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Why Buenos Aires?

February 7, 2012

After a beautiful safari with all five of our children during Christmas, Jeannette’s birthday on the Serengeti and New Year’s in the most romantic setting of Zanzibar, we returned to Ethiopia to pack up our belongings. Our departure was a complicated, bitter-sweet event, which can not yet be explained here. Hence our relative silence, as we bite our tongues and sit on our hands, to recover from profound disappointment.

Jeannette’s sister, Elaine, who resides outside of Frankfurt, Germany, provided us sanctuary as we applied for new visas to Nigeria and Niger. Elaine, her husband, Patrick and daughter, Sam took great care of us. In less than two weeks we gained back all the weight we had lost during the prior 4-5 months and after two days, was finally able to relish normal intestinal functioning. During the first week, Jeannette slept like a teenager home from college; her sleep deprivation had been so severe! Besides their wonderful hospitality and cooking, we were taken to marvelous museums and castles. Though the weather was gray, rainy and cold, we enjoyed taking Pinka (family dog) for a run in the park and felt comforted and recharged.

We had planned to stay with Elaine as long as it took to figure out our plans and obtain expedited visas. We followed the news stories closely and were saddened about the growing unrest and increasing violence in Northern Nigeria, our intended destination. We now had to weigh the investment of traveling only to Niger instead of to both countries for an extended period. (Travel is difficult and expensive, so we were trying to schedule our medical trips according to time and regions.) We decided we would like join our friends in Niger anyway. They are two American surgeons who have been working in Africa for decades and who established their own fistula hospital in the south of the country. The inauguration was scheduled for this month of February. We were very excited by their warm, welcoming invitation and considered extending our stay in this country. Unfortunately; however, other problems arose, including new governmental regulations and it seems we would be more useful after these have been resolved. (We do not know the details, so must restrain from interpreting the scent of the ubiquitous poison of African government bureaucracy! Oops, but I [JMP] did anyway.)

Our optimism can be described as either whimsical naiveté or inspirational resilience, thus our travel to Berlin to obtain our visas for Niger anyway.

So the month of February was about to become an unscheduled sabbatical month, when my brilliant and generous husband declared, “I think we should go to Buenos Aires… you can tango and I can work on my Spanish.”

“Que (What)?” I responded.

“Well, we were planning to end the sabbatical this summer with a month in Spain,” continued Chris; “I thought we could just switch the schedule around and go now… but it is winter in Spain right now. It is summer in Argentina.”

“What?! Yes…YES!”

So here we are, in a lovely apartment overlooking Avenida Santa Fe in Buenos Aires.

We’re consuming large portions of grass fed beef and organic pork… and chicken (which I did not have to kill, pluck or gut myself!). We are also enjoying tastings of Malbecs and Torrontes. Thanks to Chris’s immeasurable assistance I am almost done with my book. But most importantly, we are dancing tango every day!

We take more formal lessons on Tuesday and Thursdays at a tango Ashram, hosting visitors from all over the world. The Maestro (Guru) is Rodolfo, a very experienced teacher/performer, whose moniker is El Gato (the cat); his eyes are green and his posture alone exhibits feline grace and elegance.  His studio is crowded with his disciples, who attend to the countless students who arrive through the long private alley to the tiny portico. Two small, dark studios can be entered from the patio, each with unevenly slatted flooring, mercilessly tread upon by thousands of tango shoes. At the moment, it is almost 40 Centigrade in Buenos Aires, and the rooms are like saunas even before we commence our lesson or practica.

Chris has been assigned to dance with Laura and Ana; both young, beautiful Argentinian tangueras, who silently and magically embody Rodolfo’s pedagogy on the dance floor. Meanwhile, Rodolfo also observes my technique as I dance with another one of his disciples, Mauro- an inexhaustible tanguero who demonstrates great loyalty to Rodolfo and to Tango. During our “private” sessions with the Maestro, we are enclosed within one of the two studios and we work out our respective challenges and goals, while negotiating space. Except for my love of Tango, the heat would be unbearable, as perspiration soaks through our clothing and the cracked wooden floor is quickly polka dotted from the sweat dripping off our noses, chins and arms. It is delicious! (Prerequisites of Tango- comfortable in close embrace and not squeamish about sweat!)

Tango is my religion and Buenos Aires is my Mecca.

Today, I learned another lesson through Tango and the sage words of the ma

What is business but a dance between two companies?
What is life but a dance between people?
— Jeannette Potts, M.D. - Dr. Tango
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