It’s ironic: everywhere I traveled in Latin America, locals told me how “lucky” I was to live in Canada. And I know Chiruza Canadiense would trade her passport with mine without a second thought.
So, before stepping into the Air Canada aircraft that would take me back inside the fridge, I made a list of the things I missed during this trip, as a silly incentive to board the damn plane.
Endless supply of (relatively) cheap coffee
I need coffee at some point during the day. Sometime in the morning, if I’m still sleepy and if it is one of these mornings, sometime in the afternoon as a pick-me-up energy boost. Plus, coffee is a delicious beverage.
I always associate coffee with Latin America, but in fact, in Argentina and Uruguay, java was surprisingly expensive. For instance, at Starbucks, a cup of coffee is more than $3 (I paid CA$2.50 in Ottawa). And it’s not because Starbucks is a foreign or fancy brand, even cheap Nescafé at the convenience store, delivered in a styrofoam cup, is a couple of bucks (15-20 pesos in Argentina).
Worse, coffee is served French-style, in tiny cups, so you can’t really sip it slowly the way I like it—after three sips, you’re done. In Chile and in Brazil, coffee was more widely available, and a bit cheaper too. I guess in Argentina and Uruguay, locals favour mate de coca, wine or cold drinks.
Coming back to Canada means getting huge cups of the hot beverage pretty much anywhere, anytime and for a couple of dollars—Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, Second Cup, here I come!
Chile, Argentina and Uruguay are a carnivore’s heaven. Meat is cheap by world standard and generally excellent. You can have giant parrilla with chicken, sausage, ribs and steak for less than $20, and any food where meat is an ingredient has a lot of it—a salad topped with ham will have three leaves of lettuce and three cups of ham, salami or ham sandwiches have almost more meat than bread, pasta dishes with parisienne or bolognese sauce contain generous amounts of meat, etc.
But do you know what I missed? Vegetables. Typical sides include French fries, mashed potatoes, rice or bread. You can find tomatoes or mushrooms in sandwiches or pasta sauces, and spinach in some empanadas, but that’s about it. I was so desperate for fresh veggies at one point that I ordered salads (palm hearts! Carrots! Beets!) or raviolis with just tomato sauce (hoping that the cook will make up for the lack of meat by adding whatever veggie they could find).
I’m not saying locals don’t eat well or never eat veggies, I guess if you can cook you do whatever you want. But in restaurants, let’s just say you are unlikely to see a lot of green in your plate.
I crave vegetables. I can’t wait to steam broccoli and add carrots to my soups. Celery… oh, celery!
Showering, peeing and sleeping alone
As much as I hate this line, you won’t understand the issue unless you are a parent. When you have young kids, peeing alone is a rare luxury (unless you have a fetish, but then it’s your problem). With Mark, bathroom breaks become pit stops much like during a Formula 1 race. Sometime, I pee and blow my nose at the same time, just to be more efficient.
When we travel, Mark usually tags along with me when we take a bathroom break. I often have to wash his hands, clean the pacifier or whatever mess he made, or change him, so it makes sense for him to come with me.
I don’t mind company, except I would really like to pee in peace. Now that he is older, I taught him to wait for me in front of the stall. He doesn’t like it. “Mommy! Mommy!” he screams. “Mark, I’m right HERE. You can see my feet, can’t you?” And that’s usually when he crawls under the stall. “Mommy pee-pee.” Yes honey, I was. I was.
Same goes at the hotel. Three people sharing a small room, you have to forget about privacy. We often all slept in the same bed, and I took many showers with Mark because it was easier. I don’t mind being naked around the two guys, except the little brat likes the water colder than I do and he pushes me away from the showerhead to get all the water.
So… coffee, veggies and privacy. Will that make it up for the fact it’s bloody freezing in Ottawa?