Reunión con Maia

Our colectivo and the forgetful driver.

We rented our current apartment through mid-December and didn’t see anything in our price range after that time on So we asked Véronica at La Montaña to put us in touch with an apartment hunter she knows.

Luciana not only found us a centrally-located bungalow (two rooms!) in our price range, she took an interest in us and in arranging a play date with her five-year-old daughter Maia, who happens to be in Lou’s class at Primeros Pasos.

During the apartment search and while trying to set up the play date, Luciana and Pete were in frequent communication by text and phone. After a few false starts, we settled on a play date at Luciana’s house on Sunday, when her husband would be on a camping trip.

Maia. Photo by Lou.

Luciana and her family live on Lago Gutierrez, about 20 minutes outside of Bariloche, so the plan was for Pete, Lou and me to take the #50 colectivo to the end point—called Casa Azul—and then Luciana would pick us up. Since we haven’t seen any bus schedules, we just went to the bus stop and waited. When we boarded the bus about 20 minutes later Pete asked the driver to let us know when we had reached Casa Azul.

We rode for quite a while and eventually the bus left blacktop and drove on a rocky, dusty road. Pete and I looked at each other with wide eyes. Then the bus circled a roundabout and started heading in the direction we had just come from. At the next stop, in front of a restaurant and kiosco overlooking the lake, Pete went forward to ask the driver when we would get to our stop. The drive apologized, sort of, for forgetting to tell us to get off at the roundabout where there was no sign or obvious marker, and no blue house. The driver proposed some complicated bus-switching scheme and we decided to just get off and call Luciana. Again.

I was glad that Pete’s Spanish was good enough to explain what had happened and to ask without too much awkwardness for Luciana to drive an extra 10 minutes to come get us. She was very gracious.

When we pulled up to the driveway in Luciana’s car, a friend and neighbor of hers was dropping off Luciana’s nine-year-old son Nino (Valentino) and his friend. Nino opened the gate and ran down the hill to the house, which sits on a wooded slope looking toward mountains and the lake.

Three dogs greeted us. After Luciana’s family lost their black lab and golden retriever (to thieves? to a more interesting living situation?), these other dogs showed up and decided to stay.

One of the dogs. Photo by Lou.

Luciana told us that the first night she met her husband in Buenos Aires, he said that one day he’d take her away from concrete and traffic jams to live in Bariloche, his hometown. After their son was born they started working with an architect in Buenos Aires to design the Lago Gutierrez house, which ended up being a mistake because the architect wasn’t familiar with the log-cabin style of construction that is typical of this area. So they have two supporting beams that weren’t part of the original plan on either side of their Russian stove in order to support the bathroom above. Water for the house is pumped out of the lake, cooking gas comes from a tank, and May through October they heat the house with wood (the bedrooms also have electric heaters). They are at the end of the cable that brings mediocre Internet service, and Luciana says there is no amount of money she can pay to make it better.

Nino and friend. Photo by Maia.

We brought a dozen facturas (pastries) and some temporary tattoos with us, and used eating and tattoo application to help break the ice between Maia and Lou. The turning point came when Maia took an interest in our camera and Lou showed her how to use it. After that they chased each other around (and collided and cried and bled) and, with ongoing encouragement for Lou, played in Maia’s room where she fortunately had a Fisher-Price style construction toy among the dolls and tea cups and pink fluff. Lou occasionally came to us and asked how to say things in Spanish, but it seemed like his real challenge was the usual one of overcoming bashfulness.

Luciana with a My Little Pony. Photo by Maia.

Pete and I talked with Luciana or, more accurately, Pete and Luciana talked and I listened. Her parents divorced when she was five and her father went to live in LA, where she visited him every summer. She speaks English “cara dura” (shamelessly, or in my estimation, pretty well), but I didn’t want to force the conversation into English too often. Her father eventually remarried and moved to Mexico, so she’s spent time there, and she has traveled to other places including Singapore and Brazil, where her family took a two-month vacation last summer. She is an economist by training and worked for banks in Buenos Aires. When she moved to Bariloche she knew she couldn’t find the same kind of work, so she took a year to think through her next career move. During that time she started to manage a few rental properties for friends and family—while she was renting out her apartment back in Buenos Aires—and now she has her own property management company and has acquired additional properties in Buenos Aires. She also arranges car rentals and excursions.

We stayed for several hours before we asked Luciana to call a remise (taxi) to pick us up. A sweet gentleman named Luis drove all the way from Bariloche to get us and charged only $12 for the trip.

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