Bigote!” (Mustache) he shouted with a Cheshire grin on his face. Well, that was probably the cutest thing I’d seen in my whole life. Soon we’d ditched the dumb  stained glass project and committed ourselves full time to cutting out bigotes of different colors, shapes and sizes and held them up to our faces saying, “Bigote amarillo!” or “Bigote azul!” (yellow mustache, blue mustache). It was at that moment that I was sure I wanted kids in the future. Whilst I was tutoring the 9 years olds and trying in vain to stop them from rubbing their chalky hands onto my navy blue shirt (ok, It’s hard when there’s five of them), I wasn’t so sure. In fact, I left that class several times in the past thinking, “Oh my God, I’m never having kids.” But Sebastian’s green bigote turned me around in an instant. I took a picture of him and his paper bigote with my Diana F camera. Hopefully it captures his pure whimsical joy to a degree.

Mas tacos del pastor for dinner tonight! Whenever I don’t want to cook, I go there. This has happened enough that the people know me there and only come over to take my order for the sake of maintaining good form.

Buen’ noches todos. Hasta mañana!

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3 thoughts on “Baja Day 14: Argentinians, Eastern Europe and Bigotes

  1. And life goes on in the cafes and centers of Todo Santos. I think your tres semanas in Mexico is ever more interesting and you are so open to it. It’s wonderful.

  2. I like the proverb you wrote – to follow your instinctive sweet tooth and reap the blessings. Very wise words indeed. I can’t wait to see how the bigote photograph turns out on your Diana F camera, now that I know what that’s all about. It will be a treasure to keep for sure!

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