It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have a soft spot for most rodents. (Minus rats, which I attribute to horrible experiences in the L’Enfant metro station in DC. Sorry, Clara.)
Argentina happens to be home to the largest rodent in the world. Known in the US as a capybara, down here they are called carpinchos. Looking vaguely like a brown, webbed-foot guinea pig, they live near water in groups of 10-20 and can weigh more than 75 lbs when fully grown. And, more importantly, they are the most judgmental animals known to man. Mr. Winks can look incredibly judgmental of what you’re eating for dinner, the movie you’ve chosen to watch, or what time you’re going to bed, and he is only about 3 lbs. Multiply that, and give them wilderness street smarts… and you’ve got a highly judgmental giant rodent. Or I could just be projecting.
On our way to work, T and I pass through a wildlife preserve with a sign that encourages us to not hit the wildlife, including capybaras, marsh deer, and jacares (a type of crocodile). We spent the first week trying to see a herd of capybaras. The locals seem to afford them the same attitude that Pennsylvanians have towards white-tailed deer: adorable, and even tasty, but don’t hit them unless you would like to get a new car.
We saw herds of what we were sure were capybara in the distance (or, for all we know, could have been anything vaguely brown and round-ish). But last week, we hit the jackpot. Driving home, we saw a herd of capys right next to the guard rail. And not just a herd–a family! What follows are photographic evidence of 1) how tolerant T is of my obsession with rodents that he backed up, turned around the car, and stuck his head out of the window to get photos of them, and 2) how adorable capys are.
Capybaras can actually be pets in the US, albeit only in the most exotic-friendly states. They can be trained to wear leashes, but they would probably be a horrible pet to clean up after. They prefer to do their business in water, so they need to have access to a pool. Which one then has to clean for them. However, much like their smaller guinea pig cousins, they have wiry hair, enjoy eating lots of veggies, and tolerate people petting them. According to the Google (through which all things must be true), however, capybaras hate hugs.
At some point T and I plan on going to the fancy-schmancy hotel outside of Posadas and getting the full wildlife tour they offer.
The weather here has gotten slightly cooler. Whereas early last week was easily 100 degrees, it’s a chilly 85 out there now after some strong storms over the weekend. We spent the weekend watching “Los Simpsons” and “Que Esperar quando Esperando” (What to Expect When You’re Expecting) on Fox. A fun adventure in learning colloquial Spanish from a show and movie we already knew the storyline to.
Something that is blessedly similar worldwide–technology jargon! Everyone knows what an iPhone is. Everyone can identify the word “internet.” They all know “wifi.” Thank goodness for the importation of American jargon. I actually used the word “user-friendly” in a meeting today when I couldn’t possibly think of the Spanish equivalent, and the tech guy totally understood what I was saying.
As a final note, I remembered that T took a picture of us in the plane on his iPod right before we took off. Here we are in all of our traveling glory: