When I'm traveling in Argentina, as important to me as my passport is the small blank notebook I carry.
A teacher grading the notebook for neatness would be displeased. The entries are made in city cabs and on bumpy country roads, or written in haste and confusion when receiving directions to places I have never seen, in a language I do not understand.
I list Buenos Aires subway stations on the "A" line - so old its cars have wooden seats and interiors - where I need to board or disembark. And bus numbers, and the telephone number for taxis.
The state of my finances is noted: pesos spent, dollars remaining.
The favorite Argentine writers of a friend appear, as do the titles of short stories for me to read by Jorge Luis Borges, suggested by another friend.
Dishes I especially enjoy, such as my first meal in Argentina - a steak garnished with asparagus, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes - and cannelloni de maiz, warm pancakes filled with corn and ham.
And calendar surprises. September 21: end of winter, beginning of spring. December 21: first day of summer.
I describe sights and places in my notebook. Some entries:
From the top of a skyscraper, magnificent views of Buenos Aires, the Rio de la Plata, and, to the east, the coast of Uruguay. By the harbor is Immigrant House, the Ellis Island of Buenos Aires. Here, hundreds of thousands of European immigrants arrived, a history shared with my country and city.
Flying to the city of Salta in Argentina's northwest. Below, an immense landscape of ruler-straight roads, zigzagging rivers, and then the towering Andes mountains, which I read so much about as a child. Never did I imagine I would ever see them.
At Salta: Buenos Aires is 1,500 kilometers from here. The border with Chile, 350 km. Bolivia's border, closer. Borders hold a fascination for me.
By car through valleys and gorges. Sights along the road. The Andes. Dry riverbeds. Indian children walking to school. Gauchos on horseback. Cattle, goats, llamas. The abandoned track and signals of the railroad to Bolivia. A rustling sign warns passersby: Pare, Mire, Escuche - "Stop, Look, Listen."
We come upon a mountain path, once an Inca road. Runners connected the far-flung Incan Empire, as charioteers did the Roman Empire.
The desert. Cactus thorns touched by the wind produce a melody. In the distance, the snow-covered Andean peak of Cachi.
The Argentine sky at night. A different hemisphere, another sky. My first sight of the Southern Cross.