IMGP0047 At 10am I was on the 152 bus in Santa Fé. It was packed. Horns were yelling outside at other cars, buses, taxis. I was panicking at being 15 minutes late, at least. I strained through the bodies, the dirty glass, the pollution in the air to see the numbers on the buildings. How could it be taking what seemed like hours to move each block? I tried to phone my destination. Answerphone. I decided to stop.

‘Just stop Sal.’ I said to myself.

By 10.30 I was walking through a glass door in Arenales and up stairs to what turned out to be 6 hours of ‘stop’. It was beautiful, nurturing, and for me rather mentally challenging: an ‘Anti Stress Day’ at the Aqua Vita Medical Spa (thank you Catrin for recommending it to Yasmin, and thank you Yasmin for recommending it to me). It should have been only 5 hours of ‘stop’ for $385 pesos (a fortune to me at the moment), but somehow it stretched to 6, and I felt myself stretching out with each passing hour…

I began with the ‘decompression chamber’: this was where I had to take off my clothes and put on the strangest paper knickers and bra you can imagine. I am very skinny right now, and it really did feel like I had a huge empty paper bag on my chest. I lasted in that about 2 minutes: ‘Sod it!’ I thought, ‘I’ve been in the naked spas of Ulan Bataar, Mongolia. I ain’t wearing an empty paper bag for anyone.’

Over water with lemon in the ‘Relax room’ (I was fantasising seriously about coffee), Yasmin explained to me that today is an auspicious day 8/7/8. A great day to ‘stop’. I liked that. Then as I was chatting away rather too noisily, I noticed the sign asking for silence.

After 15 minutes alone in an aromatherapy steam I felt my mind start to calm, and my massage therapist found all the knots,  made from months of tension, that I had in my shoulders. She got rid of them. The anti-aging facial made me feel like I had skin of silk (I don’t). Chatting with Yasmin about tango, while drowning in algae and bubbles in the huge hydrotheraphy tub was the sort of girly delight that I never normally experience. Surely 5 hours had passed, by that point? Er… no. I was given a fruit salad and a pink grapefruit tea. Then a full body exfoliation (chilly) was followed by a hot mud wrap (like being in an electric blanket) and after a final shower (think I counted 5 in total) I was smothered in moisturiser and left to relax.

How often do you just stop for 6 hours? Do nothing? Be touched? Feel cared for? Me… well I can probably say that before today, never. And it was wonderful, but too it was strange. I noticed the thoughts that drifted in: the things that have been preoccupying my days for the past few months (tried to push them out), ideas for my book (coming in rushes, and making me want to ask for a pen), the vivid images of those Mongolian spas: me and Chuka in the Gobi Sauna, a longing to return to Mongolia with Carlos, the desperate obsessive desire for a Burger King with bacon and cheese (once I thought of that, I was doomed… I actually wanted to leave instantly, and I hardly ever eat Burger King… what was that all about?). I noticed how I nearly cried once or twice, when someone said a kind word to me, when I felt the massage therapist’s hands touch my hands, when I realised this experience really was mine.

Finding myself outside in Arenales in the dimming natural light was bewildering. I walked in a slightly staggering manner towards Santa Fé. I was overwhelmingly hungry and I could hardly believe my eyes to see the Burger King on the corner: spacious, empty, the large pictures of giant cheeseburgers beckoning me inside. It did cross my mind that I had just paid almost $400 pesos to get my equilibrium back and that I was now considering destroying all that in a few mouthfuls of fat, salt and E numbers, but alas it took me less than 4 heart beats to be requesting my ‘triple stacker with bacon and cheese’… ah Sal, always the child when it comes to food cravings: I want it, I need it, I gotta have it now. Anyway after seeing myself in that empty paper bag, I reckon I need some fattening up.

As I finished off the burger, through the flashes of food guilt, I fantasised about strolling down Santa Fé doing a spot of window shopping, maybe meeting Carlos later for a coffee, which Milonga we might go to tonight. Within one block I could barely keep my eyes open and I was only dreaming of the subway station, the walk to my apartment, my sofa with a blanket and sleep. I don’t think I have felt so physically heavy with exhaustion in a very long time. I remember when I was a kid and we used to swim in the freezing North Sea, the part I liked best was when you put your clothes on afterwards, especially my socks over freezing feet: the feeling of a body cleansed, chilled, exposed… all covered up again, cosy and safe. That’s how I feel tonight, snuggled up inside my dressing gown, under a blanket, on my sofa.

Mentally spacious. Physically safe. Yesterday something came to a close. Today I stopped. Tomorrow’s the start of a new phase for me.

And I am ready.

…and incase you just can’t imagine my tucking into that burger and you need a smile today, well here’s a crazy one I took earlier of me and C. and two BK triple stackers with bacon and cheese…



6 Responses

  1. Dear Sally,

    I have just discovered your blog whilst searching for images of Tango Dancers on google.
    Really admire your bravery in starting again. See parallels with my life of late. I am an artist and aside from starting again in my life over the last six months, I have recently started painting more dancers (please see link to ‘limited edition prints’ on my web-site home page). I love to dance and to feel free, though I am intuitive and have not learnt professionally. My work is all about fluidity and movement and I guess it is natural that I have gravitated to dance, particularly Flamenco and the Latin American dances.
    I must get back to work, but I just felt I should get in touch. You really have become a very proficient dancer, and I hope you continue to be happy in Buenos Aires

    Best wishes,

    Amy Goodman

  2. Amy

    WOW! I can’t believe you found me and got in touch. I have actually been to the workshops at Quarley when it was the Hampshire Artists Week, and I have seen your AMAZING sculptures in magazines. You are one hell of a talented woman. I am so excited that you have started working with dance. I am going to be watching your site, and so that the world who read my blog can know you too I will put the link here for everyone, and will add it to my links page:

    I wish you great success with your latest ventures.
    I lived for many years in Hampshire, and was studying garden design when I left England. I got interested in large sculptures: metal and willow, at that time. Your work is beautiful and inspirational.
    Who knows maybe one day you will come to Buenos Aires to observe the tango dancers here. If you do, make sure you tell me, so we can meet! Or if I find myself back in Hampshire I will come to Quarley and find you!

    Meanwhile I will keep dancing through life, and I wish you the same happiness that I have found as your new life unfolds.

    Suerte Amy, SC.

  3. Dear Sally,

    Your post about your “Stop” is incredibly vivid… and enticing. I wish that I could take a moment to “Stop” too! For now, I will have to continue with my million mile per minute, caffeine, sugar and trans-fat fueled hectic Toronto lifestyle…

    Hey, why do I have a sudden craving for Burger King?

    Cheers and all the best for your new “Start”,


  4. I need to “stop” too but not for a while longer. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve painted ,wallpapered, sanded, stained and varnished floors, put down quarter round moldings, dusted, cleaned, packed, etc etc etc for I am moving this weekend. Right now, I could just about collapse.

    Hopefully, soon, I will be able to “stop” – I think we all need to once in a while. Regroup, refocus, relax, and start the next day renewed and refreshed.

    Coming down in mid-September…with white fluffy stuff.

  5. Irene

    Thanks for your good wishes for my new start. It is such a relief to me that life grants us so many moments in which we can make a fresh start for ourselves: every single second if we wish! I hope that you find a moment to take a stop soon, even if it is only for 5 minutes to treat yourself to a Burger King!


    I hope your move goes well. I know only too well the exhausting process of moving. BUT September is so soon: and you will be here ‘stopping’ your world back home for a while. How wonderful for me, because I will see you again. Yippee!


  6. Yay! Since I read this post the first time I just was: (1) so glad for you; and (2) so convinced I needed to do something similar soon… Mmmmm

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