Tag Archives: mate

Don’t cry for me, Argentina…

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Like this title, the thought of departing from this amazing continent was unfortunate but realistically inevitable.

We bid South America farewell today, after taking a train back to Buenos Aires from the beautiful river-country of Tigre. Argentina did a superb job of keeping us distracted from the sad farewell by throwing a random private river tour at us on our final night, offered by a friendly, flamboyant fellow who said that the tour would include a stop at a rustic old wine bar. The river tour was gorgeous, although the “bar” was definitely just someone’s empty house on the side of the river, in which were hidden several bottles of wine, which we enjoyed free of charge… and possibly permission as well.

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It continued to cushion our transition by having us end up on the same trans-American flight as our awesome French WWOOFing friend who taught us how to climb the Andes way back in December (click here for backstory) and hadn’t been seen since!

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Thirty-four thousand feet over Bolivia, however, the reality of leaving has finally caught up to us, so it’s time for some comic relief.

You see, Argentina is a country of endless natural beauty full of fascinating, generous people. There is spontaneous tango dancing on the streets and entire animals being cooked to a perfect medium-rare on every corner. It is a paradise of colour and music. The streets are paved with empanadas and the rivers run rich with dulce de leche. But there are times when you want to just take the whole country aside and say, “¡you guys are ridiculous!”, and it is those moments to which this post is dedicated.

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And so, without further ado, the Top Ten Quirks that make us roll our eyes and say, “Oh, Argentina…”

10. Why are good old fashioned Cheerios considered kiddie-food, yet respectable adults start every day off with a package of gas station-style chocolate cookies?

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9. Why do all store clerks ask you if you want to break your purchase down into monthly payments, regardless of whether it’s a new car or a pack of socks? Do I want to be worrying about paying off my ice cream cone six months after I’ve finished eating it??

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8. How can you have an intersection of two four-lane roads, plus pedestrians and motorbikes (who often act like pedestrians, at least as far as sidewalk usage is concerned), and have no signs, lights, or even marked lanes?? (Congratulations, however for somehow accomplishing this without killing everyone.)

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7. Side-ponytails and mullets? Really?

6. Why do the majority of public washrooms seem to go out of their way to have something weird about them? Toilets come with seats, why do you take them off? Why has the side of the bathtub been neatly cut away, requiring a full mopping of the bathroom after every shower? Why are hot water and toilet paper luxuries, but bidets taken for granted?

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5. Why is it that city buses follow a strict network of stops, yet the luxurious, cross-country, hot-meals-served-to-you-by-stewards-in-uniform buses can be hailed on the side of the road or stopped at any passenger’s whim? And, for that matter, do we all have to listen to the young punk driver’s skipping mix CD of classic rock, folklore, and Lady Gaga?

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4. Why are coins still hoarded with such voracity? I can see the 50 centavo coin in your cash register, and yet you’re asking me if you can give me SweetTarts as change instead?

3. (To be fair, this is far more directed at Uruguay, but we mean it with just as much affection):
Do you really need mate so badly at any given moment that you have to carry a thermos of hot water under your arm as you ride your bike through rush hour traffic?* And for that matter, is it so necessary to have a toothbrush in your pocket at all times? (but no toothpaste…that’d just be too much!)
*Editor’s note: Yet another instance of this blog not accurately reflecting the authorship in its entirety, because I plan to get a suitable thermos as soon as I no longer also have a 25-kilo backpack to manage.

Spot the mate!
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2. Why are there at least two security guards at McDonalds and none in the banks? Is the Hamburglar that much of a threat?

And finally, tender subject though it is, the number one quirk that makes Argentina so ridiculously lovable…

1. Despite what the ubiquitous Argentine bumper stickers, political rallies, street signs, graffiti, supermarket names, postcards, and children’s pyjamas may say:

They’re called the Falklands.

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Wandering Canadians adopted by Argentine family: Part 1

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After two lovely days of wandering BA on our own, we braved Argentina’s telecabinas and finally got ahold of Cecilia, my aunt Esther’s cousin’s daughter (international travel is all about the ridiculously complicated connections!). Cecilia brought us home with her to Lanús, a barrio of Gran Buenos Aires (GBA).

Quick explanation: The city of Buenos Aires (BA) is located in the province of Buenos Aires (Bs.As.) and is utterly massive! The city centre (most often referred to as BA) is where most of the famous sites are located and is where most porteños (residents of BA) work, but most people live in the surrounding neighbourhoods (GBA).

Immediately, we were adopted by Lidia and Emilio, my aunt’s cousins, and their children: Raquel, Cecilia, David and Daniel. When we ended up having a 2-hour jam sesh on our very first night there, Josh and I knew we would feel right at home!

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This amazing family filled our days with delicious food, guided tours of the city, long discussions of politics and faith (in Spanish!) over copious servings of mate, and (much to Josh’s delight) asado lessons!

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It was Cecilia’s birthday the week we were there, and she decided to have a party with an “international” theme, preparing dishes from all the places she’s visited. She asked us if we could prepare a special dish from Canada. Josh and I put our heads together, trying to think of an authentically Canadian dish, whose recipe we could remember offhand and whose ingredients were readily available: RICE KRISPIE CAKE was the obvious choice!

However, it turns out Argentina has never heard of marshmallows, so the family was very intrigued to try this exotic and obviously very elaborate Canadian dish. Raquel made a special trip to the one store in the city where they had seen marshmallows sold… and brought home crazy, twisted pink marshmallows that smelt like coconut and vanilla. The end result? A neon-pink cake that was almost devoured before we could get it into the pan! 🙂

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Cecilia also asked us to teach the little kids from church a song in English, so Josh and I led them in a rousing rendition of “Peace Like a River” (and we knew we for sure in Argentina when one of the moms explained to her son, “Si, River, ¡como River Plate!”), and eventually got all the adults singing along too! All the people from their church felt like family: we had such a hard time saying goodbye and were only able to leave them by promising to return in April.

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¡Muchísimas gracias¡ a nuestra nueva familia y todos de nuestros nuevos amigos. 🙂