Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A walk in the clouds.

Silvina invited us out for her son’s birthday party.  We assumed that they lived near 9 de Julio and thought that it would be a good opportunity to try out our bikes.  It turns out their house is 40 kilometres away and we were grateful that Alejandro was able to come and pick us up.  Incidentally, the people here use the same verb that means to search for (buscar) as they do for pick you up by car.  We had spent a little bit of time wondering why different people were going to look for us at certain times.  We thought perhaps there was a town game of hide and seek that we were not aware of and they were giving us a head start.

The party was at the house Silvina’s father was born in.  For some time it remained unoccupied until Silvina and her husband, Alejandro, restored to its former glory.  They use a generator for electricity and pump fresh spring water up for all their needs.   The original homestead has four-metre ceilings and stone floors.  A vegetable garden is hidden amongst the acres of maize that surrounds the house.  Some of us walked through the garden selecting different items to use during the day while others cut cakes in preparation for the party.

We sat in the shade of a grand old chestnut tree eating endless amounts of cakes and treats.  A smoothie stand was set up with banana milkshakes and tinned peaches mixed with lemonade on offer.  We showed them how to make a “spider” by mixing soft drink and ice cream.  They said they do a similar thing except they use champagne instead of soft drink.  The children found relief from the heatwave in the cool of the spring fed water tank.  We feel like we have shifted back to a time when people were more relaxed.  The water tank has some rough edges on it, the water has little creatures swimming around in it and when you touch the bottom something touches you back.  There was no talk about chlorine or soft edges, it was just about laughing and cooling off.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Going Italiano in Argentina.

We invited Rosario, Juan and their fourteen year old son, Alejo over for dinner tonight.  Rosario was in contact with us several weeks before we arrived.  She was there at the bus terminal to help collect our mountain of luggage and she drops by every second day on her electric scooter to see if we need anything.  On several occasions, Rosario has picked us up to take us to her place for a swim.

The toilet door still does not have a handle on it so we’ve left a spoon in the bathroom in case anyone is locked in.  I forgot to warn Alejo not to close the door when he went to the toilet.  Several long minutes later we heard knocking from el baño.  Alejo had fallen prey to some Argentine “we’ll fix it manaña.” 

Talluah made a delicious pasta free lasagne using zucchinis instead of pasta sheets.  It was filled with picada, which we finally learnt means “mince”, béchamel sauce and a ton of vegetables brought from the vegetable shop around the corner.  She also made a creamy carbonara pasta and garlic bread.  We ate outside and the rain came to help cool us down.  Our back patio does have a roof over it but the rain was bouncing up and wetting Juan’s feet.  I asked him several times if he wanted to move but he said it was fine.  Rosario was being dripped on through dinner and said she didn’t even notice.  This is only one of the ways we’ve noticed how people are very relaxed over here.

With a bit of Argentine influence, Talluah concocted apple empanadas.  The Castellano word for apple is manzana.  This dessert has been aptly named the manzanapanada.  Our guests brought along ice cream to help the sweet empanadas along. 

At the end of the night, Rosario checked her phone and found a string of Whatsapp messages from Alejo from earlier in the evening - Mama.  Mama.  Help me.  I’m locked in the toilet.  Mama.  Mama.

- Happy Birthday Marie.

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.