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Time for a sabbatical 2017

Out of my comfort zone

Diana Pavlenco


It was raining outside, I could tell by the noise of the tyres in the water. My dark blue hotel room in Buenos Aires was making me sad. I couldn’t sleep well. I kept hearing the elevator and the ecstatic woman next door. Then she sang in the shower. I was sad, but at least I was smiling. The night before, my first in Argentina after the transcontinental flight, the fifty year old receptionist asked me to marry him. He caressed my ring finger, gazed into my eyes as if he was tasting something delicious and whispered: “Sus ojos…”
Here I was – living my dream, having a sabbatical in South America. Friends and colleagues encouraged me like fanatics: “You go, girl!”, “Chase your dreams!” That was our fantasy: leave the office job, travel the world, work in wineries from Australia, hitchhike continents, make new friends all over the world. But go alone in South America? Hmm, that was different. Didn’t I hear about the girl left alone in Amazon rainforest? Did I know about tourists being robbed in Bolivia? How will I be trekking in Peru? Similar “walls” were faced by Marianne from France and by Yun Fei from China. As we sat around the table in our hostel in Patagonia, the French said she hated our plastic glasses for wine, the Chinese was reluctant to eat salad, the German guy grabbed the neighbour’s beer and said he will buy her a new one the next day and the Israeli guy kept telling us is safe to visit some parts in his country. Me, I sat quiet. What would be specific to us, Romanians?
The contemplation of Patagonian landscapes and so much time for myself activated a fear – something important is going on, the times are changing and I have no job. I even browsed some job opportunities. Then I fell in love with a young handsome Argentinian receptionist. After I travelled to Bolivia and he finished his seasonal work we reunited in Peru. For my Eastern European ears every “mi amor” from the waitress seemed a bit annoying, so I was teasing him with “Yo soy una fanatica de tu amor”, a line we heard in a song in Arequipa.
Having a sabbatical, it's a matter of rhythm: you hear a lot, but you have to find your own. As I was lying in bed in Sucre and I was scrolling down my Facebook feed full with the terrorist attack in Brussels on March 22nd. The previous day I was robbed in a local bus, but there was little damage. A group of kids from the nearby school were practicing trombone with “El condor pasa” right under my window.

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