Norton Ink

Argentina 2002

13 de Agosto 2002

Wow, less than a month left in this trip, I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast! In less than 2 weeks my sister will be here and then we will be off! Originally we were going to spend a few days in Buenos Aires and then a few days in Santiago, Chile. The whole Graciela experience notwithstanding, there were definitely some things I wanted to see there. Also, Teresa and Celso were sad that they weren’t going to get to meet my sister. Heather and I talked, and she decided she would come up to Posadas for a couple of days, meet the family and take a day trip to the Jesuit ruins. Celso also wants to show her the farm, if the weather permits.

So I went to the office for Aerolineas Argentina so see about getting tickets for Santiago (having conferred for many days via email and MSN Messenger). Ok, ok no problem getting to Santiago. Unfortunately, unless we only wanted to spend a day and a half there, or if we wanted to spend a week and a half (and thereby miss my flight back the States) Santiago was out. I guess we picked some popular week to leave Chile.

The lady at the airline office was really nice, so I asked her where she suggested instead, for instance Montevideo, Uruguay. (I am still holding a grudge against Paraguay so that is totally out.) She said that if we were absolutely form on going out of the country that was fine, but she thought that Mendoza, Argentina was much nicer and a lot prettier. Then she told me the deal clincher…………Mendoza is the premier wine region of Argentina, with a lot of wineries in close proximity. Also, as it turns out the tickets are WAY cheaper to Mendoza, too. I can’t wait!

So now the plans are as follows, Heather arrives the 26th of August, we stay in Posadas until the morning of the 30th, when we fly to Buenos Aires. Hopefully that night we will hook up with the people that I met in Cordoba, we have been exchanging emails, so I think it will work. Then, Heather has friends in Buenos Aires and we are going with them for the weekend to Mar del Plata, a resort beach a little South of Buenos Aires. It is winter here after all so we aren’t going for tanning, but I hear it is fun and pretty, so it should be fun. Plus it is always so much more rewarding to hang with the locals, so to speak.

The following Monday afternoon, the 2nd of September, we fly to Mendoza. Back to Buenos Aires on Friday the crack of dawn, the 6th of September. We fly back to the States that night. Heather and I have the same flight back so I will have someone to talk to on the plane! So we have various days in Buenos Aires, but no length of time. Since there is a lot of unrest in that area, that is probably best. Still, the day I was there, I saw nothing horrible, encountered no problems and life seemed business as usual. So, we will have caution, but we won’t be afraid. We just won’t carry all of our valuables along with us wherever we go.

I had a cold last week that pretty much kept me in bed for a few days (it was SO boring!) but I recovered in time for a great weekend. This last weekend was the reunion of Kevin’s family, so I was feeling a little homesick. I thought Kevin was going to call me on Saturday, so I could talk to some of the people there. However, Friday night the phone rings and lo and behold! It was Kevin, I was so excited and so happy I just started crying! Everyone kept saying, “Honey are you ok? Are you SURE?” It was really wonderful to talk to everyone and it was such a surprise, like an unexpected gift. I promise next year there is no way I am going to miss the reunion!

Well, right after that, Celso came home from work with an invitation to a wine event that night, with Chandon wines! (Chandon, a French wine company best known for their champagne owns a lot of wineries here in Argentina, and you can buy Argentinean Chandon sparkling wine for 15 pesos – less than $5.) Both of the Fia’s are doctors and this even was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, the whole place was filled with doctors! So we got dressed up and went. It turned out to be a discussion about the properties of wine, where it is grown, why it is a good region, and then following a wine tasting with one of the enologists of Chandon. Right there that man was doing my job! I think he probably earns more money since he was traveling and stuff, but STILL.

Teresa and Celso never miss a chance to help me in my stay, so since this guy , Pablo Cuneo, worked for Chandon in Mendoza, and I am going to Mendoza……..well, you do the math. After the initial talk, before the wine tasting, they made me sit there and wait to talk to the guy and tell him I was going to Mendoza. They pretty much made him promise to give me his card so when I was in the area I could get a more personal tour. Then during the wine tasting he came over and talked to us for a little bit. Poor guy, he never had a chance. Since it was a discussion of the wine basics, it wasn’t really anything I had to pay attention to, so it was nice to not have to pay 125% of attention. It was a really fun night and then Celso ended up winning a bottle of sparkling wine (not Chandon, but one of their labels). As we were leaving, Pablo was talking to some of the people, and I was willing to just cut him a little slack and not bother him anymore. Oh noooooo, the organizer of the event had heard from Celso that I this poor man was going to give me his card, so he went and interrupted him, I was SO embarrassed! Still, now I have a business card, and a personal cell number for when I go to Mendoza. As we left Teresa made jokes about Kevin having to look out. Funny when they were the ones being so pushy! It is probably good to have someone who is my promoter. Because so many times, with the language barrier, it is easier to let things go.

Well it was only midnight, and on a Friday night that is pretty early so, should we continue on? Or??? (this is after spending the last 2 hours eating appetizers and drinking wine) we drove over to the place where we usually watch the Folkloric singers and dancing but it was shut that night. So we ended up going back to the house, opening the bottle of sparkling wine, and talking. It was a really nice night, and I probably didn’t get to bed until at least 2:30. Saturday was a pretty laid back day. We basically spent it getting ready for the birthday party celebration for Celso, which was at the farm the next day. I had told the Fia’s about the annual reunion of the Victors, the bocce tourney, the big dinner, all the pictures…..they LOVED it and decided that they would use Celso’s birthday as a jumping off point for starting their own traditional reunion, there was even bocce! (which they play differently enough that it took me about 20 minutes of playing to understand).

When we got to the farm Sunday morning, the guys immediately started a fire going in this big pit, then the seasoned all this meat (we are talking 2.5 chickens, chorizo, morcilla-blood sausage gross!, beef, pork, sheep, I think every animal group was pretty much represented). Then put all of it on a grill over the fire, after everything had cooked a good amount, they killed the fire down to coals and smoke, covered the meat with newspaper and then let the smoke cook it for about another hour. When we finally ate, I was in HEAVEN, the chicken tasted exactly like the chicken that we used to eat at the Spokane Fair every year. During the whole day I got a chance to get all these family pictures, Teresa, Celso, Cecilia, Sergio, Leo, Elisa and all the kids. I had a discussion with Cecilia and Sergio about the wine talk, the travels I was going to do with my sister. We talked about how fast all the time went and how sad I will be to go. Then Sergio asked me if I would give a talk to his friends about the enjoyment of wine….HELL YEAH! Are you kidding me!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! Another of my favorite things, they told me how much my Spanish had improved, how fluently I was talking.

The middle daughter of Cecilia and Sergio, Selene (the one who met me at the airport and consequently has a slightly larger place in my heart) is going to be 15 this year. In Latin America, 15 is the year that a girl becomes a woman, kind of like the sweet 16, but here there is a HUGE party. The girl gets to wear a dress very similar to a wedding dress, there is a big cake, a salon is rented out, there is food, dancing, a basic all-night festival. Sele is having hers the 2nd of November, and she thought I would still be here for it!!!! I am so sad that I am going to miss it. Then she asked if I could maybe come back for the party, these people are so nice! (If only tickets to South America weren’t SO much money I would have said, “yes” in a heartbeat.) On the other hand, I am not going to stay here until November just to see Sele’s party. I will just be there in spirit.

We didn’t get home until about 9pm and we were all pretty bushed. Their dog, Pepi, had run all over the place all day and I think she was the most tired of everyone. Monday signified the real end of my vacation inside my trip (school had been out for the kids so there wasn’t any volunteering at the Institute, and I went to Cordoba). I had a private Spanish class with Pilar in the morning and then in the evening I went and volunteered at the Institute. I had a class with the director of the Institute, Juki. She is a wonderful lady, and I like her class a lot, this was a group of students I had met before, so they were over some of their shyness. One of the best parts of going to class with Juki is that she really involves me in the teaching.

We talked about the differences of teenagers in the States vs. those here. After we were done, I think they were all glad that they live here! Because, kids here don’t have curfews, on a Saturday night some of the dance places don’t even open until 3am! Another thing I noticed that was really different. When people go out on the weekends, they bring their kids (toddlers, babies, teens…..) they travel together as a family. The kids stay up as late as the parents stay out, they drink Coca-cola. On the weekdays they probably don’t get to bed until midnight. However, here they do have that handy 4 hour rest in the middle of every day, so it works out to the same amount of sleep, I think. I also explained to them about school dances, oh man what a difference!! They don’t have anything like that here. Dances are clubs or discos, your school would never sponsor a dance, no one gets flowers (wrist corsage was a very difficult thing to explain…”they get a bracelet?” “oh flowers?” “And the man, he buys them for the woman???”)

Maybe we have more family problems in the States because children are more of a burden, they keep you from going out, you make them special meals (here, everyone eats the same meal, I have seen these girls chow on polenta, roast, gnocchi, you name it. No one refuses to eat the food set in front of them.). Here, in South America the kids are just along for the ride, they go and do everything their parents do. When we went for that endless walk in the forest, with a 5-year-old there was never any thought of warning this child that it might be a long walk. She was never carried, she did it all herself. It was pretty damn impressive. It makes me wonder if our puritanical roots (and our colder climate) create more problems than they solve. Here, people aren’t so up in arms about what the best behavior for others is, instead they concentrate on themselves and don’t lay too much blame. In fact when something falls to the ground, they don’t say, “I dropped it.” Instead it is always, “It fell.” “It broke.”

So these are my travels up to now, I can’t believe I only have 2 weeks until my sister arrives! I can’t wait!

"The covers of this book are too far apart." - Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)