The Black Dog in Alta Gracia – Day 468
Oh Lordie, learning Spanish is challenging, especially listening to an audio. A trip to the dentist, Tim needs some treatment. Then later in the afternoon, we made friends with a black dog in Alta Gracia.
Poor Tim, he has toothache. We tried to see a dentist yesterday but no answer. Luckily Gabriella at the Language School managed to book an appointment for him.
Meanwhile, we had our third Spanish lesson. We listened to a conversation between two friends after one had just left his first Tango class. There was a list of names, and we needed to tick them off when we heard them. Oh dear. I couldn’t understand any and Tim managed two.
Eventually, after much confusion, and prompting from our tutor Santiago, we heard 6 names. We then listened to the tape for the umpteenth time, to find out information about each person; their age, profession and country they came from. Oh Lordie, lordie me! Santiago has the patience of a saint. We eventually heard that Claudia is a 20-year-old Student, Robert is a 45-year-old English Engineer and Eli is a Turkish Student of Economics. We were shattered by the end of that exercise.
Later we played “pairs” with words describing hobbies on half the pieces of paper and pictures on the others. I was good at that; It was more about remembering location than language skills! Despite our poor ability, we do enjoy the class. I hope Santiago does as well.
We ventured off to the Dentist. Marcella greeted us warmly, hugs all round – can you imagine that in England?
Tim went into her consultation room, she prodded his tooth with a metal instrument, and he nearly reached the ceiling YEOUCH! Marcella explained that he needed root canal treatment. She even called her son who spoke excellent English to ensure that we both understood what was required. They were so sweet and caring. The appointment for the surgery was made and again, hugs all around.
Argentina does have free healthcare; however, we have gone private as Tim needs immediate treatment. We are busy for the next few weeks and in remote areas so it needs sorted now. Even though this is private, the cost is still a half what it would be with an NHS Dentist in the UK
After lunch, we returned to the Language School to meet Gonzalo, the student who took us out on Monday. He was taking us to Alta Gracia to see a former Jesuit residence. He is such a lovely young man, so easy to talk with.
We hopped off the bus by the Manuel Solares Square and was greeted by a lovely black stray dog. If you ever come here, may I suggest you don’t stroke a dog as I did…otherwise you may end up taking one home!
We first went into the clock tower, built in 1938 to commemorate 350 years of the town. To our surprise inside this delightful round room was the tourist board. What a great place to work in. Sadly we couldn’t climb the spiral staircase to the clock, but Gonzalo did find out for us that a statue positioned at each corner of the clock tower represents a Jesuit monk, Indigenous person, a gaucho and a Spanish soldier.
As we came out of the tower, who should be waiting for us? The black dog. The four of us walked across to the Jesuit estancia, (landholding) and as we entered the gate, the dog sat and waited.
The Jesuits established a presence here in the early 1700s, building this beautiful place with a courtyard that has orange and lemon trees and overlooked by the deep balconies.
It was so fascinating to see Gonzalo’s love of this place. He has been to here many times, yet his passion hasn’t waned at all. He even noticed the smell of the ancient original wooden doors, it was as if he knew every nook and cranny of the place and his enthusiasm certainly rubbed off onto me.
The place has an orderly, neat charm with peace and tranquillity. Whitewashed walls with beautiful wrought ironwork at the windows, which seemed ideally placed to see the views of the area. I can imagine the Monks overlooking their land, checking that the natives were looking after their cattle and crops. The Jesuits were self-sufficient with any surplus traded to supply the order with religious and educational needs.
The monastery eventually became a private residence in 1810, and past to the nation in the late 1980s, turned into a museum and declared a World Historical Heritage Site in 2000.
We walked along a corridor and up a narrow wood-clad staircase leading us to a window giving a better view of the glorious dome situated over the church. Above was a curved brick ceiling that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. How the roof stayed there, I will never know. I got down those stairs quickly despite Tim saying that the ceiling had stood the test of time!
After walking across the garden, with fig trees and bushes of herbs, we arrived at the blacksmith's, with examples of nails, hinges, locks and keys forged here with the biggest bellows I have ever seen. In the central part of the house, we wandered around the rooms, imagining Monks quietly praying, reading the scriptures, or the latter noble families sitting around the grand dining table, eating their Empanadas with a glass of Malbec.
There was even the communal two-storey toilet block where faeces dropped down a steep hole. This was then used to fertilise the land and, with an ingenious system of small wooden floodgates, the remainder was flushed away by water from the nearby dam.
We walked out of the residency and who should be sitting waiting for us? The black dog. This time he followed us into the church. We did laugh when we saw inside one of the confession boxes, another dog lying on its back probably saying a few Hail Marys.
The church was charming with an elaborate gold leafed Rococo woodwork in the pulpit, with a balcony above kept for the rich, and the dome with beautiful paintings of Angels.
Time for a drink, with our trusted friend patiently lying down by us. We had such an enriching conversation with Gonzalo, discovering more about Argentina since the sudden inflation increase due to the IMF interest rate change, causing many businesses to be bankrupt and many without work, receiving benefit for 1 year. We talked about Brexit, the issue with the Irish borders and the Good Friday agreement.
Gonzalo is very well read, and it was so nice to have an in-depth conversation with someone from Argentina. We were saying just yesterday that we were missing that, due to our lack of Spanish language. Being bi-lingual must be wonderful.
We walked around the Dam and the pretty town, being followed by our black dog as Gonzola wanted us to see the Howard Johnson Sierras Hotel and casino which we reached in perfect time to see a fantastic sunset. He said he’d love to live there and we chatted about the desire to have a large house. I used to, but once we achieved this, I saw that this doesn’t make us happy, nothing outside of us ever does. Happiness only ever comes from within. Large houses are great for family occasions and parties, but the downside is it means a lot more cleaning!
We caught our bus back to Cordoba, and as we passed through the town, I spotted our black dog, searching for his next companions. Adios perro negro.