Monthly Archives: June 2010

Down on the Funny Farm in Northern Argentina


“Hello, I’m Enrique!” the farm owner said in Spanish.

“Hello, I’m Enrique!” the Dutch girl repeated back, shaking his hand. She, like many guests that come to the ranch to go horseback riding, did not speak a word of Spanish.

“No, I’m Enrique!” he contested, pointing at his chest with a furrowed brow.

“No, I’m Enrique!” she repeated back not understanding at all what she was saying, but contesting it with great confidence and pride. Sofia, the other translator, told her with a little snicker, “Um, you just said that you were Enrique… twice.” The Dutch girl blushed. Enrique pointed at her, and with a quaking, husky belly laugh, bellowed in English, “RED FACE, RED FACE!” The poor girl turned 100 shades of purple.

And so it goes on what I nicknamed the Funny Farm where I have worked as an interpreter since April. Located twenty minutes outside of Chicoana, a small town one hour outside of Salta in Northwestern Argentina, the ranch is that kind of place no one would go looking for you, or know how to get there if they were. When I arrived, Enrique told me, “There are two types of people that stay here: crazies and refugees. We’ll wait and see which category you fit into. I personally am the only normal one. Everyone else is crazy.” He happens to have an entire room full of old guns, claims to love witches, and is afraid of vomit and spiders. Totally normal.

As of now, Enrique has officially diagnosed me as crazy, though I contest that I am not. As a bargaining chip, I do admit that if I were crazy I wouldn’t recognize my insanity because I was … crazy. I attribute his prognosis to this simple, and embarrassing fact: I have broken more things during my short time on the ranch than I most likely have in the course of my lifetime. Here’s the list: two chairs (one metal; one wood), a glass lamp, a cup, the toilet’s external connecting pipe, the toilet’s flusher, a glass, another lamp outside my metal crazy-bin trailer. I also nearly broke my tooth when I crunched down on a rock hidden in my black beans. I also shorted out the electricity in my trailer, not once, but twice! The electrician knows me more by habit now than by name.

But, I think in a way we all are crazy. Sofie, who has years of horse-riding experience, fell down in front of her horse before even getting on it. Nicolas, one Gaucho who works on the funny farm, is absolutely terrified of frogs. Ricardo, the other Gaucho who works on the funny farm, walks with his broad chest as high as his ego and refuses to use words like cute or call his horse Cinnamon as I have named it. But one day, his mother caught him singing “This Little Light of Mine,” which he always makes fun of me for chanting while we are out on the trail.

As Jack Kerouac claims, ‚ÄúThe only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

And besides, we are all just a little bit crazy, except Enrique…

Cooking "Super Panchos," or hot dogs, in the gun room with Sofia and Enrique


Filed under Culture, Humorous Stories, Life Lessons, Narratives, Travel