Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Taste of Americana

We first met Lola and Gato in Trevelin while simultaneously visiting its' small town museums, cottages and tea houses. They were on holiday in their country, more familiar with their own land than we are with the United States. Our Spanish was adequate enough for traveling, but seriously lacking if we wanted to discuss anything but directions or prices. Lola and Gato had studied english for several years, with Lola actually retaining her memory of vocabulary and ability to conjugate verbs. She was our 'translator' and the bridge between spanglish which allowed us to communicate on a deeper level. I give her all the credit for extending herself and the offer of friendship to two virtual strangers. We shared a brief afternoon of tea and cookies with the exchange of emails and the promise to get together again once we arrived in Buenos Aires. The rest is history.

Despite our struggles with each others language, there has been no shortage of words between us. We always have something to share, and have learned invaluable lessons about each other's cultures. One time, Lola and Gato were inviting us to a party. They seemed concerned that their idea of a party would not meet our expectations. Together they tried to stress that this fiesta would not be like the kind we have in North America. Alas, there would not be any poon-chay. Poon-chay? What is poon-chay. You know - poon-chay, the red drink you have in big bowls. Punch? Yes, punch.
Needless to say, Dan and I were rolling. We assured them that we never have any punch at our parties. They looked at each other with shock, and perhaps disappointment - "But all the movies show people in America drinking punch at parties." Ah, cinema. Film never fails to portray a type of American and his or her culture in that less than accurate way. This was only further evidence of how the world at large has come to their sad conclusions about the U.S. through 'excellent' movie and television examples, like Baywatch.

So, with this memory strong in our minds, we knew what the perfect gift for our friends would be. In a suitcase full of presents, we carried a heavy glass punch bowl and platform, with 12 cups, hooks, and a ladle, through a week of Panama travel, all the way to Buenos Aires. The look on Lola's face when she opened the box was priceless:

In panama, we stocked up on Abuelo rum, and made up a huge batch of citrus pirate punch for Stella's 1 year birthday party. Lola and her family treated Stellita to a perfect cumpleanos, with colorful balloons, a homemade cake decorated with fresh gardenias, baked empanadas, and lots of presents.

Our brief visit was filled with family get togethers, where we were made to feel as distant relatives. Stella was passed from arm to arm, spoiled with warmth and attention, which was the greatest gift of independence to us, her parents.

We shared many meals together, most notably a Sunday parilla (an Argentine BBQ) at Lola's parents house. We knew that Luis, the great asador, would be treating us to an epic meal of grilled meats, and had planned in advance for the occasion. Another memory I had had of our first visit to Lola's family's home, was of her sister Jimenez trying to make marshmallows and questioning me about their authenticity. In that same suitcase of gifts that we had dragged through central America, I had a bag of Graham crackers, Hershey chocolate bars and puffed marshmallows. I wanted to introduce her and her kin to a traditional s'mores treat, something I was sure they had seen on some movie or t.v. series. We may not have had skewered the marshmallows on twigs and had a cozy bonfire to toast them on, but I managed to produce some tasty sweet sandwiches over the stove's flames. Our simple gift was a taste of Americana, in exchange for the hospitality of people we have grown to love.

Viva Argentina!


Anonymous Lola said...

Sarah, I have read this beautiful reading and I canĀ“t believe how nice you can write.
My eyes are full of happiness tears of all the remembers that we have together. They are coming now to my mind.
We have spent great time together and we are going to spend a lot of more great time with you, our sons and daughter. I promise!
We love you, Gambers!
Lola, Gato and Joaquin Espeche, from the southest place that you have a family: Buenos Aires, Argentina

9:46 PM  

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