Saturday, 25 February 2017

You could bake an empanada on the bonnet of a car.

Even the locals are complaining about the heat at the moment.  I saw a dog cross the street and its shadow refused to follow it across the bitumen.  The nights are still and 37° feels like 41 with nowhere cool left on the mattress no matter how many times we roll over.  Some of the farmers we know were talking about the problems with horses and cows not eating because they are not leaving the shelter of trees.  One friend we know who breeds the Argentine criollo horse spoke about some horses having heart attacks from the heat.

Yesterday, we were invited to the school for an informal lunch with the director and some of the staff members.  One of the founding members, Silvina, owns a farm and grows wonderful, fresh, organic food.  She is in all places at once and has helped organise bikes for us, left fresh vegetables on our doorstep, found uniforms for the kids and messages to make sure we are happy.  Silvina created a feast for us of marinated eggplants, beetroot, carrot and corn salad, pasta salad, zucchini quiche, leek pie and shredded cabbage, all grown on her farm.  While we were eating, Silvina was somewhere else in the school preparing for next week’s first day.  The conversation was a mix of stuttered Spanish, hyperdrive Castellano and polite English translations.

The principal of the primary school has been very helpful in having the children invited to any play dates and with ferrying the children to birthday parties.  In one day she has taken the girls two pool parties, brought over some second hand uniforms and returned a forgotten hat.  Ahh teenagers and their ability to be distracted by any… Oh look a butterfly.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The bread has eyes.

Not many foreign tourists frequent 9 de Julio.  As far as we can tell there are only three hotels in town and Trip Advisor has only seven listings for things to do in town.  On closer inspection, six of those things are 30 kilometres out of town.  While it isn’t a tourist town, the girls have had an active social life.  One of Truce’s classmates is the Principal’s daughter and the Principal has helped organise for Truce and Indiana to meet all of Truce’s class.  They’ve been out to three different houses for a swim and two different birthday parties.  School still doesn’t start until the 6th of March for Truce and the 13th for Indy.  By the time their first day comes round they should know everyone’s name.

Whilst in the local panadería (there’s one of every fourth corner) buying some bread, the young female shop assistant engaged me in the following conversation.

            Do you live on Sarmiento street?
No, we live on Robbio street.
            Do you have a car?
No, we walk everywhere.
            I saw your daughters in a car. (With a knowing smile.)
Our friend has a car. (Awkward silence)  Can I some chorri-pan please without the creepy feeling?
            Anything else?
No.  I think you’ve given me enough to think about for today.

We do stand out a little bit.  On the third day here a mother, who we had not met, stopped us outside a shop to tell us that Truce will be in her daughter’s class.

Things in Argentina don’t always work to the same standard that we are used to in Australia.  On the bus trip to 9 de Julio we passed some road works.  In Australia there are witches’ hats, flashing lights, people in fluro clothes and reduced speed signs to warn you to slow down.  Here, we saw one man with a red and white flag waving his little heart out to make sure the bus saw him in time to stop for the road works.  Our oven door doesn’t quite close and Talluah was trying to make a cake for an afternoon tea. Our friend is Coeliac and Talluah was able to find gluten free flour but not self-raising.  The banana cake resembled more of an oversized puffed up pancake but was eaten and enjoyed none the less. No thanks to the oven, with it’s choice of two flames, inferno or almost off.  The main problem was that all the heat was escaping out the unclose-able door.  No oven door can thwart the power of a cane chair. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

School ahoy me hearties.

We are in the process of having WiFi connected to the house and are currently enjoying super slow internet through a local phone provider.  There is free WiFi in the parks and plaza but this is only strong enough to send messages, small messages, written with abbreviations – in lowercase. 

Argentina is very much a manaña country.  For the past week we have been told that we will be shown the school – manaña.  Today, manaña came, for me at least.  The school is about 3 kilometres from our house and with no public transport we have been told we can carpool with other parents.  We are on the lookout for some second hand bikes and luckily we have been lent one bike with some more on the way.  I rode our bike to school today, our bike which is for someone Truce’s age.  The handlebars are level with the seat and with practice I’ll be able to steer and pedal using just my legs.  Looking a little bit like a clown on a circus bike I headed out in the midday sun, past the Zona Urban sign, past the defunct train line and onto the dust road.  Note the word choice.  It isn’t a dirt road, it’s a dust road.  The type that grabs your front wheel and kicks it to the left.  I worked like a rodeo star to keep my rusty horned beast on a straight path.  My arms pumped like a Lycra wearing gym junkie.  My legs pushed the chain around the single back cog and my pores do what all good pores do on a hot day.  I knew the day was going to be hot and had packed a second T-shirt.  I arrived at the school, quickly changed my shirt and was introduced to some of the staff.  Everyone here kisses on the cheek when they meet.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger or someone you saw the day before.  I stood there, perspiring and explaining to everyone that I met that I had ridden my bike.  I wanted to put a buffer between my cheek and theirs out of courtesy, perhaps even one of those hanging green pine trees you see in cars.  I think that on a hot day a quick high five might be much more appropriate.  

Monday, 20 February 2017

Do you eat it?

The Harper Family Miming Quintet returned to the stationery shop with the remainder of our dwindling stash of Blu-Tac.  Two shop attendants looked at this magical blue substance from another planet wondering what it was used for.  In a fashion similar to The Lorax where the Once-ler explains all the virtues of a thnead, we told them its many uses.  They had never heard of it.  Perhaps this is a business venture we could consider for the future.

During our bus trip across Argentina, we saw some blatant littering which caused us to snack on our tongue numerous times.  Since arriving in 9 de Julio we have seen some forward thinking practices regarding basura, or rubbish.  The supermarkets we have been to do not give out plastic shopping bags.  Most shops have a bottle return system where you exchange bottles for pesos.  There is curbside recycling once a week and rubbish is collected five nights a week.

No one has a rubbish bin and there are a few dogs that roam the streets.  To counteract dogs pulling rubbish bags apart, the rubbish is put in an elevated rubbish perch.  We don’t know who makes them but we haven’t seen any two that are the same.



The siesta is alive and well in 9 de Julio.  All but the larger supermarkets open for four hours in the morning, close for four hours around noon and then open again at around five o’clock for another four or so hours.  With the late sun set here it sounds like a lovely idea of sitting down to a big family lunch then having a snooze before returning to work.  Probably reduces the stress levels of workers too.  The danger is though that at noon the roads become alive with clapped out scooters all zooming towards siesta-ville.  This is taking a little bit of adjusting to and today we returned from a walk a few minutes after noon with not much planned for lunch.  Luckily we had a few crackers and jam to fall back on.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Feeling lucky.

From the air, 9 de Julio looks like the strings of a tennis racquet with a series of streets that run parallel, adjacent, perpendicular, congruent with an element of 90 degreeness.  Almost like the opening scene of the Dick Tracy cartoon.  The streets are all one-way and alternate direction, with two-way avenues every five or so streets.  So far, the only traffic lights we have seen are the ones on the four intersections surrounding the main plaza in the centre of town.  All the other intersections follow the give way to the right rule.  Wait, fresh news has just come in…  The intersections follow the, “I was here first and you’ll have to skid for me,” rule.

our street

There are no town buses so many people drive cars or motorbikes and scooters.  People are very relaxed with the number of passengers and things you can carry on a scooter.  So far we have seen a lady riding pillion with a chainsaw in one hand and a tank of fuel in the other, a man with a whipper-snipper, a toddler wedged between two parents (both were texting) and a couple with their dog.  It’s nothing to see a family of four on a scooter riding round town.

The Harper Family Miming Quintet is now performing in your local stationery store looking for thumb tacks, sticky tape and a diary – noises optional.  Perfectly normal everyday items but not part of the HFMQ vocabulary yet.  Once these items have been found, ensure that you line up at the correct place.  Not close to the cash registers but in a slightly awkward central part of the store.  So awkward in fact that it requires a worker to direct people to this location.  During the transaction the cashier will ask a series of questions or the same question in several different ways until Indiana is finally called over to translate, “She wants to know if you want your receipt.”  Well, if she had mimed it I would have understood.  She must have been more flustered than us because she handed my money back as my change with my receipt that was now printed.

We have been made very welcome by the school community as they have spent a lot of effort to prepare the house for us, a lady we have not met yet dropped off some vegetables from her farm for us, one of the parents invited us around for a swim in their pool yesterday and the school principal picked up the girls to take them to meet some children their own age.  The school community is also on the hunt for some bicycles so we can move around town more freely.  We are feeling luckier than a limerick writer who moved from a town called Orange.