My experience of Mar del Plata can’t be as raw as all the other travel stories. This one is surrounded in family, in the love of generous people, in the sudden discovery of a man’s personality as told by my observations of the town in which he grew up.
I came to Mar del Plata to visit G the maybe-date from many months ago. And I came to bask in the Argentinian culture that I fell in love with back in September when I first came – the food, the music, the sun, the people. It was a break from the London winter and the first time in three years where I took a proper 10 day holiday. It was time.
The city itself surprised me in it’s modernity. I don’t really know why. I think it’s because I love third world cities – the poorest kinds, with ramshackle houses, dusty streets and beautiful walls Marrakech was still fresh in my mind when the bus drove into Mar del Plata that February evening. As the down trodden outskirts of the city whizzed past in the pouring rain, I realized that it wouldn’t be a city of ancient ruins or exotic foods. It would be 10 days of family, of togetherness and of sunshine. Coming to a city for the first time in the night is like navigating it’s freshness in the blind darkness – all lights and shapes and smells. Every city feels the same at night – mysterious, expansive, a black dark that needs to be sifted over in the morning light.
And on that first morning, after meeting his mother and grandmother, both bursting with so much love, I knew that the week would be full of family, of home cooked food, of long walks through neighborhoods and beaches. And it felt marvellous: to wander, hand-in-hand, to discover someones past adjacent to discovering more about his present – it was a smorgasbord of stimulation, but not about a place itself, but about how that place shapes a person’s being. It’s a different type of travel – one that is charted not by sights and sounds and photographs, but by conversations, memories, and dinners at old wooden tables in noisy family kitchens.
It quickly became apparent to me that his was a childhood bursting in love and affection. And it explained so much about his confidence, his poise, his un-neediness. Being around his family reminded me of my own childhood, made me miss my parent’s affection and instantly made me think of A’s broken past and tragic losses. Our past shapes us more than we know. It’s a powerful torque by which the direction of our lives are drawn. Can we overcome the pains of our history, or similarly, harness its goodness to be even better people than those who changed us and lifted us up?
This was a holiday of discovery. Of realizing that we are not islands. That we are made up of all the people we grew up with, of all the hands that helped to raise us, of the accumulated kisses and hugs and affections that our parents’ love has provided. It made me realize how precious the gift of family is and how delicately a mother’s love can shape a child’s well-being. It made me realize just how powerful our affection to one another can be – it can be life changing.
Love gives us wings.