In April of this year, I went to Mendoza on my first official border run, which I wrote about in the original post, Between Here And There. I spent only two days there — a perfunctory visit as opposed to a sight-seeing, money-spending, OMG-I’m-visiting-vineyards-and-drunk-at-3pm trip like I typically like to have — so when my next border run came up at the end of October, my boyfriend and I decided to make a vacation of it.
(Did I mention Jorge yet? I apologize, blog-o-fiends — I have an Argentinian boyfriend. He is lovely, and darling, and sweet, and supportive, and talented, and a total delight in my life. This month we will celebrate 8 months together. This is his face:)
I like his face a lot. Like, A LOT a lot.
This was not only our first vacation together, but a vacation that would allow me to meet every single important person in his life. I was going to meet the entire family.
Jorge’s family is big. They hail from rural Argentina, a total born-n’-bred-on-the-farm type family. Jorge is the youngest of 6 children, and his eldest sibling is over 45 years old. He has 17 nieces and nephews.
Let me repeat that. Jorge has 17 nieces and nephews. And the eldest nephew is ALMOST THE SAME AGE AS HIM. Jorge became an uncle for the first time when he was 6 years old.
When we first spoke of the trip, I had nightmares about it. Not because I didn’t want to meet the family (I did), but the thought of being surrounded by so many of his blood relatives who only speak deep-Argentina Spanish (i.e. mostly incomprehensible) and would be sizing me up as the novia kind of made me freak out.
Also, I’m an only child. I don’t have troubles remembering my family member’s names, because there aren’t a lot of us. My family can comfortably fit into a regular sized living room. We don’t have to opt for the warehouse for graduation parties, and instead can choose the picnic table option. I don’t have 17 nieces and nephews. I don’t actually have ANY nieces or nephews.
We spent the first leg of our trip with 2 of Jorge’s “brahs” in Mendoza, where I got to experience far more Mendoza than the first time in April. There were no pink fountains this time, though there was plenty of city-exploring and Andes mountain-visiting.
Me and Jorge, posing by mountains in Mendoza, ‘CAUSE WE BY THE ANDES, YA’LL.
The next leg of our trip featured Candelaria, the 4,500-resident pueblito where Jorge was born and raised. The majority of his family still lives there, minus two siblings who raise their families in the capital city of that province. This is where the cultural differences started to rack up. Let’s use a list, because I haven’t made one in awhile and am feeling twitchy:
More cultural differences between Argentina and Chile, and other things that are just bizarre:
1. Remember when I was horrified about chilled red wine, and *hard swallow* the use of ice cubes? Well, readers, things took a turn for the worse (for my palate, at least). There exists a phenomenon called vino cortado, which is red wine with soda water. Sometimes, they mix it with coca-cola. [lengthy pause] Needless to say, this was one cultural activity in which I did not participate. Most family members were horrified by the fact that I drank pure wine. COME ON, IT’S MALBEC!
Nothing to do with Malbec wine; this is part of the campo (farmland) where Jorge grew up and helped raise racehorses and generally ran around half-naked at all times.
2. City planning is…different. In both the USA and Chile, cities are cities and towns are towns and there you go. Not in Argentina. They get a bit grabby with the city planning, and what is called “Mendoza” is actually several cities lumped together but differentiated by different names but still…Mendoza. The same for other cities in Argentina as well. It’s kind of like how Brooklyn is still New York City but it’s also Brooklyn. For my Ohio peeps, it would be like if Huron, Castalia, Sandusky and Milan were all called their names but technically named and considered Sandusky. Whaaat??
3. News coverage is a little excessive. While it reminded me of news coverage back home at times, especially with a preference for celebrity happenings over legitimate world news coverage, the segments in general were long-winded and redundant. The Buenos Aires news channel devoted a lot of time to the fact that it was drizzling. They sent a reporter to cover the drizzle, and the segment featured voluminous quantities of live footage of people ambling on city sidewalks where no rain could be seen. The amount of time dedicated to this segment was like something I’d see back home where a tornado had touched down in Oklahoma and ruined 35 houses and maybe some animals were injured. But no — it was just raining. Invisibly. And not impacting anyone’s day in Buenos Aires. At all.
4. Meat, man. Meat. Meat meat meat meat. Meat meaty meatmeat MEAT!!! Argentina is famous for meat — I knew that before I ever went there — and while both Chile and Argentina are meat-centric cultures, Argentina wins the award on this one. Though my vegetarianism went out the window with my USA residency, I don’t eat a LOT of meat in Chile, despite our frequent asados. I knew that going to Argentina under the wing of an Argentinian would be a, well, intestinal shockventure, since I wouldn’t be cooking for myself at all. But I wasn’t prepared for how damn GOOD it was all going to taste! Jorge’s family killed and cooked a lamb for our arrival. That’t not even a joke. I was honored, in a way, but also not sure that I should feel honored, because it’s normal for them to raise and then kill lambs and then eat them in large group settings because all they can do is large group settings because there’s 17 nieces and nephews. (Editor’s note: my bowels went on strike after the third consecutive day of eating meat. My return to Chile — and return to majority vegetarian diet — has helped the situation, but there was a good week of alarming inactivity in my gut.)
This is Candelaria, by the way.
5. Americans aren’t the only ones struggling with geography. I met plenty of people in rural Argentina who weren’t really sure of USA’s whereabouts. In a way, this felt good: finally, people who don’t CARE that I’m American! In another way, this was shocking: how can you not know where America is? Or that we speak English? I suppose this revealed more of my latent egosim as an American, which is a good thing to get rid of while I can. Small towns are small towns anywhere, I suppose. And in some parts of the world, “America” is just a word you hear on the television.
We wrapped up the last leg of our trip visiting Jorge’s other siblings and their respective families in the capital of San Luis province (which also had an alarming amount of neighborhoods the size of cities grouped under the same city name but still called different names), and spent a lot of time eating meat, hanging out, playing with exorbitant amounts of nieces and nephews, and, well, eating more meat.
Jorge with Bauti, Alma and Tobias (you guessed it — nieces and nephews)
Jorge’s brother and sister-in-law with spawn, and us (not their spawn) during our daytrip to La Florida, a beautiful spot outside of San Luis with views of the Andes and a lot of gorgeous hues in the air.
We’re back in Chile now, happy to be home but a little salty that the vacation is over. It was fun meeting all 3,487 members of Jorge’s family — I remember all of their names, I swear — and it was great getting a tan that will soon wither in the penetrating gray chill of Valparaiso, but it’s also nice to be back home: to Valpo, to our house and its rhythms and its kitchen and the coffee, to frequent and consistent wifi connections, and to regular intestinal events.