Ever since we arrived in Buenos Aires, my mind has been churning, turning and burning with thoughts on one topic – love.
Maybe this has something to do with being single on Valentine’s Day. Or perhaps it’s because I’m still finding my way through recent heartache. Or maybe it’s because couples in Buenos Aires spontaneously burst into make-out sessions ALL the time, all over the city. Seriously.
Whatever the reason, the topic of love is at the forefront of my mind. Yet, when I think about “love” I tend to think of romance. And while romance is a beautiful facet of love, it’s not the whole picture. So in an effort to change my perspective, I decided to glance back at my Valentines week through a new lens. And I found some unexpected little love stories:
1) Elly’s Emergency
When we first arrived in Buenos Aires, we stayed at a hostel in the Palermo neighborhood. The location was great – close to restaurants, museums, nightlife, etc. But let’s just say that staying in a hostel in your thirties leaves something to be desired. Our room was approximately 45 square feet, sans air-conditioning (in 90 degree heat) and our continental breakfast included Cocoa Puffs.
Most of the other guests were in their early twenties and traveling on a shoestring budget. So after the first day, Rachel and I assumed we weren’t going to meet anyone who we felt a connection with. But that’s when we met Elly.
Elly is a fellow 30-something from Iran who’s taking a travel break before returning to Spain to finish her doctorate. Within minutes, we were all talking like old friends. But soon after we met, it was time to go our separate ways. Elly was heading to the Argentinian countryside for a few days, and Rachel and I were off to explore the city.
As Elly walked out the door I said “Hey, we’re getting an apartment, so when you get back on Friday, just let us know if you need a place to stay!”
“Ok, thanks!” She said.
And quickly I wondered if that was a really odd thing to offer to someone who I just met thirty minutes ago… “Oh well,” I thought to myself, “it’s nice to be nice!”
Rachel and I spent the next few days taking in the urban skyline, the expansive green spaces and the tree-lined streets that make up Buenos Aires.
There’s something about this city is completely energizing. We spent every night staying up later than we have in years. But after a few nights of that, it was time to catch up on our sleep.
So Friday night around 1AM, Rachel woke me up with a panicked voice. “Elly just messaged me. The hostel lost her reservation. She’s called a bunch of others but nobody has any availability!”
Yikes. The thought of being alone in a foreign country, in the middle of the night, with nowhere to stay is seriously scary, especially when you’re a young woman traveling by yourself. Oh yeah, and it was pouring down rain.
“Oh no… Tell her to come here!” I said groggily. Rachel agreed and sent her a message with our address inviting her over.
I started looking through closets to procure extra blankets and pillows. I found some and brought them into the living room. Rachel was standing by the couch, where she turned to me and said, “this couch is tiny! There’s no way she can sleep on this.”
I tried to lie down on the couch and had to prop my feet up on the armrest in order to fit. “Yep,” I said “way too small.”
So after a quick brainstorm we decide to create a makeshift bed on our living room floor out of yoga mats, blankets and throw pillows. We did this while we’re waiting for Elly to arrive. But after thirty minutes, she still wasn’t there, and we hadn’t heard from her
That’s one of the problems with international travel; you’re completely dependent on Wi-Fi to communicate. So there are periods of time when you’re completely out of touch.
But at this point, it’s about 2:30AM and we’re really worried. It’s late and she’s alone. So we did the only thing we could do at that point – we prayed. We prayed for her safety, and that God would quickly deliver her to her destination.
Just as we finish the prayer, my phone dinged with a text message, “Hey! I found a hostel with availability on my way over. Thanks for the offer, so sorry to keep you guys up!”
2) Ross da Boss
Ten days ago, we knew exactly one person in Buenos Aires – Ross. And we hadn’t even met him yet.
Ross is a friend of my good friends Megan and Jonathan. He’s an American who lives and works in Buenos Aires. And before we arrived, I linked up with him on Whatsapp. Which is apparently the only way that hip, young people connect these days.
He sent us tons of recommendations and information about how to spend our time in Buenos Aires. And he even offered to meet us and show us around the Recoleta neighborhood.
And as it turns out – Ross is awesome!
We all hit it off and ended up hanging out a few more times. On our last free day in Buenos Aires, we planned to meet Ross at the National Cathedral, before walking through the San Telmo Market.
So when Rachel and I got a taxi that morning, we told the driver to take us to “San Telmo” and assumed that the cathedral would be nearby. How big can one market be?
The driver dropped us off at the opposite end of the market, and since we’re Wi-Fi dependent, we had no way to let Ross know that we were going to be late! So Rachel and I booked it to the other end of the market; which was at least two miles away.
We showed up at the Cathedral 45 minutes late, and luckily, there was Ross! He looked relieved and said, “Hey! I was getting worried about you two!”
So after many apologies and jokes about our inability to navigate the city, we walked through the market together.
3 – The Albino Bat
One of the perks of visiting Buenos Aires is its location. It’s perched right along the river’s mouth and on the Atlantic Ocean; which means it’s a one-hour ferry ride from Uruguay. We heard that Colonia, Uruguay is beautiful and since we’re eager to get as many stamps in our passports as possible, we decided to go!
When we arrived in Colonia, we found that the town was cute, but boring, and incredibly hot (97 degrees). And we were stuck there for eight hours waiting on our return ferry. Ugh.
The only thing to do in Colonia is walk. So we walked… and then walked some more. And as we walked, I said a silent prayer about our next steps on this journey. I knew with all certainty that God told us to go to Buenos Aires. I could feel it when we arrived. Everything about the city felt right.
But where to next? Our apartment rental would be up in a few days, and though we had some ideas about where to go, nothing felt certain.
We were thinking about heading to Iguazu Falls since, while we were in Mexico, Rachel had a vivid vision of a waterfall during yoga. But I was feeling unsure, so as we continued walking, I asked God to give me some confirmation about our next steps.
Just then, I turned my head back to the path in front of me and I saw a huge, white, winged creature flying directly towards my forehead. It came so close to me that I had to jump out of it’s flight path. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t an albino bat (my first guess) but the largest white butterfly I’d ever seen. In fact, it’s the only white butterfly I’ve seen since we arrived in South America.
“That was weird!” I say to Rachel, as the butterfly heads off into the distance.
We walk to the church in the main square of Colonia to spend a little time in prayer and shade. But as I’m praying, my mind keeps drifting back to the butterfly. It’s all I can think about. So once we find Wi-Fi access, I Google South American butterflies and learn that Iguazu Falls is one of the largest natural butterfly preserves in the world.
I smile to myself and say “Touché Lord. I guess we’re headed to Igauzu!”
Ok, I know what you’re thinking… where is she going with this? So here’s the point –
At first glance, these stories seem little… almost insignificant. There’s nothing earth shattering about them. But that’s just it – love is quality, not quantity. Love is opening your home to someone you’ve only known for thirty minutes – no questions asked. It’s waiting for 45 minutes in 97-degree heat for a couple of girls you barely know. And it’s having the faith that God will lead you to exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Love is giving, receiving and believing. It’s actions, not words. It’s shown through grandiose gestures or seemingly insignificant acts of kindness – but it’s all love. It can be palpable, or go completely unnoticed. But the result of loving isn’t the important part – the act of loving is what matters. And sometimes, I forget that. So when I look back at my Valentines week, I can see that I was surrounded by love the whole time, it just looked a little different than I’m used to.