March 22, 2008

Che! Boludo!

Well, in the last year we have had people from three continents visit our little home (Actually, four continents, if you count Paul coming from Australia to our wedding). Can YOU say that about YOUR home? Of course you can, but in your case, it’s possibly lies, dirty lies. In our case, it’s true. But that’s OK; we’re not here to judge.
Anyhow, our latest guests were some wonderful Argentineans who arrived carrying goodwill and yerba maté and, after staying a few days and giving goodbye hugs, floated away on a cloud of cigarette smoke and colorful profanity. I really love Argentineans, and the two who visited are two of my favorites.
The people I speak of are Nacho and Julia, as depicted in the pictures below. When I was an exchange student in Germany 10 years ago (Holy crap! 10 years?!), I met a guy from Argentina named Andrés. In 2006, I visited Andrés in Argentina. During that trip, I met many friendly and wonderful people including Julia, who is Andrés’ sister, and Nacho, who is one of Andrés’ friends. So, although Andrés unfortunately could not come on this trip, Julia and Nacho could, and they stopped by our house for a few nights.
We did the standard Tourist Route around the area, but we also stayed around here some, too. While eating dinner at Angela’s parents’ house, Nacho explained to us all the physics behind flight by demonstrating with a napkin (and it finally made sense to me, actually), and Julia explained to us what engineers actually do. They also brought maté, the ubiquitous drink in Argentina that combines the mystique of drug use with the ritual of a Japanese tea ceremony, while actually being neither.
As a matter of fact, as I write these words right now, I am drinking maté that they left me, and let me say that I think it’s just great. In reality, drinking maté is akin to drinking green tea from a dried gourd, and although that sounds strange, it’s actually an integral part of the Argentine lifestyle. I had asked them to bring the materials necessary for drinking maté, but they told me that even if I hadn’t asked them to do so, they would have still brought their own maté “kits” for their own personal consumption. They also reminded me of the broader maté etiquette, while teaching me some of the finer points.
For example, if you’re drinking maté with friends, you all share the same gourd and the same metal straw. One person drinks at a time, and he or she drinks until there’s a slurping sound. At that point, it’s passed to the…well, I guess the matémaster…who refills the water and passes it to the next person. And so on. Also, you shouldn’t say “thanks” unless you want to indicate that this will be your last turn. I think that for me, it’s all so appealing because on the surface it could be so simple, but in the end it’s made quite complicated. In this case, the extra ceremony and etiquette can lead to a certain feeling of initiation; I suppose much like it would feel like being in a cult. At the same time, I also love that it’s something that’s deliberately slow and complex, and it causes you to take a break from the day and share that break with friends, if at all possible. Julia said that drinking maté is banned in many workplaces in Argentina, and I can understand why it would be troublesome, at least from a managerial perspective.

But look at me. Here I began talking about two Argentinean friends and their visit to Costa Rica, and I stereotypically end up talking about the cultural significance of maté to the Argentine cultural identity (and my understanding of this topic is admittedly at a “novice” level). It’s like having two Russians visit you, and when recounting the highlights of their visit, continually mentioning how great you think borscht is.
In any case, I digress. Julia and Nacho: thanks for visiting. Andrés: get your ass up here. Everyone else in Argentina: same to you.
Finally, once again, I will let pictures say a thousand (more) words:

Julia and Nacho in La Fortuna.

Here's a picture of the volcano Arenal that kinda freaks me out, for some reason. It sort of looks like it's from the pictures for the new Nine Inch Nails album.

Angela at the cafe in La Fortuna.

Nacho and Julia posing next to some coffee plants.

Here I am giving a nature demonstration: "This is a plant."

Nacho and Julia on one of the Hanging Bridges of Arenal (although this particular one isn't hanging).

This is one of the pictures that Julia left from her camera. I think it's the very cow that wakes me in the morning (and sometimes in the middle of the night) with its plaintive wails. It makes me wonder if Berlin is really as cow-torture free as its brochures proudly proclaim.

Nacho brought me a few matés, and here we are curing them with an ember from a fire.

Nacho, Julia, and I.

Julia took this picture of breakfast one morning, which makes me wonder yet again why people always take pictures of our breakfasts. Maybe it's the rice and beans, or maybe it's the synthesis of Costa Rica plus Argentina, with the gallo pinto (rice and beans) plus the maté (the thing in the lower left with the metal straw).

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Don't let those Argentines mislead you. The gourd with the metal straw is a cuia which is used to drink chimarrão. The herva mate is just the grass clipping-like stuff. That's the official word around these parts, anyway. I think that it is only really popular here in our state (the southernmost in Brazil) and in Argentina. I like your blog and congrats on the house! Pape