Reserva Ecologica, Argentine Culture
Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
94Trip End Feb 04, 2012
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On Tuesday it's a beautiful, sunny day and I finally make it to the Reserva Ecologica. Buenos Aires goes through a sharp contrast on its edge with the hustle and bustle of the main city, crossing over the marinea to the shinny new suburb of Puerto Madero with some of the most expensive apartments in the city, then this beautiful, long wide avenue with Parrilla, Argentine BBQ shakes overlooking the Reserva Ecologica beyond. There are so many Parrillas along this stretch the air in places is filled with the smell of BBQ’ed meat and wood smoke forms a light haze in the sunshine over the plastic tables and chairs. They sell slabs of Argentine meat in steaks and hamburgers with bread, a range of sauces and a smattering of salad. It’s a sunny day and for once I regret my vegetarianism. I think how nice it would be to sit in the sunshine at one of those tables with a beer and some famous Argentine beef
I feel I have been in Argentina to get a glimpse, a peak, a little of an understanding of the place and the people. I have stayed in local apartments and been on walking tours with local guides and gone out with groups of predominantly Argentine people.
In a social situation for example, when you arrive at a gathering it is the custom go around and greet every single person. For women the correct greeting is a quick 'hola’, a single kiss on the right cheek and exchange of names ‘hola, *kiss*, Sarah, Juli’ etc and repeat in turn with each person in the group, both men and women even if there is 10 or 15 people, until you have greeted everyone
Mate, a sort of herby drink is another strongly cultural, social habit in Argentina. I think it is one of those acquired tastes everyone from Argentina grows up with, a bit like Australian Vegemite. In Argentine you are given Mate from an early age, about seven or so and it is drunk much of the time and in many, many social settings, from the family home to social gatherings in a park. It is a sort of grass like tea made up in a smallish wooden gourd or cup with a silver straw. Both the cup and the straw can range from simple constructions to elaborate, fancy carved affairs, and even come in modern plastic versions, although I am yet to see any Argentines drink it from anything other than a traditional wooden cup
Food in another area of Argentine life I have quickly adapted to. With exception of the obligatory meat fest I have developed quite a liking for many of the other food stuffs on offer. Due to the large influx of Italian migrants BA in awash with Pizza & Pasta houses however most of them also serve empanada’s, small pastry parcels with a variety of fillings
When it comes to sweets the Argentine’s have inherited a Spanish taste for them, with Panderia’s, Argentine bakeries, filled with cabinets of delicious sweet cakes and croissants and trays of tasty empanadas. Croissant’s have been elevated to an art form here and come with a multitude of fillings from custard or chocolate to my personal favorite, Dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a sort of caramel sauce used in a myriad of deserts from croissants and cakes to ice-cream
There are a few aspects of Argentine culture I’m less than fond of. For me, I find highly public and overt sexualisation of women and there bodies slightly horrifying. Popular day time television (I’ve seen a bit recently) is simply filled with scantily clad ‘perfect’ young women, who’s primary purpose appears to be to strut and shake their buts and plastic breasts and flick their long straight hair and smile coyly and vapidly for the amusement of any male that happens to be watching
Wed marked the start of an interesting rest of the week for me. I meet Margarita to do some site seeing. We made it to the Floralis Generica, failed to find a market to buy a mate gourd (wrong day, they were all shut) and I made it to the Xul Solar museum. Floralis Generica is a metal flower sculpture that opens in the morning an closes again in the evening. Its huge and pretty impressive but once you’ve taken some photos its time to move on, unless you’re going to sit around chatting & drinking mate
On Wed afternoon I started to feel unwell, but I put this down to a lot of walking in the last day or two. I took a taxi to the next place I'm staying where I rapidly got worse, developing flu like symptoms of which I'll spare you the finer details. On Thursday I was worse again my foot puffed up to the size of a small pumpkin and is the color of a fire engine. On Thursday night Juli, the woman I'm staying with, insists on taking me to hospital and I’m to sick to protest. An hour later I was promptly diagnosed with a nasty bacterial infection which entered my system through a scratch or broken skin on my foot (joyful). I’m given three drips of strong antibiotics and fluids and sent home with a prescription for a course of strong antibiotics and told to come back for a check up on Monday unless I get worse over the weekend, in which case I am to come straight back to the ER. So I have spent the last 5 days convalescing, going from being unable to keep down water or get off the couch, to slowly getting back my appetite and building up how much I can walk. Juli has been my guardian angel, truly in line for sainthood from driving me to the hospital and staying with me all night to going to the supermarket and pharmacy for me and letting my stay much longer than the two days I originally asked for. Tomorrow I got back for a check up and it remains to be seen how much this will impact on the rest of my trip. Wish me luck for tomorrow.