Day 11: Wandering the River

I woke up early after getting a solid night of sleep for a change, ready to knock out my first assignment for my Conversation 3 class. The assignment, modeled after a Lonely Planet guide about Rosario that we had been required to read earlier in the week for class, involved writing a mini-guide about our hometown. Sunlight flowed through the windows as I started writing about Jackson Lake Lodge in the living room.

SEE FINISHED PRODUCT HERE (PDF)

The work went quickly, the subject matter intimately familiar, and before I knew it I had completed both the written portion as well as a PowerPoint for the next day’s oral presentation. I sipped coffee and ate biscochos de chicharron for breakfast while completing the work, chatting with Eugenia about the place where I had grown up.

Then I looked at the time — 11:35 am. I had been planning to meet up with several other students to play soccer at noon, so I slugged down the rest of my coffee and raced through a shower. Lagging behind, I decided to bypass the original meeting point and try to catch the others at the flea market off Oroño which we had planned to walk through before heading to the nearby field.

I bumped into a couple of the students from the program, but spent a couple of hours wandering in vain trying to find the people with whom I’d planned to play. I looked in at the various stalls set up throughout the park, old tools and clothing and clocks and telephones catching my eye with each new step.

The main street was closed down for a local marathon, and I stood for a while watching the runners pass and cheering them on alongside the crowd dispersed along either side of the road. There has always been something that has fascinated me about long-distance runners; while I have never attempted such an endeavor myself, my time training for bike tours helped me to understand the dedication involved to successfully undertake endurance sports.

Eventually, lacking my tablet or any other way to contact the other students, I decided to head back toward my apartment. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Eugenia and Pilar, who were watching the second half of the Mexico-Netherlands octofinal while sipping red wine and eating homemade ñoquis.

My host mom went into the kitchen and came out with a heaping plate of pasta and sauce and beef, setting it down at one end of the table. I pulled up a chair, Pilar poured me a glass of wine, and I tucked a five-peso bill underneath my plate as per Eugenia’s instructions for good luck. While eating we watched stupefied as the Dutch flipped the score from a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 advancement to the quarterfinals.

I stepped outside after the late lunch, my stomach pleasantly full, to smoke a cigarette on the balcony. Pilar joined me for the smoke, and Eugenia poured glasses of Fernet Branca and Coca-Cola as an after-meal aperitif. Sipping the drink in the sunshine, the three of us made small talk before the two ladies went on their regular Sunday walk together.

By then it was already 3:45 pm. I checked Facebook, found out that people were planning to meet to play soccer at the river at 4, and grabbed my already-packed bag with my cleats and a jersey and headed out the door. Retracing my steps along Oroño, I walked to the riverfront near the MACRO silos and met up with Jason and Matt.

The park was full of Sunday revelers basking in the afternoon sun, and we were forced to stake out a small plot. Without the room to really pass around the ball, we just stood in a circle and juggled it in the air back and forth to one another. A toddler, certainly no older than two, stood nearby fixated on the ball. On the other side of us, a puppy playfully challenged the other bigger dogs that passed by the spot where his family was sitting.

Eventually the sun started to dip toward the horizon, and I pulled on my long-sleeve Inter Milan jersey I had brought along. We sat on the grass for a while in the dimming light before looking for a spot to watch Costa Rica and Greece. Wandering down Moreno, the three of us ended up stopping at an ice-cream parlor.

Jason ordered hot chocolate and churros, while Matt and I each bought ice-cream cones. I settled on tiramisu and mint for my two scoops, the former with chunks of ladyfingers mixed into the batter. We ate our confections while the two contestants on the screen remained deadlocked through extra time and went to penalties. Eventually Jesus Navas would deny Theofanis Gekas to send Costa Rica through to the quarterfinals, and the Greek team was left to wonder what might have been.

I bid adieu to the other two and made my way through the Plaza San Martín back toward my house. After a heavy lunch and ice cream, I was excited when Eugenia decided to prepare a light dinner. We ate some leftover ñoquis and arugula salad while watching the highlights of the day’s matches and drank a little more wine for good measure.

Once again I decided to turn in early, tired from all the time spent in the fresh air. I sat on my bed reading one of the articles for my soccer class, nodding off here and there and snapping back to attention. Eventually I gave up on the effort and shut off the light, another day in Rosario well spent.

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