Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The unrest in Argentina unsettles this Minnesota mom October 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:43 PM
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TYPICALLY, MASS PROTESTS and violence in another country would not overly concern me.

But when your daughter is in that nation’s capital, where left-wing party members have overtaken the streets in massive protests, and where a 23-year-old has been shot and killed during the demonstrations, you pay attention.

Thankfully, I knew none of this until my 22-year-old was safely out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back in the U.S. My first hint of the political unrest came in an e-mail I opened just hours before her arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Thursday morning. She was already in Houston, waiting for her connecting flight to Minnesota, when she e-mailed me.

She wrote of demonstrators blocking traffic on Buenos Aires streets and of a temporary subway system shut-down, resulting in difficulty securing a cab to reach her airport shuttle bus Wednesday evening.

Only later did I learn of the death of Mariano Ferreyra, identified as a Partido Obrero militant. According to the Buenos Aires Herald, Ferreyra was “shot in the chest and killed during a violent confrontation between railroad workers and members of the leftist Worker’s Party (Partido Obrero)” on Wednesday.

Even after reading numerous online newspaper articles about the shooting, the demonstrations, and a blockage of a portion of the Panamericana highway by Kraft Foods Inc. workers, I still don’t understand the situation. And, yes, that would be Illinois-based Kraft which has a plant in suburban Buenos Aires that produces cookies and other food. The Argentine factory was involved in a labor dispute more than a year ago that led to a larger dispute between leftists and the government.

Although my daughter was never in any danger, just the fact that she watched angry protestors march along the street past her apartment toward their gathering spot at the Obelisk 10 blocks away is enough to unsettle me.

The shooting occurred in another area of the city, not anywhere near her home along Avenida Corrientes in the Once/Balvanera neighborhood.

The bottom line in all of this, for me, comes down to my relief that my daughter is back in the United States, far, far away from Argentina’s current discord.

She told me, too, of a two-day strike by garbage collectors that left stinky trash piled high along streets and sidewalks. As in the past, even before the shut-down, she’s seen the cartoneros (which means “cardboard”) collect and dig through garbage.

My daughter likely would have photos to show me of the demonstrators and the garbage, except that she was mugged in a northern Argentina city several weeks before the mess in Buenos Aires. That crime left her without her camera, with only her passport and the emergency funds I wired to her.

Yet, despite all of this, I’m certain, that my daughter would return, in a heartbeat, to Buenos Aires, where on two visits, she’s lived for nearly a year. She loves the culture, the language, the people.

Yet, I hope, that for awhile anyway, she will reside in North, not South, America, where today, for this hour, this minute, life seems calmer to me than on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A really bad day until…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:10 PM
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I HAVEN’T HAD A DAY as crappy as this one in a long time. And I really do detest that previous word choice. But up until a few moments ago, no other adjective seemed quite as defining.

The badness of this day started early this morning when my teenaged son woke up feeling sick. Fortunately for me, he called for his dad. (Everyone in this household knows that dad is more medically-inclined than mom.) With ice water to sip and an ice cream bucket tucked beside him in bed, my boy fell back asleep. Unfortunately, the parents did not—until around the time the alarm clicked on.

Then, about mid morning, I heard the unmistakable sound of puking coming from my teen’s upstairs bedroom. I can handle vomit and sick kids. But I was already worrying about whether my junior-in-high-school son will be well enough to take his college entrance exam on Saturday. I am wondering even more after the second episode of throwing up. (If you’re reading this post prior to, or right after, eating, please accept my apologies.)

Next, I had to deal with multiple stains on an off-white carpet. Stuff happens and I did not, to my surprise, become upset.

But then…I discovered my failure to empty my daughter’s jacket pocket of a map. That’s only a problem it you’ve tossed the coat and other clothing in the washing machine. I had done that, after supposedly checking the unfamiliar black coat for pockets and finding no pockets. Apparently my eyesight is not what it once was, or it could have something to do with the dark basement laundry room. The mess of paper-plastered clothes is now back in the wash and the laundry room floor is littered with paper shreds.

All of the events of my crappy, crappy morning were on my mind as I reached into my mailbox and pulled out my mail, including a letter from District One Hospital. I ripped open the envelope.

It read in part: “We are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent mammography examination appear normal.”

Suddenly my crappy, crappy day got a whole lot better.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling