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Flossing in Patagonia

Making a Spectacle of Oneself

Several years ago I was part of a group of 6 who went trekking in Patagonia. We climbed up some mountains, we toured some beautiful cities and interesting little towns, we caught wonderful wildlife sightings, we saw the dramatic lake glacier (Perito Moreno) and we enjoyed some of the most beautiful and awesome scenery on the planet, as well as some of the most barren desert views imaginable. We gawked and gasped at everything and enjoyed it all immensely.

However, we had no idea that we would become "spectacles" ourselves. We tent-camped through Patagonia from Bariloche to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. It was a terrific way to experience that amazing part of the world.

One evening we arrived at our lakeside campsite a little early and after getting the tents set up, we walked down to the shore and walked along the water while watching some Argentinian kids swimming and splashing around having a rambunctious good time. Later we found the blockhouse that contained the showers, toilets and lavatories and decided to get cleaned up ourselves—without benefit of a lake swim.

All went well until I came out of the blockhouse (clean and fully clad) in the process of flossing my teeth. Immediately I collected a crowd of boys and girls who were pointing and laughing uproariously! I quickly checked myself to make sure I really was completely and appropriately dressed. No reason for laughter there. My hair had just been washed so it was rather wild but no wilder than anyone else's because the tremendous and continuous winds in Patagonia tear everyone's coiffure to pieces.

So I went on flossing amid the contagious laughter and spoke to the kids in my limited Spanish. Soon I understood why I was such a spectacle to them. They had never seen anyone floss his/her teeth. Tooth brushing they knew and practiced themselves. But flossing was completely foreign to them. Unfortunately, my Spanish vocabulary did not include a word for "flossing" so it was difficult to explain what was going on.

Finally I offered pieces of floss to some of the more intrepid kids and demonstrated how to use it. They laughed even harder as they tried to figure out how to wind the string around their fingers and what to do with the "line" once they mastered that part. Some of them were able to mimic me and actually achieved a bit of dental care. However, all of them thought it was one of the funniest things they had ever seen and they couldn't stop laughed and kept bringing new kids to see the "spectacle."

Wonder if flossing is now a household practice in the Argentine Patagonia?

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