A last minute invitation, an even later decision to accept it, and I spent this week vagabonding round Buenos Aires, living out of a rucksack and sleeping in a different bed every night. Reminded me of my wasted youth. To be honest, I had a ball, catching up with good friends, meeting new people, visiting projects, hopping on and off buses and trains, and criss-crossing the crazy city.
The main purpose of going was a two day conference, being organised by a friend, to present the United Nations Disability Convention which Argentina has signed, and to start the process towards ratification. Day one was “in house” for advocates, self-advocates and NGOs. For my purposes, this was well worth while; the sessions were interesting, the discussion animated, and I met some useful people to follow up afterwards. Day two was much more high-powered. Most of the people from the first day attended, but the presentations from the front consisted of a succession of panels made up of politicians, senators, deputies, and judges discussing the implications of the convention in broader terms. The main thing that I learnt on day two is that I need an urgent crash course in Argentinean politics since I had no idea who most of the up-front people were, or what they had done to obtain their job descriptions. The final session of the day was a series of testimonies by disabled people which, after the parade of dignitaries, was very refreshing to come back to earth and hear some normal people talking about their real lives in understandable terminology.
Making the most of the trip to the big bad city, I went to see our good friends Ramon and Fran in Rafael Castillo, stayed the night with them, and popped in briefly to say hello in the home where I used to work. I went to Lanus to see another friend, Lucrecia, who has just realised her ambition to set up a day-project for people with learning disabilities. This was inaugurated three months ago, so I was able to visit the brand new functioning project. I went to Palermo to see my “sister” Cristina, where we stayed up half the night drinking tea and talking. The next day I took a series of buses to La Plata, where I enjoyed catching up with some Latin Link colleagues, followed by visiting the Cobeñas family who as well as being wonderful people, are involved in some real “sleeves rolled up” life-changing self-advocacy work; I just wish I lived 700 kms closer. I stayed the night with them in La Plata, and the next morning embarked on another succession of trains, buses and automobiles to San Miguel where I visited a sheltered workshop, impressive for the professional setup of their factory; and also a day-project for people with higher support needs. Finally I met with Professor Adelma, who is an inspirational lady, involved in the disability movement in Argentina for forty pioneering years, and still characterised by her energy and vision to bring about social change.
Now I’m back in Cordoba and vaguely attempting to make sense of the many random scribblings on little scraps of paper, which after a night on a moving bus is proving too much for my tired brain. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow….