My mouth is dry. Dry from the dust and from trying to explain why vodka and coke is not a weird drink. Bar staff and friends alike have been baffled by my strange English ways...I need not go into the stupid things I and my friends at home have done when consuming vodka and coke to highlight its toxicity. But really, I have yet to understand why its so difficult to understand the drink that England seems to float on!
A little update...I really think I have found a home from home here in Northern Argentina. Despite the big tarantulas that seem to follow me around the estancia and the stray dogs attacking my door in the middle of the night bringing on a series of heart attacks, there isn´t anything better in the world that what I am doing now. And I will be surprised if I find a place better.
I have just returned from a polo practice- there are no tournaments for the next couple of months here giving the ponies and the people a well earned rest. However practices, usually consisting of four or five chukkas, ensure that the ponies do not get out of practice or unfit. Sitting here writing this, I am combing burrs out of my hair which is a daily task as well as out of tails, which is usually done with a fork.
Polo here is very different to everything I have experienced so far. Its very Argentine- rugs seem to be made out of what looks like disused potato sacks, ponies are transported in huge lorries that usually serve cattle and horses are fenced with cheese wire. Unfortunately, we had a horrible incidence the other day when a mare paniced and severed her leg on the fencing. I realised I am not squeamish as I held the leadrope whilst the vet stitched her up. The cut was so deep and big, you could see the bone. The vet then proceeded to cut up a plastic pipe to encase the leg in. Unfortunately, she took a great dislike to this and kicked back so hard it burst and undid all the stitching. The poor thing will not play polo again and I hope and pray she makes a swift and full recovery so the decision isn´t made to put her down.
I like to think I have got more out of being here than the average gringo travelling around. I have lived with Argentines now for two months and can genuinely say they are the nicest nation of people. At first, inevitably I was thrown by the language and the treatment of the ponies ( a lot harsher than this soft Brit has ever seen) but you have to look past that and appreciate these people make the finest polo ponies in the world. And they genuinely care for them because bad treatment of a horse does your job no favours.
My Spanish is coming on day by day, so I am told. English is not widely spoken here, a couple of international players (who spend time in palm beach) and a few members of the fantastic family I am staying with do but largely, every conversation I have is very stop, start, present tense Spanish. I am grateful for my GCSE. It was classic yesterday when told to put rugs on, I carefully removed seven horses´ rugs. The Spanish in this region of Argentina is very different. When spoken, one thing I have noticed is that people hardly move their jaws and everything comes out sort of mumbled. A couple of months ago, I wouldn´t even have recognised it as Spanish!
Aside from this, I have had really big problems with my card. It appeared it had been cloned and my worst fears were confirmed when calling Barclays, and they said that the card must be cancelled at once and a new one ordered to be sent to my home in England. I am fortunate that my friend Liv is coming to B.A in a week and a half so I won´t have to rely on Anglo-Argentine post. Complete nightmare and still in the throws of sorting it out!
My time with the polo ponies is coming to an end. This was the reason I came to South America and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with them and for all the people I have met. Next weekend, its back to B.A to meet Liv and then onto Patagonia and then before I get thrown out of the country (three months has passed just like that), Iguazu falls and up to Brazil. Vamos!
PS- had to think hard before I wanted to write about this...the other night met a very cute guy who was absolutely thrilled I was English. He pulled out his phone (which had a ´Keep calm and carry on´ pimms style backdrop to show me his twitter which was so English, you´d be forgiven for thinking he was the BNP minus the racism). The least said about this the better, but I will be definitely using the English card more often.