Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't Cry For Me Buenos Aires

It's raining and we are off to the airport shortly. Perhaps it is a sort of a sad farewell.  We are leaving Buenos Aires, Argentina and South America. It is the end of an episode, a chance to reflect, to ask questions. Has it been what we expected? How does it feel being 18 days and 12,000 kilometers from home? How are we managing generally? Have we got any clean clothes left? Good questions.
The Shake Up My World Tour has been a subtle shakeup so far. Important lessons galore, but nothing devastating or explosive. South America is a continent of contrasts. There are places of stunning beauty and other locations that generate a stomach-churning revulsion. We have seen beggars and businesswomen; briefcase-toting salesmen and burden-bearing human mules.  From an objective perspective, this part of the world has held few surprises.  But it has far from disappointed us.
We came to meet people, and that is where we have had our expectations exceeded.  We came to Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires as strangers, knowing not a soul.  We are leaving with our relational investments having generated an abundant return.  We have been the beneficiaries of much love, time and kindness.  Those who have acted as our hosts (Pastor Samuel in Lima, James in Santiago and Catherine in Buenos Aires) have become remarkable friends of the first order, ones we expect to see again.  We are rich in experience because of them. 
For me, Santiago and Buenos Aires have convinced me that the global north (especially North America and Europe) have much to learn from the south.  We in the north have been smug in our plenty and largely ignored our comrades in the PD community of South America.  We need more effective communication between continents and cultures to learn from and support each other. We in the “have” nations must not overlook the needs and struggles of brothers and sisters here.  Take the work of Dr.Pedro Chana and his wife, Daniela, heroes in my eyes as they happily build CETRAM (the movement disorder clinic in Santiago, Chile, with a collaborative, innovative and integrated perspective) and encourage fellow Parkinson’s warriors, like Agustin, to take control over treatment of their disease.  Or consider the tireless commitment and leadership of Sarah Sodoti, who keeps ACEPAR (the Argentina Parkinson’s Association) functioning largely due to her own personal sacrifice.  And consider neurologists, including Nelida and Sergio at the Ramos Mejia Hospital in Buenos Aires, who donate time to provide creative experiences such as tango classes for people with Parkinson’s.  We all need to champion causes outside our local communities and share ideas, personnel and resources with others in the worldwide Parkinson’s community.  In a sentence, we must promote a readily accessible, interactive and mutually helpful Parkinson’s network, bridging all disciplines, associations and leaders in Parkinson’s communities from every nation in the world.  We cannot continue to act solely in our local best interests.  We have a common interest.  We have a common responsibility.  As Agustin said, we must not remain islands.  We will all benefit by global cooperation.

Now, off the soapbox, we have learned some things about round the world travel:
1.      Communicating with home is much easier than I thought it would be.  Skype and Facetime, not to mention email, are extraordinary tools allowing for face to face chats at minimal cost.  However, we are completely dependent on internet connections, usually WiFi (and slow internet is the bane of our existence, limiting the posting of pictures and otherwise frustrating us to the point of tears);
2.      Leaving North American expectations behind improves the quality of the experience.  We are neither the center of the universe nor the pinnacle of societal development.  We have a lot to learn from less urbane cultures;
3.      We need extra rest and time to process our experiences.  It is easy to get behind on sleep and blogging, and difficult to catch up on both.  “Cram and Jam” schedules do not work well when doing this kind of traveling;
4.      Ask lots of questions.

By the way, we have mostly clean clothes due to fast dry shirts, socks and underwear (and an inexpensive laundry service at our most recent hotel).
PS.  Sorry, but pictures would take more time to upload than I have available.


  1. Some observations and a few questions: 1. I have never traveled, virtually or in real time, with a colleague that is chasing a community like the PD community. It adds such an interesting common denominator to your story. 2. You mention you have now been traveling 18 days! That surprised me. Time flies even when you are only observing two friends having fun! 3. Of the big cities you have visited in SA, which one would you choose to live in permanently if you had to make that choice and why? 4. Which of the countries you have visited so far would you least like to practice law in? 5. You mention several times that we in the north has a lot to learn from the south...can you give 2 or 3 examples of what you mean? Vaya Con Dios!

  2. Paul;

    Short answers before I head off to bed.
    3. Lima but I am not sure why. It is the simplest I think.
    4. BA as it would let me use my skill set the most.
    5. Family and community are very important. Giving back to one's community is a huge thing.
    Thanks for the great questions.