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Photo: Fernando Nieto

I’ve only ever only been to a polo game once. It was at a farm in Greenwich and I believe we went more for the fun of having a picnic with friends than to watch the actually game. If only I had then the full appreciation for the skill of the players that I have now, I would have paid a lot more attention.

We were first introduced to the idea of playing polo by our Cork friends that we hung out with in Rio. They said it was terrific fun and the best thing they did in Buenos Aires. The lessons are run by Fernando Nieto, owner of Polo Elite. It was at the time and still is the Number 1 rated “Thing to Do” on Trip Advisor for Buenos Aires and for good reason. (Trip Advisor has been a saving grace for us on this trip). And obviously since neither Nellu or I have spent any real time on a horse the experience had the potential to yield a bounty of comedic material.

Fernando has one of those temperaments perfectly suited to being a teacher. He has a seriousness about his sport but the patience to deal with grown adults who are slightly cocky but also sheepish about being on a horse in the first place. He even took our jokes in stride. (Jokes that we made of course to mask our nervousness about the whole endeavor).

There were just four of us signed up for lessons that day. In addition to Nellu and I, we were joined by a Norwegian couple, Frode and Ida. We could tell straight off they were easy-going so it seemed like we’d get along great. (Oh, Frode and Ida are likely in New York as I write this post. So if you see them, offer to take them out for a beer.)

The day progressed at a smooth pace. We got an introduction to riding, followed by some time getting used to the horses. (We were on the horses before we really had anytime to get nervous about it.) We then got instruction for how to hit the ball while staying on the horse. It turns out it’s all in the shoulder. Then we took a brief break. During our break, we got to watch Fernando train one of the horses for playing polo. It was great to see what we were supposed to look like. It’s was so elegant. Rider and horse moving so seamlessly together.

After our break and snack, we got back on the horses to play our game. Girls against boys with Fernando as the referee (who would occasionally help by guiding the ball into a scoring position). Although we were still clearly newbies, we actually played that game. The best moment for me: at one point Frode and I were going after the ball and our horses opened up to a full gallop. Our horses were competing, doing what they had been trained to do as if they’d been waiting for that moment all day.

Here’s the video I promised. It’s all shot on my FlipCam with a few gorgeous stills shot by Fernando himself.

A few more lessons and I could totally shoot video while riding a horse and hitting a small ball with a club.

Nellu Mazilu, Molly Mazilu

~ Molly

I want to let you in on some of the inside jokes that have emerged from our weeks in South America. I realize that as inside jokes, some of my explanations will fall flat but I’ll do my best. It’s part of the fun of traveling with someone. Travel jokes emerge and amazingly they stand the test of time. I mean, the ones from my junior-year trip to London with some of my college friends are still crystal clear in my memory: “Get out of the water.” “You stupid, woman.” “Cheers, !@#&!@face.” Any of those ring a bell, Ladies? (Oh, I wish I could dig up a picture right now!)

Here are some of the jokes that have found their way into our daily conversation so far:

The first: “We’re here for the tour” emerged from our trip to Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada. We’d heard that you could get tours of La Casa Rosada, the Argentinian White House (except its pink). And that these tours were so good, you got to walk through our equivalent of the Oval Office. Except when we got there on Sunday May 1st, it appeared to be closed and deserted. (Who knew May Day holiday was big in Argentina!?) We spent a few minutes walking around the building saying to each other in our dumbest American tourist voices, “We’re here for the tour,” before abandoning mission.

Even little Jimmy McMillian was excited for the tour. Photo by Nellu.

Now since we really don’t do a lot of tours, this expression carries with it a little irony. But I like to use it now when we’re arriving somewhere for the first time and feeling incredibly out-of-place. I also like to use it when we do every day stuff like go to the post office (“we’re here for the tour”) or grocery store. Nellu’s even nice enough to let out a little laugh when I say it. Sometimes he chimes in.

The second inside joke is inspired by one of our favorite comedians, Lewis Black. (Warning: If you don’t like when people swear, don’t watch this video. You won’t like it.)

Now this one comes in handy a lot. Nellu routinely asks me if I would like to go see the big f-ing thing.

La Floralis Genérica, Buenos Aires…a really big f-ing thing

We also routine climb big f-ing things, most recently the Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago. It’s a big hill in the northern part of the city where you can see great views of the buildings and I’m sure on some days when the smog settles, the Andes Mountains. Oh and of course, we hiked up the San Cristobal to see another big f-ing thing: La Virgen de La Inmaculada Concepción. (Pictures to come!)

Quite the applicable phrase…

Update: I’ve thought of three more, which I realize means that we’ve been traveling together for way too long. But here they are…

1) “You bring me to the nicest places.” This is what Nellu says to me in a faux ladies voice (Think: Kids in the Hall) every time we’re in the slightest of sketchy places. I’ve started to retaliate by saying, “No, you brought me.”

2) “Bruce Willis (or movie star X) speaks Spanish sooo well.” This is what we like to say when we’re watching US movies that have clearly been dubbed into Spanish. The flip side  is that we’ve watched an abnormal amount of bad movies that haven’t been dubbed over just to get our English fix.

3)  “It’s like Romania with palm trees, ” or “It’s just like the Champs-Élysées.” This is our attempt to compare what we’re seeing with what we know. The first time I ever said, “It’s like Romania with palm trees” is when we arrived in Sao Paulo. Nellu likes to say, “It’s like the Champs-Elysees” often which is funny for us because he’s never been to Paris.

~ Molly

Photo: Fernando Nieto

Yes, that’s us on horseback. We took polo lessons in Buenos Aires through Polo Elite. We’ve got tons more pictures and even better… we’ve got video! More coming soon…