A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Long Walk Home


This past week we booked an estancia tour to ride horses, have asado and see a gaucho show.  The tour company called it a Fiesta Gaucho.  Sounds like a fun day, eh?

Yet when it was over, I felt a sadness that was difficult for me to shake. Here’s what happened.

We boarded a full tour bus and drove 50 miles north of Buenos Aires to Don Silvano’s Estancia.  When we arrived we went for trail ride, played bocce and walked around the grounds.

Shortly after 1 pm lunch was served, a typical Argentine asado with about five different types of grilled meat.

Then the music started.  Several entertainers took the stage and began singing Argentine folk songs and performing traditional dances.

As the program began to wind down, the emcee noted that there were visitors from thirteen nations, and he began calling people to the stage to sing a folk song that represented their country.

“South Africa!  Where is our guest from South Africa?”

The burly man who had been sitting next to me on the bus took the stage, and after some minor arm-twisting, he sang a song in a language I did not recognize.

The audience got into the spirit, and began calling for countries to take the stage. Columbia. Venezuela. Peru. Japan. Each performance and country were warmly applauded.


Surely they’d be calling for the United States soon.  What if we were the only Americans?  What would we sing?

After several more performances, including a group of twenty Australian senior citizens warbling their way through “Waltzing Matilda,” it dawned on me:  There would be no calls to hear from the United States.

It’s not that we weren’t welcome; we surely were.  But there was no rush to celebrate us either.

At that moment I felt the full force of the last eight years.

And it became very clear to me that, in the eyes of the world, we had squandered the idea, the spirit, the goodness of America.

Later that afternoon, as the party moved outside for the gaucho show, we found ourselves sitting next to a woman from Malaysia.  She began telling us about her travels, then about her country.

When we told her we might visit Malaysia as part of our trip, she said very straightforwardly, “You in the West are very privileged.  In Malaysia, we could never take that much time off.  There is always work, school. Things we must do.”

On the bus ride back to Buenos Aires, I couldn’t shake my melancholy.  I thought about what the Malaysian woman had said.  We are privileged.  Privileged to live in a country that for most of its history has been a symbol of hope and opportunity.

Soon America will turn the page. I hope we return to our better selves.  But it’s going to be a long walk home.

October 13, 2008   9 Comments

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