The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Tag: mendoza

Wedding Party Preparations (South American Wedding Voyage Pt. 3)

Saturday, February 20th. The day of our Argentinian wedding reception.

Jorge was up earlier than I was to go run some errands with the truck, many men, and various cargo loads involving freezers and tables and chairs. The piglets were already cooking over a low, wide open charcoal pit in the yard by the time I got up, where one man with a shirt that read “Asador Profesional” (Professional Grillmaster) tended the meat.

The professional, hired grillmaster!

The professional, hired grillmaster! Photo by Kelli Noonan.

Our wedding party wasn’t slated to even begin until 10:30 PM, so with the army of Jorge’s extended family behind the preparations, most of the tasks were covered. Kelli, Facu, Claudia, Sam and I took care of a last-minute issue where the tablecloths Jorge rented came up drastically short–like ten tables short. So he bought a roll of some flimsy, tablecloth-like material, and we set to work cutting more of those. Truth be told, we were a little uncertain how the unevenly-cut squares would look draped over the tables, but we rolled with it.

I was pretty uncertain how ALL of it would turn out. As the bride in her husband’s country, I only had a vague idea of what the hell was planned for us. Jorge’s sisters-in-law and nieces planned things in hushed whispers, shooing me away from time to time, and throughout the laidback yet productive afternoon, there were plenty of tears and hugs shared between us ladies. Jorge’s mom especially felt the emotional current running high as the final preparations for her baby boy’s wedding celebration were wrapped up.

In the evening, we went to the pool to begin setting up. The pool closed for the evening at 7, so we headed over around 6 to begin straightening up, washing off the patio area…and, of course, lounging in the waning sunlight drinking wine and beer. Because, hey, wedding celebration!

Chair preparation...en masse!

Chair preparation…en masse!

As more things clicked into place, the full vision of Jorge’s family’s preparations began to unfold. They had pulled off an entirely professional veneer, far more elegant and put together than I originally thought a public pool could look! The flimsy fabric I’d cut only hours earlier made quite a nice tablecloth, after all.

The final product--amazing!

The final product–amazing!

Snapshot of our table decor. Simple yet elegant!

Snapshot of our table decor. Simple yet elegant! The yellow napkins are just standard paper!

The flowers adorning the center of every table, as well as a small bouquet I carried around, were snipped furtively from around the village by Jorge’s innovative sister-in-law, Carina. She managed to rob, *ahem*, borrow, over 40 roses. WELL DONE! These are the type of creative people you want to have around for last-minute tasks.

Once our tables were set up, we all rushed back to our respective homes to get ready for the party. Imagine this: Jorge’s parent’s house, a three-bedroom, one-bathroom cozy structure, full of fifteen family members rushing around in various states of undress and hair preparation. Including the bride, who desperately needs to shower, but just can’t seem to dart into the bathroom quick enough.

Kelli, who was staying at the hotel across the street, seemed to be the best option. I gathered all my necessary items and rushed across the dirt road. It was after 10 PM already and the bride was still sweaty and gross. I banged on the heavy wooden door of the hotel, tapping my foot impatiently as I waited for the receptionist to let me in.

Knock knock knock. Waiting. Knock knock. More waiting.

“She went out to go buy something,” Jorge’s brother-in-law told me when he strolled by and saw me waiting. “She should be back soon.”

Shit. I knocked again and called out Kelli’s name, hoping she might hear me through the winding hallways inside. And then I went around to the side of the building and tried to call through the thick cement walls. Maybe she was showering and couldn’t hear me. Panic unfurled. The bride was going to be the last one to the shindig!

At the front of the hotel, I paced and waited, hoping for the receptionist to show up. Still nobody.

And then I noticed the front window. Wide open. I checked it out–just high enough to be uncomfortable, but I could probably swing inside there. I tossed my clothes and toiletries inside onto the floor, and hoisted up. I couldn’t get my leg up. I tried again. The edge of the window nearly punctured my spleen. Surely, there would be a bruise tomorrow. And then Guillermo, the brother-in-law, bent down and offered me his knee.

“Step here, and then you can make it inside!”

I hesitated, but the clock was ticking. It was climb on top of him, or wait god-knows-how-long for the receptionist. I clutched onto his shoulder and stepped up. Hoist and BINGO–inside the window. I nearly clattered to the floor, and then scooped up all my stuff and hurried as fast as I could to Kelli’s room.

When she opened the door, she hadn’t heard any of my desperate, stalkerish pleas from outside the hotel. I bathed as fast as I could, and when I bolted out of the hotel, the receptionist raised a brow but didn’t question how I’d gotten inside.

NEXT UP: THE ACTUAL FREAKING PARTY

Commence the Candelaria! (South American Wedding Voyage Pt. 2)

After a long and somewhat (re: totally) hungover Wednesday in Mendoza, we managed to scrape ourselves out of bed and into the pool, wander the magnificent parks, and then finally head to to the bus terminal around midnight for our late bus to San Luis.

Leaving from Mendoza at 1AM, the plan was to arrive to Quines, a town just 15 minutes outside of Candelaria, around 8AM the next day. We’d save a night’s rent in hostels, and we’d be like, magically closer to our destination with only the blink of an eye.

If only sleeping on buses involved the blink of an eye. Instead, it involves the torturous, endless non-blinking of sleep attempts, sleep failure, and all around discomfort. But hey! We saved a night’s rent in hostels! We arrived to Quines around 9AM, one hour later than expected, where Jorge’s father dutifully waited.

In Candelaria, where it was approximately 95 degrees, only slightly hotter than Mendoza, we began the endless rounds of familial greetings. I remembered what it must have felt like for Kelli, the endless revolving door of new faces and relatives that can only be distantly recalled from one meeting to the next. Sometimes I still feel like that.

Here’s the thing about our arrival in Candelaria: I, the novia/bride, was arriving almost a full month after Jorge, the novio, had shown up to begin the formal wedding preparations. He’d been working tirelessly to arrange details, contract the DJ, find the cake(s), settle the location, etc, etc, etc. And more etc.

Much like I had been the Primary Reception Organizer in the USA, Jorge was now manning the wheel of this crazy wedding train by himself…while I sat back and relaxed. Because that’s what equality in marriage means, goldernit! I’ll handle the North American affairs, and HE handles the South American affairs!

That said, here are some of the more interesting details behind our Argentinian Affair:

1.) THE LOCALE. Jorge wanted to host our wedding reception at the local pool in Candelaria. Except, they don’t rent to people. Like, ever. Turns out, his parents are good friends with the mayor. So they asked the mayor, who oversees the public pool, if he might make an exception this once. “If I win the re-election, it’s yours,” he said. And if he didn’t win the election? Well, then our Plan A would be Plan Crap.

Around November of last year, we received word that our beloved mayor did, in fact, win the re-election. That meant our open-air locale was golden…pending any rain storms, that is.

Balneario, Candelaria, Argentina

2.) THE ACTUAL WEDDING. Jorge and I wanted to marry in both the U.S. AND Argentina. Like, you know, sign documents and shit. Make it legal, ceremonial, and legit. However, when Jorge went to the civil registry in Candelaria to inquire about setting a date for this, they told him they’d never seen a case of marrying a foreigner. It’s true, I may be one of only several North American gringas to ever grace the fields of Candelaria. They had to call the capital city, where there was similar confusion, which ended up in a very firm “Sorry, she can’t marry you on a tourist visa”. So…I’m supposed to wait until I’m a legal resident of Argentina? Yeah, sorry, that’s never going to happen, guys. So, the “legal signing” part of the wedding=called off! Legal in one country is good enough, amirite?

3.) THE FOOD. Somewhere around week 2 of Jorge’s time in Candelaria, I began to hear conflicting accounts of what food would be served. First it was a full range-asado, then it was only cow, then it was empanadas, and then it was pork. Confused, I asked Jorge what we were actually going to have. My original vision of the party was something a bit macabre, I admit–like swinging loins of puma, pork and more. But here’s what actually went down: Jorge’s father gifted him (re: us) a cow. Jorge sold this cow, and with that money he bought 7 piglets. These 7 piglets were what our 100 guests ate. 1 gifted cow = 7 pigs. Talk about a rural transaction, ya’ll. 

Once we got to Candelaria, it was a whirl of mate, naps, and sweltering heat. And then in the evening, we drove to San Luis, about 1.5 hours away, to go pick up some of our friends that were arriving via bus from Chile at 10PM.

Meet Facu...Jorge's nephew!

Meet Facu…Jorge’s nephew!

These were friends of ours that we had not seen since leaving Chile in mid-2014, so the excitement was running high. Once we rescued them from the bus terminal, we immediately congratulated ourselves with pizza and wine. After this delightful, late-night dinner, with storm clouds swirling in a Midwest-reminiscent way overhead, thunder echoing in the distance, we began the haul back to Candelaria.

About mid-way through our trip home, rain happened. Except, it was really strong rain, and really sudden. We waited it out, wowed by the electrical storm in the distance, interspersing clenched precipitation anxiety with lighthearted conversation. Closer to Candelaria, though, the storm really picked up, so much that we had to slow to a crawl, teeth gritted against the hail that had begun to pelt the truck.

We dropped off our friends where they’d be staying for the night, and then brought Kelli back to Jorge’s parents house. The rain poured so hard we could barely cross the road to take her to the hosteria, or local hotel, which was  right across the street from Jorge’s parent’s house. It was THAT insane. Jorge had to drive her in the truck just to cross the street.

But the lady on duty didn’t hear the pounding on the door over the sounds of the storm. Kelli and Jorge returned to the house, where we all retired to bed.

The storm grew worse. And worse. And worse. Winds swirled and moaned and tore through the foliage outside. When a break occurred, the storm only grew fiercer moments later. The roof began to creak, like it was struggling to stay attached. It continued this way for hours. I couldn’t fall asleep, despite my most excellent falling-asleep-in-raging-storms skills.

This storm was different. It was intense in a way that made me rigid with anxiety. Was this a tornado? Every sign seemed to point to YES.

I won’t lie–I was a piece of plywood in bed that night, listening to all the sounds around me, struggling to discern whether the roof was actually seconds away from detaching from the house, listening for any signs of the tell-tale freight train sound, only breaths away from leaping up out of bed to scan the dark horizon for a funnel cloud.

Outside, it sounded like a free-for-all. Random things blew and blustered in the wind. It seemed like errant objects crashed against the side of the house. At one point, I was fairly sure a side of the house had shaken loose and drifted half-attached in the fury. Something outside our window banged and clanked. Shit was getting real out there.

Around 5AM, I heard it–the freight train. I seriously did. I shook Jorge awake. “Do you hear that?” He didn’t seem to share my concern. Not a Midwesterner, obviously.  I waited it out, easing nervously back into bed, listening with perked ears for every flinch and moan from beyond the windows. Finally, the winds receded. I drifted to sleep.

The next morning, our friends came over for a late-morning mate. We were all bleary-eyed zombies after the storm. My friend Samantha, who is also from the midwest, but from the more tornado-prone region of Missouri, commiserated with us over our sleeplessness the night before.

She, too, had heard the freaking freight train. At exactly the same time. And a Missouri girl knows her tornado signs, even better than Ohio girls!

Candelaria has no basements, let me add. This was one of the primary points of concern as I imagined a tornado ripping its way through the farmland. Where the hell do you go then? The innermost, windowless place, I suppose!

We spent the rest of Friday washing glasses, drinking mate, and running errands. And, of course, speculating about the crazy, freak tornado we had miraculously survived the night before.

candelaria storm argentina

Washing glasses in preparation for the wedding…while reliving the horror that was the crazy storm of the night before!

UP NEXT: ARGENTINIAN WEDDING TRADITIONS

A South American Wedding Voyage, Part One

HEY GUYS! Here I am, after several weeks’ absence. I swear, we’re not dead. We’re not starving, kidnapped, or even carried away by the freak tornado that appeared in Candelaria 24 hours before our wedding.

We’re alive, and well, and actually in Valparaiso at the moment. But that’s not what I came here to write about.

Blogging–no, sorry–using the internet in Candelaria is difficult. There’s only that one freaky government signal to sustain the whole village, and though it reaches the cornfields it doesn’t quite reach Jorge’s parent’s house. So updating the blog, or checking emails, or even communicating with loved ones while in the pueblo is nigh on impossible. So all of my internet activities are slightly backlogged.

I’ve been writing these blog posts in my head for days now, waiting for the moment where I could sit down and elaborate some of these tales. So where do I begin?

At the beginning, of course. Here’s a whirlwind summary of how it all went down.

SATURDAY FEB 13th:

Kelli and I eagerly appear at the CLE airport for our flight, very much on time. I run into my best friend’s mother at the airport, because things like that happen to me. We go to our gate, the flight is a little delayed, we are getting progressively more wine drunk in celebration of our upcoming wine tours in Argentina, and then suddenly it’s time to board. We board.

Forty minutes later, they tell us we have to get off. Some sort of light for the fuel gauge is not operating, one that MUST be operating prior to take off. The mechanic to fix it won’t be there for two hours. Everyone groans and deplanes. We scoot into the line immediately, eager to reschedule our flight for some sort of magical, immediate replacement that will still allow us to make our connection in Miami.

Last glimpse of Ohio Winter

Goodbye, Ohio? Just kidding. You have one more day here.

It doesn’t happen. The only flight we can take is one leaving almost 24 hours later, routing through Texas. American Airlines mechanical failure strikes again! Remember the engine failure from Lima to Baltimore in 2014? They offer us a free night at the Sheraton, which we take, only mildly soothed by the promise of clean, fluffy beds in exchange for our immediate departure to Argentina. I have no winter jacket, since I left it in the back seat of my father’s car since I was on my way to summer in South America why would I need a jacket? At the Sheraton, Kelli finds what may or may not be a bed bug. We change rooms, expensively dine, and steal all the free shampoos in both rooms (the one thing I had forgotten).

SUNDAY FEB 14th:

The day we were supposed to be arriving in Mendoza, at noon. We lament this, awake late, and go to the North Olmstead mall to eat greasy food and shop unsuccessfully for bathing suits. We have interesting Lyft experiences, catch our last glimpses of Ohio winter, and show up hopefully to the airport around 5pm. Kelli has to check her carry-on bag at the gate. When we arrive in Texas later that night, we are relieved, but there is little time between flights and a gate agent tells her, somewhat unconvincingly, that her checked carry-on will show up in baggage claim at her destination…wherever that may be. We board the flight to Santiago, Chile, eager for free wine and movies.

I watch The Martian, and realize my longheld dreams of being an astronaut might not actually come to fruition after all. Maybe I’m not cut out for long-term space travel. Maybe I’m only meant to be a lower atmospheric day-tripper. These are things I’ll have to figure out once I enter the space program, I guess.

MONDAY FEB 15:

Hello, Santiago! We make it to the Benito Juarez airport, which is full of expensive wines, Chilean Spanish, a Starbucks and…Ruby Tuesdays? Yep. We consume delicious quesadillas, doing our best to while away the hours until Argentina. We do yoga in the waiting area, pilfer Starbucks’ internet, waiting for the fucking plane to board, and then finally, magically, we are on the plane to Mendoza. About an hour later we are landing on the other side of the Andes, going through customs, and then we are waiting at the one lone baggage claim in the mostly-dilapidated airport that looks more like a forgotten regional airport than a bonafide international airport.

Kelli’s checked carry-on luggage is the first to appear, much to our surprise. Then the rest of luggage appears. SCORE! Wild luggage success. We scurry out of the airport, into the sweltering heat…and Jorge is waiting for us, smiling with his arms open wide.

[cue sappy love music]

[kissing]

[hugging and then more kissing]

Yeah, yeah, after a month apart, I had to stroke his beard a little more than normal, I admit. We get into a taxi and are whisked away to downtown Mendoza. The heat collides with the sonorous, Italian-reminiscent Spanish vowels, and between the sweat and the soot and the palm trees I remember what the fuck it is  love about this place, why these foreign destinations are so intoxicating, why these voyages are not only desired but necessary.

Once we check into our little room at the hostel, Jorge’s friend Gustavo comes over and we begin to straight summer hang–poolside, with freshly cracked beer, all sorts of bug-swatting, heat-relishing, summer style.

TUESDAY FEB 16:

We sleep in, then Kelli and I have a slow but methodical yoga session next to the pool. In the afternoon we go on a wine tour, our first ever in Mendoza! We visit two wineries and one olive oil factory. They are all interesting and varying levels of delicious and clean. We each leave with a case of wine. Oops! Or should I say, SCORE!

Mendoza Argentina bodega

Standing in front of the wine barrels we wish we could be swimming in!

Mendoza Argentina bodega

It’s a good day for a bodega stroll. 90 degrees outside, but 60 degrees in the wine cave!

Argentina Wine Tour

Wine tasting. Would you believe some people tossed their wines after tasting them? THE HORROR.

That night at the hostel, we have a cookout and invite all of Jorge’s friends. It is full of meat and wine and bread. I feel like a glutton, as always, since it is a stark contrast to my regular, chosen diet. We have a delightful, drunken time. Hurray, Argentina! Hurray, Malbec! Hurray, South America!

We go to bed, bellies satisfied and South-American-plump. We need the sleep, because much greater treks await us. And so much merriment is already surrounding us, and so much more awaits!

Not only is my best friend Kelli with us, experiencing this region that is so special to Jorge and now to me, we are about to celebrate our love and our union in the southern hemisphere, with Jorge’s friends and family.

Next installment: Commence the Candelaria!

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