Thursday, June 7, 2012

In which we get to see almost-naked Argentine farmers emerging from the shower

When we arrived in Salta, we went to a hostel where Jeff had stayed the year before. It was full, but Jeff persisted and the owner agreed to let us stay in the spare room. The French ambassador had once stayed in this very room, he told us. It was the room under the stairs -- the area used for storing the vacuum cleaner in American homes. About 18" of crawl space surrounded an iron bunk bed that reached almost to the ceiling. Actually, better to say that the ceiling reached down to the bed. I couldn’t stand up straight in the room and I am not tall. I had to walk around the bed away from the door to be able to close the door. “Door” is probably an exaggeration. It was a frame with some screening nailed to it. The screen was peppered with holes -- one conveniently located next to the handle so you could open the locked door from the outside.

The bathrooms were upstairs and weren’t too bad. The shower was not set apart from the rest of the bathroom; instead, it consisted of a showed head placed on the wall across from the toilet (a setup I was to find throughout most of the continent). When the shower was on, the spray drenched the toilet seat and the sink. The manager had thoughtfully provided a nail on which to hang one’s clothes and a squeegee mop to wipe down the walls and the floor, but he hadn’t quite figured out where to keep the toilet paper so it wouldn’t get drenched.

The hostel was tranquil in the afternoon, but later in the evening, the other guests returned -- 15 farmers on a convention. Argentine farmers are young and handsome. But they are also boisterous and wouldn’t squeegee the water off the floors in the bathrooms and left whiskers in the sink. I was in line for the shower and had to sit in the patio watching one after the other of them emerge bare-chested and dripping from the bathrooms, holding their shampoo in one hand and their towels at their waists with the other. It was hell. (See: Chapter One: In Which I See Argentine Men, Who Are Amongst the Handsomest in the World, Probably Because They Are of Italian Descent.)

I didn’t appreciate them so much when they returned drunk from their night out at two in the morning and then left again before dawn. I was tired from having spent the previous night on the bus, but couldn’t sleep well in our cell. Jeff and I compared notes on the farmers. He’d actually had the temerity to speak to one of them; but I’d not been so bold. Two mosquitoes buzzed around my ear all night. A mosquito coil burned in the corner, but was ineffective against the huge holes in the screen door. The lack of rest probably contributed to my totally irrational purchase the next day.